Exercise and the Skin

new-years-gymThe New Year is upon us!  If this year is anything like previous years, the gyms and fitness clubs will be crowded with folks trying to fulfill their resolutions.

Eventually, the fitness clubs will be less crowded when some people predictably drop their resolutions.   There are several good reasons why it is best not to be part of the resolution-breaking crowd, but here is one big reason when it comes to the subject of this blog post.

Exercise is not only good for the body in general.  It is also great for the skin.

The positive effects of exercise on the skin result from increased levels of blood flow that provide oxygen and nutrients to the skin.  This extra rush of oxygen and nutrients helps repair and renew the skin.

exerciseThe improved circulation also aids in collagen production and cutaneous antioxidant activity.  Both collagen and antioxidants improve skin texture and helps prevent wrinkle formation.

In addition to exercise’s direct effect on the skin, exercise improves the immune system and its infection-fighting properties, resulting in less skin breakouts.  Exercise also reduces the emotional stressors one experiences in life, which can trigger many other skin issues including acne breakouts, premature aging and skin pigmentation irregularities.  Regular aerobic exercise has even been shown to reduce psoriasis by 25 to 30%.

exercise_sweatThe skin is also an important organ of waste elimination in the form of sweat.  Sweat contains multiple chemicals your body needs to flush out including ammonia, urea, salts and sugars.

If these chemicals accumulate and stay on the skin, they can be a source of irritation and even make the skin prone to infection. Therefore, it is very important to keep your skin clean after your workout.

Here are some tips for skincare to implement around your exercise program:


  • Start with clean skin by removing all makeup.
  • If you are exercising outside, apply sunscreen to all visible parts of your skin (i.e. the skin that is not covered by clothing) at least 20 minutes before going outdoors.  This sunscreen should be no less than SPF 30.


  • Keep hair pulled back and off your face, especially if you have used hair products recently.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially if your hands are dirty and sweaty.
  • If you wear a hat, headband, helmet and/or sunglasses while exercising, wash them after every use.  If you can’t throw them in the washing machine (sunglasses apply best to this scenario), clean the sweaty surfaces often.  The parts of these accessories that collect the most sweat also can collect oil, dirt and bacteria that your skin will definitely not like.


  • After an active and sweaty workout, hydration is very important.  Drink plenty of water!
  • A nice lukewarm or cool shower will reduce your body temperature, and clean off sweat and dirt while preserving your skin‘s protective layer.
  • After showering, apply a hydrating moisturizer while the skin is still moist.  A moisturizer retains hydration within the skin.

dehydration-clipart-sweat-clipart-clip-art-sweating-436047Exercise is a great and natural way to improve your skin, so you look as good as you feel.  Use the easy steps above to make sure you get all the good effects of exercise and none of the downsides.

Finally, being a devoted workout fan, and not someone who quickly drops their New Year’s Resolutions, has another major advantage: the crowds at fitness centers will thin out once February rolls around!  You already know which crowd you should be in.

About Dr. John Burke

John Burke M.D. has practiced medicine for over 25 years, and is the founding partner of MidMaine Internal Medicine. He established Maine Laser Skin Care in 2004 after devoting years to learning the latest in laser and dermatologic technology. Dr. Burke has treated patients from all over the United States. He is one of Maine's busiest practitioners in laser treatments, and in the use of Botox for upper facial lines and excessive sweating.
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