We know that exercise does wonders for our body. Physical activity strengthens our heart, muscles, overall health, and keeps us looking toned and in shape. But does fitness improve the condition of our skin as well? Curious to learn more about the effects of exercise on our skin, I turned to a couple of experts to find out. Annet King is the Director of Training and Education at Dermalogica, and Dr. Helen Flamenbaum is a dermatologist who practices on Long Island in New York.
Does exercise improve our skin? If so, how?
Annet King: Any increase to the body's circulation will improve the look of the skin, as well as boost detoxification and cell renewal. I don't think there are any studies that show which exercises are best, but of course yoga and more stress-relieving exercises help to smooth lines (as the muscles are contracted in the face) and lower stress hormone levels, which could be seen as helpful for our skin.
Dr. Helen Flamenbaum: Exercise is good for every organ in the body. Since the skin is the largest organ it goes without saying that the skin benefits as well. Perspiration acts as a body cooler during exercise and this enables your body temperature to be maintained.
Are there certain circumstances in which exercise can actually be bad for our skin?
King: For people with a lot of redness in their skin tone, or who have Rosacea, aerobic (cardio) activity can exacerbate the condition as blood flow is increased. Some people believe that cardio and running can cause more oxygen or free radical damage, which can break or damage the skin's supportive fibers (collagen and elastin).
Flamenbaum: Exercise can aggravate acne and Rosacea, as well as produce different kinds of skin irritations. For example, Exercise-Induced Urticaria, which is relatively uncommon, can cause people to break out in hives after exercising. Intertrigo is a yeast-related rash triggered by two areas of the skin rubbing together and chafing, such as the groin, armpit and creases of the neck. Miliaria is another kind of fitness-induced inflammation caused by the sweat gland ducts becoming clogged with dead skin cells or bacteria, which can lead to clusters of small blisters and uncomfortable itching. Also, current rashes may become worsened due to the heat and sweat produced by exercise.
Do you have any suggestions for maintaining a healthy, youthful looking glow, and is there anything else we should know about exercise and our skin?
King: The best advice is to work out without make up on, especially if you are prone to breakouts. Thoroughly cleanse you skin after a workout as toxins from sweat and oil increase when we exercise. Keep some skin purifying wipes in your gym bag. Drink plenty of water as you exercise so your skin does not become dehydrated. For someone who is an exercise junkie and also suffers from acne, try to incorporate some yoga into your routine to bring down the stress adrenal hormonal levels. This will help clear the skin, because stress hormones and acne are very much related.
Flamenbaum: An interesting point regarding exercise and skin is that many people assume they can rid themselves of cellulite with physical fitness. Not so! Cellulite is not improved by exercise. Unfortunately, there is no cure for cellulite at this point.