Skin strength

What does your skin go through when you exercise and how do you protect it? Read our insider’s guide to find out more.

Whether you're a dedicated gym bunny or just an occasional jogger, these days, we're all well aware of the benefits of exercise. A good workout is an opportunity to take a break from the daily grind, rejuvenate our bodies and clear our minds of stress. But while we're all equally keen on a more toned belly and a calmer mind, we might sometimes forget that various physical activities can actually be quite tough on one of our most important parts: our skin.

"With exercise, the skin is immediately affected by the blood flow directed there to cool the body," explains Dr. Alain Mavon, previously a Professor of Dermatology at Pierre Fabre Research Institute, and currently Director of Skincare Research at Oriflame Cosmetics in Stockholm. "This gives us a healthy release of sweat and fluids, which is great for our bodies and our skin. We experience increased microcirculation, a cleaning-out effect of the pores, and the increased blood flow also carries away waste."

So while exercise certainly has benefits for the skin, it's by no means a free pass to a more youthful, clear complexion. Dr. Mavon underlines that we also need to be aware of exercise's adverse effects on the skin, and what we can do to counteract them.

"Clogged pores, potential acne and a disturbed ph. balance can all be consequences of sweating in an air conditioned environment such as a gym," explains Dr. Mavon. "Being exposed to chlorine from swimming pools can destroy the vitamin E in our skin, and stronger UV doses from prolonged periods outdoors can have a part to play in sun exposure diseases," he adds. "Our skin can be unnecessarily affected and we want to avoid that by practicing healthy skin care habits pre-and post exercise."

Rather than a coverall routine, our expert recommends taking into account the various challenges posed by different forms of exercise, and to treat accordingly. Taking the proper precautions before a training session will make all the difference: not only building your body's strength, but your skin's, too. Here Dr. Mavon lends a few insights about how to keep your skin fresh, no matter the workout that's ahead!

Outdoor Sports
If exercising outdoors, Dr. Mavon advises using a moisturiser with sun protection prior to going out, not forgetting to cover the face as well as hands and anything more exposed. "Lips can really take a beating and need a coating of lip balm with SPF - carry one in your pocket for a re-touch - even the guys!" he says.

Sweating increases the photosensitivity of the skin, which makes you more susceptible to sunburn. Bear that in mind when doing winter sports as well, as the sun's rays are more powerful at high altitude.

Swimming is another activity that has fantastic benefits to the body and the mind but can, in turn, wreak havoc on the skin. When swimming in a chlorinated pool, Dr. Mavon suggests using a thicker moisturising cream, and applying plenty of sunscreen when swimming in salt water. Don't forget to protect your hair, by applying a light coating of oil or conditioner before you take a dip. Once you're out of the water, apply cleanser and moisturiser to prevent the skin from drying out.

Amidst our hectic modern lives, one of the easiest ways to squeeze in a workout is to head to the gym - but whether it's weight training or cardio, Zumba or spin, even in this controlled environment there are precautions that should be taken to protect your skin. "Gyms are great as they offer a wonderful variety of equipment, but these machines - be they weights or a stationary bike - can sometimes harbour germs and bacteria, and as we exercise, we can expose ourselves to these not so friendly microorganisms," explains Dr. Mavon. "Use the hand swipes often provided, wipe off machines, wash your hands frequently and keep them away from your face during a workout, especially if you’re prone to breakouts and blemishes."

Below, a few more of Dr. Mavon’s tips for a perfect athletic skincare regime:

1.  Use water resistant sun protection (almost!) all the time
2.  Use a gentle cleanser that keeps skin clean but balanced
3.  Use a range of moisturisers, depending on the climate, exposure and skin type.
4.  Use botanical antioxidants to counteract free radicals.
5.  Practice a holistic approach: from diet and skincare, down to sleep habits: snoozing allows your skin to repair, replenish and restore, in addition to promoting collagen synthesis and healthy skin renewal.