When your workout leaves you drenched rather than glowing, skincare may be the last thing on your mind after a gym sesh. But then, a few days later, you may notice a few zits and wish you took action sooner. Post-workout skincare should never be skipped, so to find out how to best care for your skin after a workout, Playbook reached out to skincare experts Sharin Shafer, co-founder of Skinfluencer, and Joyce Carslaw, founder of SmartAss Beauty.
No matter what your skin type is, make sure to follow these tips as soon as you’re done working out to prevent throwing off your skin’s pH balance and paving the way for breakouts.
First off, both experts agree that you should never skip washing your face after a workout. “If you are not planning to shower when you finish your workout at the gym, at the very least, clean your face before you leave,” Shafer says. “Sweating creates a warm and wet environment for bacteria to grow, so be sure to thoroughly cleanse your face to remove the sweat, oil, and germs.”
Carslaw notes that you should wash your face no later than 15 minutes after your workout. “Leaving sweat on your face after exercising can cause irritation and dehydration because sweat contains salt. Clogged pores can lead to acne breakouts called sweat pimples, as well as blackheads and whiteheads,” she says.
Make sure you skip out on hot water when it comes to washing your face and showering. “Hot water can cause skin redness and rosacea, as you need to cool the skin off to prevent breaking blood vessels and to ensure the skin returns to its normal temperature,” Carslaw explains. “A final rinse after cleansing with cold water can give your skin a healthy glow, as cold water tightens and constricts the blood flow.”
Make sure to grab a good anti-bacterial cleansing bar to wash off the sweat from your body too, although Carslaw and Shafer agree that you can wait until you get home to do so.
If the number one rule of post-workout skincare is to wash your face, you’ll need a great cleanser. “[Choose one that] is formulated with bionutrients, antioxidants and includes mild resurfacing ingredients that thoroughly cleanse without stripping essential oils,” Shafer says.
She recommends iS Clinical Cleansing Complex ($45), since it's lightweight and works for all skin types (even sensitive skin). Another good option is the La Roche-Posay ($11.99) gentle hydrating cleanser. Since it’s formulated with niacinamide, it’ll help lock in moisture that was lost during your sweat sesh.
This is especially important if you have acne-prone skin, says Shafer. “This [ingredient] can help clear away dirt and bacteria and prevent clogged pores that lead to spots,” she says. Shafer recommends using a wipe packed with the ingredient to make it even easier. Just swipe it over your skin after you cleanse and before you moisturize.
Throw a jar of Higher Education RUSH salicylic acid face pads ($27) in your gym bag so you always have one handy to wipe away extra dirt and bacteria from the skin’s surface.
After washing your face at the gym, don’t step outside without slathering some sun protection on your skin. Even if your house is just a quick walk or drive from the gym, damage from the sun can still happen in just five to 10 minutes.
“[Always] finish your gym skin routine by using sunscreen, as this guards against the UV rays that degrade collagen,” Shafer says. “[Collagen is] the protein responsible for keeping skin youthful and radiant.”
A moisturizer like Supergoop’s Daily Moisturizer SPF 40 ($38) is perfect to slather on at the gym because it’s lightweight and won’t clog pores.
About the author
Brittany Leitner is an award winning poet and journalist who specializes in health, wellness, beauty, and travel writing. She previously held editorial positions as the senior lifestyle editor of Elite Daily and the managing editor of DoctorOz.com. She's currently based in Brooklyn, New York.