Sweat DOESN'T give you spots but swimming can age your skin – how different work outs affect your skin
10th December 2018

Short jog before work? Speedy spin class at lunchtime? Pre-cocktails aerobics? You've got to fit exercise in when you can during the festive season.

But no one wants to put their skin at jeopardy for the sake of burning a few kcals, in the middle of peak party season.

Working out can cause spots, ageing and other undesirable effects. If you get your skincare right, however, exercise generally benefits the quality of your skin.

We asked three experts – skin coach Abigail James, celebrity facialist Kate Kerr and Madeleine Spencer, founder of the podcast Beauty Full Lives, what we can do to protect our faces when working up a sweat.

Sweat isn't always to blame

Clinical facialist Kate told The Sun: "Sweat isn’t really the enemy when it comes to breakouts, in fact, during exercise, provided skin is left free-from product, it helps to flush out the pores and improve skin clarity.

"The negative impact comes from our oil glands going into overdrive and the heat we experience during exertion, which can lead to inflammation.

"Add make-up or the use of moisturiser to this situation and sweat cannot effectively wash away impurities, leading to clogged pores and post-workout pimples!

Wearing makeup

"Irrespective of what makeup you wear, doing anything that’ll make you sweat while wearing base might cause problems for your skin if you’re acne-prone," Madeline told The Sun.

"If you simply feel you can’t exercise bare-faced, make sure you use a good cleanser with some gently chemical exfoliating properties post – I use Exuviance Cream Cleanser as it contains PHAs which will exfoliate without damage and also help to hydrate."

What effects different exercises have on your skin


"Body acne is a common side effect of cardio thanks to sweat on fabric and bacteria multiplying between the two afterwards, she said.

"The answer to this is to shower post-exercise and then to use a moisturiser with inbuilt acids like Ameliorate Transforming Body Lotion. If the issue persists, try adding an acne-specific product like Murad Clarifying Body Spray, which you can mist over the problem area after showering."

But running poses other skin issues, Abigail says.

"Because running is usually an outdoor activity there is the impact of the weather on the skin, damage from sun exposure, the elements, wind, rain and the impact of pollution on the skin all of which accelerate the rate of ageing resulting in premature ageing, deeper lines, sun damage, broken capillaries, Abigail told The Sun.

"However the extra blood flow and getting outside in the fresh air, increases our oxygen intake which is beneficial."

Kate says that if you are planning on running outside, think about "investing in a mineral-based sunscreen to protect the skin. If you’re a gym goer, the best thing for your skin is to wear nothing at all – remove all traces of moisturiser and make-up!"


It's not necessarily that the activity to blame for blocked pores – it's what you're working out in.

Abigail explains: "An indoor activity that raises the heart rate and sweating, does increase the possibility of breakouts especially if you are wearing your makeup and not cleansing the face after."

"However, the increase of sweating is great for excreting toxins so can be beneficial for detoxification."


"The chemicals are extremely drying to the hair potential resulting in dry, sensitive skin.

"However freshwater and sea swimming has a cooling effect on the whole body, which is ideal for supporting body functions, cold baths, showers are well known for supporting whole health and detoxification supporting the blood and lymphatic system.

"Seawater is healing in so many ways."

Madeline agreed, saying that swimming in a chlorinated pool will dehydrate skin.

"To offset the damage, make sure you shower after swimming to rinse the chlorine off, then moisturise. Look for something with a hyaluronic acid component like CeraVe body moisturiser to really lock in hydration."


Yoga, Abigail claims, is actually pretty good for your skin.

"Has a calming impact on the mid which is beneficial for reducing the impact of stress, when we are stressed we release cortisol the stress hormone which physically ages us through impacting on our collagen fibres.

Poses that involve the head being below the heart e.g. Downward dog, can bring a natural flushing of blood to the face without excessive blood flow "so its beneficial to feed the skin with fresh nutrients".


Shaking your stuff on the dance floor is so good for you mentally and physically. But just be aware that if you're dancing with full makeup on, how much you sweat may have an increased impact on blocked pores and breakouts.

In general, however, exercise benefits your skin…as it does basically for every part of the body

Madeline explains: "Increased blood flow after exercise will oxygenate skin. This is unequivocally good, and will mean more plump, healthy, happy skin.

"That said, if you suffer from rosacea or heat in your skin, try adding a cool element to your skincare to bring down redness more quickly.

"The Hayo’u Jade face tool is the ideal way to go – just press the cool, flat edge of the jade to your skin to soothe."

You don't have to go barefaced at the gym

Kate told The Sun that she'd never recommend keeping makeup on while working out as it'll "always have a negative impact on the skin".

"If you really feel that you must have a little coverage whilst at the gym, I’d advise thoroughly removing your make-up and moisturiser from the day and reapplying a light dusting of mineral powder, which should help limit any post-workout breakouts compared to keeping your normal face on!

"When exercising, the heat stimulates our skin’s oil glands, however, the sweat we produce helps to flush out cell debris from the pores. When you leave a full-face of makeup on at the gym, it stops the sweat flushing out our pores effectively, leading to congestion which can then result in the onset of acne and skin sensitivity."

Ingredients to avoid

Kate says: "Occlusive ingredients like shea butter and some silicones are bad for your skin at the best of times, let alone when you’re exacerbating your oil flow during exercise, so these are best avoided.

"Liquid foundations can sit on the skin and stop it from allowing your sweat to flush out the cell debris in pores whilst you workout. If you have to wear a base at the gym, light mineral powders are less comedogenic and therefore the better choice."

How to avoid post workout breakouts

"There are several stages to avoid post-exercise breakouts, the first is properly cleansing the skin before you start working out. Leaving the complexion clear from product allows our sweat to serve its purpose – flushing out our skin!

"During your gym session, avoid touching your face or using the same towel that you use on the equipment, this will only transfer bacteria to your face, resulting in breakouts."

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