[By Alicia Liu]
Exercising is essential to a healthy body and mind. The benefits are nearly endless, from maintaining your body in that svelte shape and helping to combat diseases, to boosting mood and memory, and even improving sex life! But I’m sure some of you would agree that sometimes your skin, especially over the face, just feels uncomfortably dry after an intense work out. Some experience itchiness or facial tightness, while others may notice that the face becomes red and inflamed. In more severe cases, skin peeling or flaking occurs and fine lines, wrinkles and even painful bleeding fissures may start to appear! Here are 4 reasons why this is happening and what you should do to prevent hurting your skin while exercising.
It’s after work and you’re about to hit the gym. You jumped into your Stella McCartney neon cross-fit outwear, all geared up for a full cardio. And, of course you have some makeup on, just in case someone checks you out. Yes? No? Poor skin preparation prior to exercising may actually lead to dehydrated skin and other problems. As your skin warmed up, it acts like a sponge as pores open up and absorb the makeup and the chemicals within, in addition to any dirt and grime that’s on your face. Ewww… enough said. Hence prior to starting your gym routine, you should ideally prepare your skin by washing your face with a mild, non-dehydrating cleanser and applying an oil-free light-weight moisturiser. If you dare not go bare, opt for a light coverage with mineral-based products which contain natural, non-comedogenic ingredients which are sweat-resistant and help provide a refreshed and smooth complexion without clogging the pores.
The Great Outdoors
For those who love exercising outdoors rather than within the confined space of a gym, there are definitely more than a handful of benefits. These include taking in fresh air and enjoying the surrounding scenery, all these without being charged a single cent! However, there is something which exercising in the outdoors lack— the certainty of weather. Mother Nature is known to be erratic, and certain days the heat may be just sweltering. On days like these, the response of your body is to sweat more to cool down the body and this can lead to dehydration. Prolonged exposure to the sun also dries out the skin as moisture and sweat evaporate from its surface. Furthermore, possible exposure to harmful UV rays while exercising outdoors can lead to premature ageing and increases the risk of sunburn. So if you are intending to brisk walk around your neighbourhood, or planning to embark on a cross-country run, never leave home without your moisturiser and a good sweat-resistant sunblock on!
Towel Me Dry
It is proper gym etiquette to bring along a towel as you exercise. So that while you sweat, you can dry yourself off and not leave icky residue for the next person who is going to use the equipment. You probably have to admit that as you wiped your face, you are also calmed by the scent of your fabric softener.
However do you know that fabric softeners may contain irritants which can aggravate allergies and dry out your skin? Some may develop an ‘unexplained’ itchy rash, which leads to scratching and further skin damage. Especially if you are known to have sensitive skin, my advice is to wash your towels and also your fitness apparel with gentle detergents and avoid using fabric softeners altogether.
Say No to Saunas
Traditionally, some of us seek relaxation after a good workout by jumping straight into the sauna. Some even say that it is good for detoxing the body, improving blood circulation and aid in weight loss. I must agree, this guilty pleasure indeed can provide a soothing feel, but it does not act to remove toxins or help you lose weight per se. What it actually does is that heat generated forces your body to increase its heart rate, which may even divert blood away from your vital organs to the skin. Sweating occurs and any ‘weight loss’ from the sauna is due to loss of water, and once you replenish yourself with fluids, the weight inevitably returns.
Apart from sweating which causes the skin and body to be dehydrated, the heat also dries out your skin by depleting its natural oils. So if you’re looking to relax after exercising, opt for a lukewarm shower instead and limit that to no more than 15 minutes. “To keep your skin healthy and supple, never forget the “3-minutes-rule” after your shower and apply a gentle body lotion and facial hydrator to help lock in moisture and allow for repair of sensitive skin.” Advises Dr. Kenneth Lee, medical consultant with The Sloane Clinic. “As long as one pays close attention to proper skincare, the benefits from exercising far outweigh its risks.”