We all know that exercise is good for the body and mind, but is it good for your acne? Here Sarah Vrancken, a qualified fitness and Pilates teacher, explains why you shouldn’t shun the gym on a bad skin day, and how fitness and skin health are linked.
Does working out cause acne?
Working out will not cause your acne to aggravate. If anything, sweating has a detoxing effect on the overall body, including the skin so putting the body through a strenuous, sweaty workout is definitely good for you. However, it is good to know that sweat itself – which consists of mainly water with small amounts of ammonia, salts, urea and sugar – has absolutely no effect on acne; it doesn’t make it worse, nor will it make it better. Instead, it is the increase in blood flow to the surface of the skin, the unclogging of the pores caused by sweating and the fact that exercise has a stress reducing effect on body and mind that can benefit acne skin.
Can I wear make-up whilst working out?
To experience the positive effects of exercise on the skin, you shouldn’t exercise with make-up on as the combination of make-up and sweat can clog the pores and cause breakouts. However, I have very hormonal skin myself and I entirely understand that when you experience a bad skin day, you don’t want to be seen in public without some concealer or foundations. I have found that the best solution is to only cover the problem areas with concealer so that the majority of the skin can breathe.
How does exercise reduce stress?
Any type of exercise – from yoga to running – will help to increase the level of endorphins in the body. I have found that you experience this ‘feel good’ hormone more when you do cardio based workouts, which –as the name suggests – is about raising your heart rate and includes workouts such as swimming, spinning and running.
In addition, stress reduction can also come from learning to ‘open’ the body. As you may have experienced, when we are stressed, we feel it in certain areas of our body; you may find that your shoulders get tight or that you get neck aches or even headaches. Stress gets stored in your muscles and makes them tights and short. Opening the body is all about finding the areas affected by stress and doing exercises to relax, stretch and lengthen those particular muscles. In general, people store stress in their shoulders and in their hips so a combination of Pilates – which is all about core strength and a perfectly aligned body – and Yoga – which has a stronger focus on stretching – is a great way to release the tension and make sure the energy in your body can flow freely. The more body awareness you gain by exercising regularly, the more you will be in tune with this process.
And fitness is also a great way to switch off the mind. Focusing on the music or the teacher in front of you can really help to forget about the problems and stress you have on your mind.
The stress-reducing, mind-emptying effect of exercise can be rather addictive. It’s definitely one of the main reasons I love exercise so much!
I’m too self-conscious to go to the gym. How can I overcome this?
There is no doubt that the gym can be a daunting place. It’s like any new challenge you take on; you will gain confidence, if you do it regularly. Remember your first day at school or university? It was rather awkward, because you didn’t know where to go, who to talk to and what to do. However, soon you got the hang of it and started enjoying it. Confidence partly comes from knowing what you are doing. I definitely found that the more knowledge I gained about exercise, the more confident I became. It can also help to get some personal training sessions to give you a plan to follow as it will give you structure and focus.
Don’t forget that you go to the gym for YOU – not for anyone else. Of course, that is easier said than done when you feel very self-conscious about your skin. As mentioned before, use a bit of concealer to hide the worst blemishes, but don’t cover your entire face as it can cause spots. If it boosts your confidence, using a little bit of make-up is justified in my opinion.
Also, once in the gym, try not to focus on your skin anymore. I sometimes even exercise without my glasses or contact lenses so that it doesn’t distract me from what I’m there to do – enjoying a good workout!