Workouts can mess with your looks, giving you tired hair, hard callouses and spots or rashes. But you don’t need chemicals to fix the problem – here’s how to get the glow back with all-natural methods
Siski Green, your fitness guru. Siski has been writing about health and fitness for 15 years but, despite having learned a great deal about how to live longer and stronger, still can’t bring herself to drink green tea or eat kale.
1. Beetroot cheeks
Getting a bit flushed after a training session is perfectly normal, but all that blood rushing to your skin can exacerbate other problems like rosacea, a skin disorder that causes redness.
Cooling down quickly afterwards is key, so after you’ve done your run or workout, immediately splash your face and body with cold water. Even better, make some green tea, chill it and apply that to your skin. The caffeine in it helps constrict blood vessels, thus reducing redness.
You can also prepare a honey and oatmeal face mask and apply it once a week to help ameliorate the redness. Or you can keep some chilled wrist bands (Frio Cooling Wristband, £5.99, amazon.com) in your work freezer and strap them on to cool your body down to its normal temperature.
2. Loose skin
Running at high intensity has been linked with what some call ‘runner’s face’ where your skin is less elastic and seems to sag more. Never a good look for any of us. You might think it’s because of all the movement it suffers as you run, but, apparently, any strenuous cardio exercise can provoke cell damage, and it’s this that causes the loss of skin elasticity.
Don’t panic just yet because research, published in Free Radical Biology and Medicine, found that moderate exercise, i.e. performing at 40 to 60% of your max heart rate, actually helps improve skin health.
Researchers also found that the damaging effects of intense cardio only occurred after 90 minutes of exercise, so make sure that you keep those workouts short, sharp and fast so your skin remains as smooth and firm as a just picked peach.
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Pesky bacteria just love how warm and moist your body becomes during a workout, and it’s exactly these conditions that allow propionibacterium acnes, the bacteria responsible for spot breakouts, to flourish.
Exacerbating the issue is make-up or sun lotion that form a barrier and don’t allow sweat to evaporate properly. Add non-breathable clothing into the mix, which adds friction and stimulates your sebaceous glands so they produce even more oil, and you’ve got a recipe for pizza face, or back, or bottom.
Clean up before you hit the weights. Remove all make-up and spritz yourself with natural mineral water as you train. It’ll help keep you cool.
Also, be careful to clean up afterwards. “I use Pretty Athletic Purifying Facial Cleanser immediately after a sweat session, which helps avoid post-workout breakouts,” says Robyn Ablott, a strength conditioning expert and trainer at The Female Fitness Academy.
Try using a product containing salicyclic acid (SA), too. Research published in the Journal of Dermatological Treatment found regular application of SA significantly reduced acne. “It helps fight blemishes and calms skin redness so it’s perfect after training,” explains Lisa-Jane, a personal trainer and fitness model (wildcatfitness.co.uk).
You can buy a product that contains SA, or look for natural cleansers or moisturisers with willow bark, the natural source of SA. Burts’ Bees, for example, produce moisturisers and facial scrubs containing willow bark.
4. Visible pores
Exercise or any other activity (even steaming your face) can’t enlarge or open up your pores; it’s just that they look bigger when full of sweat, grease or dirt.
Reducing sweating as well as any other substances on your skin is key. “I usually recommend removing all make-up from the skin (foundation, powder etc) before working out, especially if you know you’re going to sweat a lot,” says Lisa-Jane. “But if you can’t stand to go bare faced, use a mineral-based cream to give you coverage that will also allow your skin to breathe.” Getting that free flow of air on your skin is sure to aerate your pores smaller.
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If you see spots on your back or chest, it could be a result of blocked sweat glands rather than acne. This happens when skin cells block the gland and the sweat can’t get out, causing your glands to swell up and become inflamed.
A cold shower is all you need. Not only does an icy post-workout blast help cool you down quickly, preventing further sweat production, it also rinses off any dirt that might contribute to a rash or other blemishes.
Also, you could try different clothing, although many people avoid cotton because it soaks up sweat that can actually help prevent a sweat rash. Bamboo is another natural alternative. If you do opt for clothing with Lycra or Spandex, look for ‘moisture-wicking’ on the label, because if you don’t you could make your symptoms worse.
6. Rough hands
Lifting weights and gripping handles tightly, combined with repetitive movements, can lead to blisters and callouses forming. The net result is a wave goodbye to your soft feminine hands and a hello handshake to a sandpaper grip.
“I love strength training and I encourage as many of my female clients as possible to train with weights, but this can sometimes result in blisters, callouses or chafing on the hands,” says Lisa-Jane.
“Personally I always wear weight training gloves when I lift because it not only improves my grip, but it also protects the skin on my hands.
“My favourites are G-Loves from Love to Lift (£23.99, lovetolift.co.uk) because the patented grip really works for me and has resulted in far fewer callouses. Plus, they come in lots of great styles and colours.”
You can also use a mixed grip and dust your hands with chalk, since it fills in your skin folds and prevents moisture from sweat. But what if your gym forbids chalk? Then try using liquid chalk (Liquid Grip, £10.20, bodybuilding.com), which dries in seconds and lasts for hours. Plus, it acts like an anti-bacterial and smells beautiful.
– RELATED: 6 Ways To Stay Fresh During And After Your Workout –
7. Rough skin
When skin rubs on material, or even on bits of other skin, it becomes irritated and inflamed, sometimes leaving you with unsightly red sore patches.
To begin with, change your workout gear. If your thighs rub, for example, consider wearing running tights or leggings instead of shorts, and look for brands without seams. If your breasts rub against each other, find a sports bra that helps keep them apart.
Finally, grab that bottle of lube from your bedside table – it’s not just for sex. You can use Vaseline, of course, but other lubes intended for when we’re making hay between the sheets are often more effective, and they smell good too.
But any lubricant that gives your skin a smooth surface will help prevent friction when your body rubs up against something – whether that be somebody else’s taut torso or your own.
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