Happy, Healthy Skin 101
Yes, your skin will be healthier, and happier with running (or any cardiovascular exercise for that matter). It’s highly likely that you know running is great cardiovascular exercise. And, that it helps improve muscle tone, your mood, increases your metabolism, and aids in weight loss. But, did you know that running is fantastic for the largest organ of your body, your skin?
Essentially, anything that promotes healthy circulation benefits your skin. Additional blood flow brings more nutrients and oxygen to your skin, while taking away waste products. Ellen Marmur, MD, author of Simple Skin Beauty: Every Woman’s Guide to a Lifetime of Healthy, Gorgeous Skin, states “by increasing blood flow, a bout of exercise helps flush cellular debris out of the system. You can think of it as cleansing your skin from the inside.” And, think “anti-aging,”, the increased oxygen and nutrients helps repair your skin and increases collagen production.
Running also relieves stress, and decreases cortisol, a stress hormone, in our system. That’s good news as it can help improve chronic skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and acne. (Although a little extra care is needed, note below). Exercise is known to increase free-radical production. BUT, a balanced and healthy diet with greens and antioxidants should sufficiently counterbalance the free radicals.
Myth Busters Below
Yes, happy and youthful skin is a benefit of running. But, there are some myths. Sweating will make me break-out. False! Sweat is actually sterile and is needed for thermoregulation. However, don’t wear sweat-proof make-up while running/exercising. And, if possible, remove make-up prior to running. Lastly, shower as soon as possible post exercise.
Caveat to above myth — if you keep on damp workout clothes long after you’re done, that may cause a break-out. The sweat and dirt clogs pores, especially affecting the back, chest and forehead. It’s name: acne mechanica. The friction between your skin and workout gear creates excess oil production, and that clogs pores. Solution: wear sweat-wicking, looser fitting clothes during exercise, and shower up shortly after.
Sunscreen alone will protect me. False! Sweating decreases the effectiveness of sunscreen, so apply it more often (every 80 minutes). Use a “sweatproof” sunscreen. For more protection, shade your face with a hat, and wear clothes that cover as much skin as possible. Here’s more info and myth busters regarding protecting your skin while exercising.
Exercise means happier and healthier skin, but too much sun exposure does not. Excessive sun exposure and sunburn increases skin cancer risk, and ages the skin. Essentially, it erases the benefits of exercise. What to do? Key things to remember (outlined here): wear sweat-proof sunscreen, avoid exercise between 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Wear additional clothing to cover your skin, and look for shade.
Read more about: Sun Protection Tips for Runners
Chronic skin conditions. Those that have eczema, psoriasis or acne need to take a little extra care pre/post exercise. Exercise dilates blood vessels and increases body temperature. For those with rosacea, that can cause flare-ups. To minimize the effects, try to exercise in cooler temperatures (or, swimming is a great option). Post exercise, apply cold compresses to affected areas if skin is flushed.
Those that suffer from eczema or psoriasis may have flare-ups with running/exercise, usually due to the salt in perspiration. Applying a moisturizer before a run/workout provides protection from sweat. Pay special care to apply moisturizer where there are skin creases (ie: underarms). When possible, exercise in a cool environment where the need for showering post exercise is less. Showering/washing often can cause dryness, and exacerbate eczema and psoriasis.
Content and Youthful Skin… Clothing Matters!
To ensure all your exercise translates to happy, and healthy skin, remember clothing! Again, looser fitting, sweat-wicking materials are best for comfort, and minimizing skin issues. A sweat-wicking material is a polyester/poly blend “dri-fit” garment. Another great option is wearing exercise clothing gear made from bamboo. I almost always wear Raw Threads brand as it has below benefits, plus, really fun designs. I think I enjoy getting a good running outfit on more than any other outfit! Some bamboo clothing benefits are below.
- Highly sweat absorbent
- Naturally UV protectant – cuts out 98% of harmful UV rays
- Most eco-friendly fabric on the planet
- Insulating (cool in summer/warm in winter)
Note, the National Eczema society says “exercises dries out the skin through the loss of fluids, and the sodium in sweat can dehydrate the skin as well as sting and irritate it.” They recommend clothing made from bamboo as the best possible exercise gear.