By: Lee Phillips
We know, we know. One of the most annoying things known to humankind is when you’re venting to someone about something that bothers you and their response is a cliché cure all like, “have you tried working out?” It’s like they expect you to gasp in astonishment like you hadn’t thought of this obvious thing and your road to redemption has suddenly been made clear. Bear with us, because we’re going to play devil’s advocate for a second. Working out is good for your skin and while it’s not a total acne cure, it wouldn’t hurt to understand why, right?
Increases Blood flow
We’ve all heard of the term “post-workout glow,” and while the language is not exactly scientific, the phenomenon behind it is. Said glow is caused by increased blood flow due to rising heart rate. This is huge for skin health. Pumping extra blood around your body means more oxygen and nutrients get distributed to skin cells. In short: Those antioxidants you got from drinking that smoothie can get where they need to go to fight free radicals in your skin. Major!
Increased blood flow and proper nutrient absorption also leads to healthy cell turnover and collagen production (collagen is a blessed substance that gives skin firmness and elasticity). Fringe benefit? Your skin will heal itself faster after breakouts. While increased blood flow doesn’t necessarily “detox” your skin (that’s your liver’s job), it does also help carry away waste products and free radicals from healthy cells.
It’s no secret that high levels of stress can contribute to breakouts. Simply put, stress can cause acne, and exercise can reduce stress. *lightbulb going OFF* Scientists don’t know exactly why stress causes acne, but it’s been observed that oil-producing glands have receptors for stress hormones.
Exercise has been shown to reduce hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which are the nasty suckers responsible for your sleepless nights and subsequent morning stress zits. On the flip side, exercise also stimulates production of “happy” chemicals like endorphins and serotonin. If you’ve ever experienced a “runner’s high,” you know what we’re talking about. The combination of these two things means less stress chemicals and more happy chemicals in your body, and, if you’re prone to stress induced breakouts, less acne. (Not to mention, the benefits of stress reduction can improve all aspects of your life. Yes we know you’ve heard this before—it’s as annoying as it is true!)
Benefits of Sweat
You can’t talk about exercising and skin health without mentioning sweat. Being drenched in salty water that squeezed out of your glands sounds kind of gross, but it has some surprising benefits. Sweat is composed of water and minerals that can nourish skin. While the salt in sweat naturally exfoliates, the uric acid and urea moisturizes and can even help dermatitis. Sweating in low levels filters out small amounts of bacteria, dirt and oil. It’s also known to filter out weirder stuff like heavy metals and BPA plastics from skin, but again, in small amounts.
There are a couple things to keep in mind when it comes to sweating for skin health. Problems can arise when sweat is not properly rinsed off. Sweat remains at the same PH levels of your skin, and is generally a non-irritant. However, because of the salty-ness and low content of toxins from your skin, not rinsing may irritate some super sensitive skin. Sweat sitting on the surface of skin or trapped in clothes is also a prime condition for bacteria to grow. That’s what gives sweat its bad odor. Extra bacteria for on the skin can make existing acne inflamed, or contribute to new break outs. If you can’t make it to a shower right after sweating, consider wiping down with a non-abrasive rag while you exercise.
There you have it! Exercise can help your skin. All this being said, keep in mind that extenuating conditions like rosacea or eczema may be negatively impacted by increased heat and flushing, or sweat. Always make sure to consult a physician or do your research about physical exertion’s effect on skin if you fall under this category. And for all of us—when exercising outside, make sure to wear broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen. In addition to diluting and washing away sunscreen, sweat increases sun sensitivity and there’s nothing worse for skin than sun damage!
Speaking of working out... Should you do your skincare before working out? Click here to read more.