In caring for your skin, it’s important to consider all the factors that affect your skin’s health. In other words, it’s crucial that you take a holistic approach to skincare. This article is the fourth installment in a series of Holistic Skincare posts, designed to give you the knowledge you need to master caring for your skin!
If you missed it, catch up on the last article of the series, Holistic Skincare: Diet Part II.
Exercise and the Skin
As is often the case when analysing individual parts of an interconnected system, the health of the organism as a whole can be a major factor influencing the health of individual organs. This is why it’s just as important to address any imbalances or issues in your overall life (such as your stress levels, eating patterns, and sleeping patterns) as it is to address specific skin issues.
At this point, some of you may be scratching your heads wondering to yourselves, “But what could exercise possibly have to do with skin health?” As it turns out, quite a lot! There are multiple ways exercise affects the health of the skin, and the two most significant ways may be through improved circulation and stress reduction.
Consider this quote from Ellen Marmur, MD, author of Simple Skin Beauty: Every Woman’s Guide to a Lifetime of Healthy, Gorgeous Skin :
“We tend to focus on the cardiovascular benefits of physical activity, and those are important. But anything that promotes healthy circulation also helps keep your skin healthy and vibrant.”
Because your heart rate pumps faster when you exercise, blood flow is increased, which both nourishes and cleanses your skin cells. Marmur continues, “blood carries oxygen and nutrients to working cells throughout the body, including the skin,” and increased blood flow during exercise “helps flush cellular debris out of the system”, essentially “cleansing your skin from the inside” .
Exercise: The All-Natural, Stress-Reducing Mood Enhancer
Another great benefit of regular exercise is lower stress levels and an improved mental state. The connection between regular exercise and stress relief is well-known, and in fact, exercise has been proven to be just as effective ,, at treating depression as antidepressants. This is very relevant to those with skin issues such as eczema or psoriasis, as stress and anxiety have been identified as key triggers for both of these (and many other) inflammatory skin diseases , , . For this reason, exercise as a stress reliever plays an important role in reducing both the frequency and severity of flare ups, thus leading to improved skin in the long-term.
Aside from the mood-enhancing benefits of regular exercise, there is also evidence that exercise is associated with faster wound healing. For those with sensitive skin that tends to get injured easily, this may be an especially motivating reason to exercise more regularly.
Ready, Set, Protect!
Hopefully, with a clearer understanding of the myriad benefits exercise offers in relation to skin health, you are ready to work in some more workouts to your daily schedule. But don’t start just yet! Before you start exercising, you may need to take special measures to keep your skin protected, especially if you have skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, acne, or rosacea.
Sun damage is one of the main concerns if you plan to exercise outdoors, as sunburn both rapidly ages the skin and increases the risk of skin cancer. Wearing sunscreen is a good start, but you may sweat that off as you exercise. To protect yourself from sun damage, try to avoid exercising outside between 10am and 4pm, which is the time range of peak sun strength. If you can’t avoid exercising outdoors during this time, wear a hat or visor to shade your face and try to cover as much of your skin as possible.
If you have sensitive skin or are otherwise prone to chafing, make sure to choose looser-fitting, moisture-wicking fabrics and shower immediately after exercising. This will help keep your skin drier and cooler, which will help prevent rashes from chafing. Using a moisturiser in problem areas before exercising can also reduce the friction from chafing. Another tip is to make sure your skin is clean and avoid putting on makeup before exercising, which will help prevent clogged pores.
Dehydration & Dryness
All that sweating when you work out means that it’s extra important to drink enough to stay hydrated! Certain activities, such as swimming, can also dry out your skin, so make sure to rehydrate your skin by applying a nourishing moisturiser if you experience skin dryness after exercising. Also, those living with psoriasis or eczema need to take special care, as the salt from sweating can irritate the skin and cause flare ups. Applying a moisturiser before you work out can help in this case. Take extra care to moisturize creased areas, and opt to exercise in a cooler environment if possible. This will help both reduce perspiration and the need to shower afterwards, which is important, since washing too often can dry out your skin and worsen eczema or psoriasis symptoms .
Although exercising with sensitive skin can be more challenging, it’s definitely worth it for all the mental and physical benefits regular exercise can provide. Don’t let your skin sensitivity or skin condition hold you back from exercising, especially since regular exercise will likely lead to a healthier you and healthier skin in the long-term!
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