The benefits of running seem to be endless: It can cut your risk of cardiovascular
disease, tone your body, help you slim down, boost your mood…should
we go on? But have you ever returned from a sweaty, heart-thumping workout
and wondered: What's happening to my face while I'm working on
my fitness? What effects does hitting the pavement have on my collagen,
elastin, capillaries, and crow’s-feet? We asked the experts for answers.
That red-in-the-face look is a normal part of exercise.
We all want that sexy postrun glow (here's what to keep in your gym
bag), but let’s be honest: Sometimes we look more red and blotchy
than cute and dewy. That’s normal and not a bit harmful, says Marc
Glashofer, a skin-cancer surgeon in New Jersey. When you run, your blood
vessels dilate to release heat, which results in red skin.
For the most part, the red effect chills out as you cool down.
One caveat: Dilated blood vessels can worsen chronic skin conditions like
rosacea, says Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, a dermatologist in New York
City. This isn’t to say that people with rosacea need to skip running
altogether. Just keep a cold cloth by the treadmill to cool down, she
suggests. If you’re running outside, a splash from a water bottle
works just as well.
In general, working out keeps chronic skin conditions at bay.
It’s no secret that cardio calms us the heck down. Exercise decreases
the level of the stress hormone cortisol, which can be beneficial for
chronic skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and acne, Kanchanapoomi
Levin says. Just skip wearing the one-size-too-small fitness clothes.
Supersnug outfits can worsen preexisting skin conditions, she adds.
A long jog equals a free spa treatment...kind of.
A five-mile loop could just replace your next spa treatment—sort
of. “Increasing your circulation with cardio delivers a greater
amount of oxygen and nutrients to your skin, which helps repair it and
increase collagen production,” says Kanchanapoomi Levin. Plus, enhanced
blood flow helps skin cells regenerate, she adds—meaning cycling
could actually be anti-aging. Shoot for cardio at 40 to 60 percent of
your maximum heart rate, three to five times a week, she suggests.
Overdoing it might piss off your skin.
Some research shows that strenuous activity can worsen the health of your
skin by causing more free-radical damage, which can age you, says Kanchanapoomi
Levin. According to 2008 research findings published in
Free Radical Biology and Medicine, superintense exercise can lead to detrimental effects on the skin if
you've been working out near your maximum heart rate for extended
periods of time (this is not including HIIT). Also, as your body produces
extra free radicals, it also produces more of the counteracting antioxidant
enzymes. “Regular and frequent exercise, coupled with a healthy
diet loaded with greens and antioxidants, should be enough for a healthy
person to fight off the excess free-radical production from exercise,”
There may be a little something to that whole "sweating out toxins" thing.
Anyone who’s ever logged a sweaty run can tell you that (most of
the time) it beats a glass of rosé on the couch. And according
to the experts, it’s as good for your skin as it is for your psyche.
“Enhanced blood flow can help skin cells regenerate and remove toxins
more efficiently,” says Kanchanapoomi Levin.
But wait, won’t sweat make me break out?
First off, sweat is sterile, says Glashofer. “We need to sweat for
thermoregulation—it cools us down,” he says. For the most
part, our skin is totally OK when we sweat. (Exercise-induced urticaria
is a rare condition in whiich you can break out in hives from an allergy
to your own sweat.) Def don't sport sweatproof makeup, either.
Also, sweat isn’t usually going to cause a huge breakout.
What’s more likely to give you pimples: sitting around in damp workout
clothes. Sweat creates a warm, moist environment, says Levin. “Lingering
sweat and dirt can clog pores, and oftentimes in my patients who work
out regularly, I see a worsening of acne on the chest, back, or the forehead,”
she says. It’s called acne mechanica, and friction between your
skin and workout gear stimulates the production of excess oil, which in
turn clogs your pores.
Sidestep the issue by washing your makeup off prerun and rinsing off afterward.
Acne-prone? A salicylic acid spray or cleanser or a benzoyl peroxide lotion
after workouts can help, says Levin. Also, always look for breathable gear.
Hitting the pavement can up your risk of skin cancer.
Twenty-minute jogs here and two-hour half-marathons there add up. That’s
part of the reason dermatologists might see outdoor athletes at a younger
age, says Glashofer. While any kind of activity that puts you outdoors
can raise your risk of skin cancer, some runners tend to skip sunblock
to avoid the discomfort of it dripping into their eyes, Glashofer says.
(It’s also easy to space on the fact that you need it.)
You should apply sunscreen before you head outside. Pick up a water-resistant
broad-spectrum product and reapply every 80 minutes, suggests Kanchanapoomi
Levin. Physical blockers like zinc oxide won’t sting like chemical
versions when used as sunscreens. And also, don’t forget your lips!
A few faves: Elta UV Lip Balm Broad-spectrum SPF 31, Aeon Skin ProSport
Non-Drip Sunscreen SPF 50+, and Neutrogena Sport Cool Dry.
Article originally featured on Allure.com