You know working out is great for your body, your heart, and your mood—but, you have to wonder, does your skin take a beating from all that sweating? Richard G. Glogau, M.D., a clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California at San Francisco, gives his tips for keeping your body's largest organ smooth and fresh—while still honing the rest of that lean, mean, fighting machine.
Rule Number 1: If you've broken a sweat, take a shower.
Okay, so this seems obvious, but there are more reasons than you think not to skip that shower after your midday workout. The first one is clearly more for the benefit of your co-workers than for you; but if you thought it was the sweat itself that made you stink, think again. "After perspiring, the bacterial counts on your skin rise, which is what causes body odor," says Dr. Glogau. "The second is about comfort: "Showering also gives your skin time to cool off; if you have dry skin and you get right back into your clothes, you may become itchy and irritated." And, finally, rinsing off the sweat will help prevent breakouts. But if you really want to ward off the acne, see Rule Number 2 before your next shower....
Rule Number 2: Don't overscrub or overdry.
"Many adults get reactive acne from the very products they think will prevent breakouts," explains Dr. Glogau. "A lot of the strong deodorant soaps and antibacterial soaps are too drying and irritating. The best thing to do to protect against acne is to use a mild, neutral soap, like Dove, or a gentle cleanser."
Rule Number 3: Find the right antiperspirant for you.
Antiperspirants have three functions, says Dr. Glogau—antiperspirant (aluminum chloride hexahydrate salts block the sweat from exiting the pores), antibacterial (to help protect against odor), and fragrance. "People can be irritated by any of the components, and manufacturers vary in the percentages of the combinations of these things." So you need to find one that doesn't leave you with a rash or discomfort. "The general rule is, people with dry skin are going to have trouble with gels or alcohol-solution-based brands and are better off with sticks or cream-based deodorants. Beyond that, it's a matter of personal preference." (Note: Brands marketed specifically for men tend to have higher concentrations of the antibacterial and antiperspirant components.) Skin irritation can also occur if you apply antiperspirant on already irritated skin or, for women, right after shaving.
Rule Number 4: Don't forget your feet.
"People don't pay attention to their feet," says Dr. Glogau. "If you sweat, chances are your feet are damp and soggy—and you could wind up having chronic infections." His solution? "You should apply an over-the-counter antifungal cream between your toes and toenails if you work out twice a week or more."