Consider all the thought that goes into your workouts, from your training techniques to your chic activewear. Even so, pre-workout skincare is often an afterthought, and I get it. When you’re planning on sweating it out and showering not long after, a multi-step routine seems a little, well, unnecessary. And when you’ve got that post-workout glow working for you, why would you need anything else? But let’s be real: nobody wants the acne that seems to pop-up after an intense class. If you want to truly care for your skin, it’s essential to prep your skin for a workout.
If you’re the type of person who goes all-in with their skincare routine, there’s no reason you shouldn’t keep it up when you’re in the gym. To make sure you’re doing all the right things for your skin, we’ve asked FACILE dermatology + boutique provider Xochitl Renteln, PA-C for the low-down on pre-workout skincare.
When building your skincare routine for workouts, Renteln advises keeping things simple and effective. “Make sure to include chemical exfoliants and acne prevention medication if you’re prone to breakouts,” she says. Be sure to avoid super heavy moisturizers and oils that can trap sweat, but remember you still need SPF. Renteln suggests choosing a chemical sunscreen over physical sunscreen. “[This is] to ensure adequate protection, as chemical sunscreen does better against water and sweat.”
Of course, when you’re working out may also have an impact on your routine. Renteln likes to work out in the morning — in which case, she’ll rinse her face with water or use a gentle cleanser like iS Clinical Cleansing Complex for a clean slate. Then, she’ll use a lightweight moisturizer like Elta MD AM Therapy or Skinmedica HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator. But the most important step, she emphasizes, is sunscreen. “My favorite for pre-workout is Elta MD UV Clear. Whether you’re working out at home, the gym, or the studio, you need to wear SPF.”
For those of you who get their sweat on after hours, Renteln says it’s best to remove your daytime makeup and SPF before you start. “Avoid makeup wipes and try micellar water and an organic cotton pad,” she says. “If you have the time and access to a sink and water, cleanse with a gentle foaming cleanser like Avène Eau Thermale Cleansing Foam.” If you tend to break out, use an antibacterial toner like Tower28’s SOS Daily Rescue Facial Spray or Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant to keep acne at bay. Add on a layer of SPF and you’re good to go. Pro tip: be sure to wash your hands in case you touch your face and pull back your hair, as that can transfer acne-causing bacteria.
Contrary to what you may believe, sweat is good for your skin. According to Renteln, it can “help regulate skin temperature, remove toxins, reduce harmful bacteria, open up pores, promote skin cell turnover, and contribute to a healthy skin microbiome.” In other words, you don’t need to ever worry about sweating too much. However, if sweat stays on your skin for too long, it can lead to clogged pores and irritation. Renteln says to cleanse your skin as soon as possible after a sweat sesh. Give your face a rinse with an exfoliating cleanser with glycolic or salicylic acid, like Senté Exfoliating Cleanser.
The biggest takeaway? Always finish off your pre-workout skincare routine with a healthy dose of SPF. If your workout is the last thing to do before bed, go ahead and swap the sunscreen for your regular nighttime skincare before you hit the hay.