All—Natural Skin Care For Athletes
Working out isn’t just great for your heart and your muscles, it can do wonders for your skin. People who exercised regularly had healthier skin than those who were sedentary, a study published in the journal Aging Cell found; the same researchers also determined that exercise stimulates the production of collagen—a protein that provides your skin with structure.
Plus, exercise improves sleep quality and lowers stress, benefits that translate to your skin: Poor sleep is associated with signs of aging and poor skin function, while stress can lead to acne, psoriasis, eczema, and other skin issues.
On the flip side, though, outdoor exercise exposes you to the elements—which can have short- and long-term effects on your skin, from heat rash, chafing, sunburn, and breakouts to melasma and even skin cancer. As an athlete, whether you run, bike, hike, swim, surf, or ski, protecting your skin should be a huge part of your active lifestyle. Here’s what you can do.
The most important thing before heading outside for any type of workout is to apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 50 on both your face and uncovered body; that will prevent wrinkles, melasma, and the risk of skin cancer. And yet, 49.6 percent of elite athletes in water sports (specifically surfing, windsurfing, and sailing) used inadequate sun protection, according to a 2021 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, and nearly a quarter of them admitted to never using sunscreen. The numbers are similar on the ground: less than 45 percent of runners use sun protection measures (including sunscreen) frequently in a 2022 study published in the journal Sports—and 49 percent attributed that to forgetfulness. That leaves a lot of room for improvement! Try Sun Bum SPF 50, which also contains vitamin E to protect your skin from signs of aging. You can also protect skin with SPF-equipped apparel.
Sweating it out in hot, humid weather—especially during sports with repetitive motions, like running and cycling—creates friction between your skin, which can lead to chafing. Even slight redness or chapped skin is a sign that your skin’s protective layer is broken, which is a) uncomfortable and b) puts you at risk for infection. Chafing usually goes away in a day or two, but be gentle with the area (i.e. don’t rub it and don’t use harsh soaps) and use protection, like Vaseline, if you’re going to continue doing activities. To prevent this from even becoming an issue, many athletes use salves like Squirrel's Nut Butter—made from all-natural coconut oil and cocoa butter—to create a slick barrier on the surface of the skin to prevent rubbing and irritation.
Hydrating during a workout (especially when it’s hot) is crucial because water is essential for regulating body temperature, supporting muscle movements, and maintaining blood volume. But hydration may play a part in skin health: When people who were dehydrated increased their water intake, it had a positive effect on skin appearance and helped maintain skin hydration levels in a small study published in 2015 in the journal Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology. About 60 percent of your body is made up of water, so if it doesn’t have enough, you better believe it will show up in your skin—which is your largest organ. Dehydrated skin can be dry, itchy, dull-looking, uneven, and full of more noticeable fine lines. You could put a bandaid on those issues with beauty products—or you could make changes from the inside out.
Finally, after exercising, make sure to clean your skin ASAP. Sweat is good for your skin in the sense that it purges bacteria, dirt, oils, and impurities from your pores, but if you let all that gunk sit on your post-workout, it’s going to sink back into your skin and clog it up again. Wash your face with a gentle cleanser like Tata Harper Regenerating Cleanser, which is made from 100% natural ingredients like aloe vera, rice extract, and rose clay, and cool water (hot water can dry out your skin and damage its protective barrier). Then, don’t forget to re-apply SPF!