Should I do my skincare routine before or after working out: How & when to do a gym skincare routine

How to achieve a healthy-looking glow?

From lifting weights at the gym to swimming laps in the pool, there’s no better feeling than that post-workout ‘glow’.

While your exercise routine may be nailed down, one thing that may be taking a hit is your skin…

For the fitness fanatics among us, there are often a lot of questions when it comes to skincare and exercise. For instance, should you workout in your makeup? Or should i do my skincare before or after the gym? Is it worthwhile to perform skincare routines before morning exercise, only to redo it all shortly afterward? And is it that bad if you forget to shower after sweating at the gym (spoiler alert: the answer is yes).

The reality is, that neglecting your skin while exercising is a recipe for a disaster. It can lead to a whole host of problems, from dryness to irritation - and even bacne if you’re not careful!

Remember that skin health - along with good quality skincare - is for life, so it’s worth every second of investing your time and energy into both.

Pre-workout skincare tips: A basic warmup

Before we take a deep dive into individual skincare routines depending on your go-to workout and time of day, there are some basics you should be aware of first - consider these your seven skin-ercise (skincare plus exercise) non-negotiables.

  1. Remove your makeup

    First things first, you should never exercise with a full face of makeup. While there’s nothing quite like makeup for that immediate confidence boost, if there’s ever a time to avoid wearing it, then it’s when you’re sweating.

    When you exercise, your pores and sweat glands open up in order to cool your body temperature down. The problem is that with makeup on your face, your pores will get clogged very easily and this can lead to breakouts and blackheads.

    If you tend to exercise straight after you finish work, get into the habit of packing a cleanser in your bag with you - think of your cleanser as being just as important as your trainers, and then you’ll never forget it!

    When it comes to makeup removal, oil cleansers are gentle and nourishing - and much, much kinder to your skin’s health than using a makeup wipe. If you typically exercise more than 4 times a week, it’s even more important to get into this habit - your skin will thank you for it.

  2. Steer clear of makeup wipes

    Use wipes to clean your house or for emergencies at festivals, but never for your face. It doesn’t matter how much of a rush you’re in, there’s no excuse for using a wipe to remove makeup before a workout. And there’s even less of an excuse to quickly ‘clean’ your face with a makeup wipe post-workout either - save your skin and the environment one less problem!

    To drill the point home even further, makeup wipes do anything but clean, all they’re actually doing is moving the sweat and dirt around your face.

    If you are running late and cleansing isn’t an option then micellar water is the next best thing to help remove most of your makeup. Micellar cleansing water quickly removes makeup, pollutants, and grime without the need to rinse your face afterward.

  3. Wear moisturizer for your workouts

    If there’s one product you should wear during a workout then it’s your moisturizer as it will keep your skin hydrated.

    Try to exercise with a water-based moisturizer or lightweight serum on your face so your skin can sweat freely and be sure to avoid any thick or heavy skincare products, as this could result in blocked pores.

  4. Bring a clean towel to the gym with you

    Try to get into the habit of bringing a compact towel to the gym to efficiently wipe away excess sweat during your workout. This guarantees a more hygienic option than allowing sweat to linger on your face or succumbing to the temptation of using a dirty sleeve. Avoid the even less appealing option of resorting to the harsh, scratchy paper towels commonly found in gyms.

  5. Wash your hands immediately after exercising

    Make sure that you always thoroughly wash your hands after working out in the gym. Gym equipment is covered in millions of germs, so bear that in mind next time you go to touch your face mid-workout…

  6. Use SPF if exercising outdoors

    No matter the weather, if you are running, cycling, or even swimming outside and exposed to UV rays, at the very least, you should protect your cheeks with a walnut-sized dollop of  SPF. This area on your face is most prone to visible signs of damage from sport - and the majority of sun damage is done in your first 20 years, so it’s vital not to skip this step.

    When it comes to your skincare routine, SPF should always be the last product you apply and we recommend aiming for SPF30 or higher always.

  7. Shower as soon as you stop sweating

    Although it can be tempting after a tough workout to collapse on your bed or start on dinner, try to get into the habit of showering as soon as you get home from a workout.

    As you exercise, your pores open to drain sweat from your sweat glands. These same pores can get clogged with leftover skin or sweat cells if you don't clean right after you sweat. Clogged pores can lead to acne - commonly referred to as ‘sweat acne’ - as well as blackheads and whiteheads so do your skin a favor and always shower.

    You should also avoid doing your skincare in the shower. Admittedly, it’s convenient and saves you time, but the water is far too hot for your face so aim to cleanse when you get out of the shower - not before or during.

    To help break down exactly what you should be doing pre and post-workout for your skin to thrive, we’ve pulled together a guide on scheduling your skincare around your workout.

    Seeing as every fitness regime is different - from the weightlifters to the cyclists - whether it’s first thing in the morning or during your lunch break, we’ve covered all bases below on exactly how you should be looking after your skin.

Gym skincare routine:

(Good) Morning skincare:

If you are more of an early bird and like to kick-start your day with a gym workout, sadly, it’s not enough to just roll out of bed and into the gym.

If you struggle with dryness, be sure to apply some moisturizer before you sweat it out lifting weights or attacking the treadmill.

As soon as you’re finished working out, do your full morning skincare routine as you normally would. Remember, the main point of your AM routine is to prep your skin for the day ahead.

