Get that glow

Once you have cooled down and chugged some water after exercise, you likely noticed your radiant, flushed skin. There’s a reason why so many fitness enthusiasts rave about this feeling, and why many cosmetic companies try to replicate it: it’s naturally attractive.

Board-certified dermatologist with a private practice in Chicago, Edidiong Kaminska, MD, FAAD, says this allure is created by an increase of blood flow to all organs, including our largest one, the skin. "This provides oxygen and nutrients to the skin cells and clears impurities from the skin, creating a post-workout glow," she says.

Another way fitness improves our skin’s appearance is through stress management and sleep regulation. Because burning calories also burns off anxiety, it can decrease the likelihood or severity of skin conditions like acne, eczema, or psoriasis, since stress can play a role in those conditions. And when you stick to a manageable workout schedule, you tend to sleep better. Plus, with more hours of shut eye, those pesky dark eye circles are less common too, Dr. Kaminska adds.

The downside of sweat

If you’re in a challenging boot camp or a hot vinyasa yoga class, it feels like sweat is coming from everywhere. And that’s because it is! While sweating is a healthy way to release build-up and impurities, it can also clog up your pores, causing breakouts and other skin issues on your face and throughout your body, especially if you are wearing heavy makeup or other acne-causing products.

Dr. Kaminska also says excessive sweating can lead to seborrheic dermatitis, or dandruff, especially if you’re already prone to this condition. This is because dandruff is caused by a yeast that lives on our skin (and thrives in warm, moist environments), and when it overgrows, it begins to flake or itch.

And if you’re someone who likes to hit the ground running—literally—you could experience chafing. Though relatively harmless and short-lasting, Dr. Kaminska says it can become painful, especially as your thighs rub together, creating friction.

Protect your skin during a workout

You shouldn’t skip your favorite fitness class or routine because you’re worried about skin-related issues. Instead, Dr. Kaminska says, there are some proactive, preventive measures you can take before you lace up your sneakers. These include:

How to protect your skin after a workout

You mustered up the energy, you put in the work, and now it’s time for the reward. Before you treat yourself to a high-protein snack or begin your binge-watching of the evening, Dr. Kaminska says to give your skin a little post-workout TLC by hopping in the shower. "This clears the skin of sweat, oils, and bacteria, and helps to keep pores clean," she continues. "If you cannot shower, at least wash your face with a gentle, non-comedogenic cleanser or wipe skin that tends to break out with pads containing salicylic acid." Change into clean clothing, too.

And one more thing: Do not go barefoot in the shower or the locker room at a gym. Public locker rooms are high-traffic areas, and may not be cleaned as well or as often as they should be, so you run the risk of skin infections like fungus or warts. A travel pair of flip-flops is enough to keep you safe.

The lowdown on post-workout products

You’ve done your cool-down and some stretching and now it’s time to clean up. With so many products available, how do you know you are choosing the right one for use post-workout? We asked board-certified dermatologist Farah Moustafa, MD, FAAD, director of lasers and cosmetics and assistant professor at Tufts University School of Medicine, to share specific ingredients in cleansers and more:

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