Midday skincare:

For those who squeeze in a gym session during their lunch break, when you’ve arrived, the first thing you need to do - if you wear makeup to work - is remove it using an oil-based cleanser (not face wipes!).

Once you’ve removed your makeup, apply a small amount of moisturizer, then you can jump straight into your class or gym set. Once you’ve finished, shower and repeat your morning skincare routine.

Evening skincare:

Similar to the midday skincare routine, once you’ve arrived at the gym, start by removing the makeup that’s been sitting on your face all day, and apply a small layer of moisturizer.

Once you’ve ticked off your workout, jump in the shower and unless you’ve got plans for the evening, do your full evening skincare routine.

Runner skincare routine:

Morning skincare:

If you wake up and like to start the day with a run, it’s important to consider your skincare first.

Your routine will be slightly different depending on the climate where you live. For instance, those who are used to colder weather conditions should apply some facial oil first to protect their face. You may also want to apply some lip oil, to provide a protective shield against the cold. Once you’ve successfully followed your running route, take a shower and do your usual skincare routine.

If you live in a typically hot climate, apply a generous amount of SPF first before you pound the streets, then once you’re back home, shower and complete your full AM skincare routine.

Evening skincare:

For those who like to clear their head with a jog after a long day at work, one thing you should never run in is your makeup. Once you’ve commuted home, remove your makeup first, apply a small amount of moisturizer, sweat the day out on your run and then shower, finishing with your evening skincare routine.

Swimmer skincare routine:

No matter how tight you are for time, being in water in your makeup - or full skincare - will never go swimmingly. Not only will this save you from the dreaded ‘panda eyes’ but no one wants their thickest moisturizer dripping into their eyes mid-tumble-turn.

Skin and chlorine are not a great combination either. Chlorine is commonly known to dehydrate the skin, which is not ideal for anyone prone to dryness or sensitivity. For this reason, it’s important to prioritize your skincare routine around your swimming sessions.

Morning skincare:

If you enjoy a splash first thing in the morning, it is still safe to apply a thin layer of moisturizer - however, don’t put any product on your forehead to prevent the risk of it quite getting into your eyes.

Other than that, once you’ve finished your lengths, wash the chlorine off your body and then complete your normal morning skincare routine.

Evening skincare:

Those who prefer to swim in the evening will need to remove their makeup first - think of it as another ‘layer’ to take off! We recommend rubbing in something protective and hydrating for your skin - like a facial oil or a very light moisturizer - before setting off in your lane.

Once you’ve completed your swim, you should complete your full evening skincare routine - unless, of course, you have a dinner date to get to. If that’s the case, give yourself an extra scrub to ensure you don’t stink of chlorine, then cleanse and ensure your face is well-hydrated with a serum and thick moisturizer.

If your local pool is extra fancy and has a sauna room, then aiming to incorporate this into your routine three times a week will work wonders for your skin health. There are three main reasons why:

  1. Promotes detoxification

    As we sweat in the sauna, it allows our body to release toxins and impurities and this process helps to cleanse the skin.

  2. Repairs and regenerates skin cells

    The heat in saunas cause our blood vessels to dilate, leading to an increase in blood flow around the body. This increased blood flow delivers essential nutrients and oxygen to the skin, giving it a healthy glow and aiding in the repair and regeneration of skin cells.

  3. Relaxing and calming effects

    Saunas are also known for their relaxing and calming effects, making them a great way to combat stress and promote mental well-being. The heat helps to soothe both the body and mind, reducing muscle tension and enhancing the feeling of relaxation - which in turn, will help with stress-induced skin flare-ups.

    However, if you do plan on spending more time in the sauna, it’s worth prepping your skin by putting some facial oil on first - preferably a plant oil-based one.

Trending classes - like hot yoga

In the fitness industry, there’s always a new workout trend to jump on - and the latest seems to be ‘hot yoga’.

This trending class is exactly what it says on the tin - a form of yoga performed in hot and humid conditions, resulting in considerable amounts of sweating. And whether that sounds appealing to you or not, your face certainly won’t thank you for attending...

Some hot yoga practices aim to replicate the heat and humidity of India, where yoga originated. While the whole purpose is to sweat a lot, unlike other forms of physical activity, you’re unable to cool back down again due to the humid conditions of the room. Over time, that immediate ‘glow’ you achieve after a class, may result in broken capillaries - and while this can be treated, it’s not a look that people aspire to…

If you can’t be convinced away from ‘hot yoga’, then the main areas on your face you will need to focus your attention on are your nose and cheeks. As soon as the class has finished, hydrate your face - and your typical H20 won’t cut it! Instead, spritz your whole face with rose water. Then, you’re free to shower but be sure to apply a  hydrating serum as well as your moisturizer.

It’s normal to be very dehydrated after a hot yoga class and if you attend them regularly then keep your spritzing bottles to hand and watch out for visible signs of dehydration on your skin - like fine lines forming.

Cyclist skincare routine

No matter the time of day, if you are a keen cyclist then you will need to protect your skin. When it comes to SPF, be sure to apply it everywhere, including the areas that are typically forgotten: the back of the neck and top of the ears.

Never cycle in a face of makeup and liberally apply SPF and your go-to moisturizer before hitting the road. It may be worth applying a facial oil to your cheeks as well, to prevent them from getting attacked by the wind. When you’re back home and your helmet is safely stored away, jump in the shower and you can then start your AM or PM skincare routine as normal.

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