Tips & Tricks

Acne and diet: how exercise impacts your skin’s health

le 01/11/2021

How much do you exercise? What impact does sport have on your skin?

Do you know that our life choices are written on our faces? Getting regular exercise is said to have a stunning effect on the ageing process as a whole, particularly on skin. 

If you want to know why sport makes us beautiful, read this article!

Sport as a way to fight against free radicals 

Free radicals are responsible for the accelerated appearance of numerous skin damages, resulting in the production of wrinkles and other signs of ageing.

Free radicals are very unstable and incomplete molecules naturally generated by the human body. To stabilise themselves, free radicals destroy neighbouring molecules which in turn become free radicals.

In the organism, these molecules are naturally neutralised by cellular defence and detoxification mechanisms. That being said, it can happen that external aggressions significantly increase their number. The cells are then no longer able to neutralise them all.

This phenomenon of degradation of skin structures by free radicals spreads in a chain reaction and results in premature ageing of the skin and the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and other signs of aging.

Other external factors lead to the formation of free radicals:

  • Pollution,

  • Exposure to UV and daylight,

  • Tobacco and alcohol consumption,

  • Chronic stress,

  • Certain drug treatments,

  • Diets (over-consumption of meat or saturated fats),

  • Heating, air conditioning

Our body has a "natural shield" to neutralise free radicals: natural antioxidants such as enzymes, and vitamins such as vitamin E and C.

When the amount of free radicals is too high, the natural defence mechanisms are no longer able to neutralise them all. The free radicals will thus degrade components that are essential for maintaining young and healthy skin (collagen and elastin fibres, hyaluronic acid, cellular lipids, DNA...).

But if they are produced in excess, this defence is no longer sufficient; then the cells oxidise! This phenomenon is called oxidative stress.

This phenomenon accelerates the ageing of our cells and causes irreversible damage to our organs and DNA. It is believed to cause serious diseases such as cancer, asthma and certain degenerative diseases. 

The benefits of sport on the skin

Endurance sports in general, such as triathlon, marathon or cycle races, require increased oxygen consumption to produce the energy needed for the effort. As a result, they are the source of a large production of free radicals!

Should we be worried about sport if it is the cause of the production of free radicals, supposedly harmful to our body? No, quite the contrary! It so happens that this production also increases our body's capacity to protect itself from this phenomenon. 

In the long term, physical training would develop our defence system, making it more effective against the oxidative stress mentioned above.

Practicing physical activity while maintaining healthy, glowing skin

It is also important to know that despite its many benefits, physical exercise can present risks for the skin. 

The main danger if you exercise outdoors is exposure to the sun.

Sunburn increases the risk of cancer and skin aging, erasing any benefits that your skin might get from exercise. 

So avoid exercising outdoors during the peak hours of the sun (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.)!

However, if you must exercise when the sun is at its peak, wear sunscreen!  If your skin is naturally oily or prone to acne, choose an oil-free gel or product or opt for a cream with a minimum SPF 30 protection.

For acne-prone people, irritation and increased sweating caused by rubbing and wearing too tight workout clothes can lead to a form of acne called acne mechanica.

The two keys to prevention are to wear clothing that wicks moisture away optimally (bras, hats, faceshields), and to take a shower immediately after exercise.

Wearing loose-fitting workout clothes can also help!

Make sure your skin is clean before training to avoid clogged pores, which can lead to acne. 

One last tip: avoid wearing make-up when exercising! 

After showering and cleansing your face with a mild washing gel, apply a moisturizing cream or soothing powder to prevent skin irritation.

 Exercise-related skin problems

Several other skin conditions can be exacerbated by physical activity, including rosacea, eczema and psoriasis. 

Be careful, this is no reason not to exercise! 

For rosacea sufferers, the increase in body temperature and hot flashes that come with exercise can cause acne flare-ups. The best strategy is to exercise in a cool environment. 

People with eczema or psoriasis may also experience flare-ups after intense activity, usually caused by the salt in sweat.  

Blood circulation increases the skin's radiance

Our skin cells are nourished by tiny capillaries located in the inner layers of the skin. When we exercise and our heart rate increases, blood flow carries vitamins, minerals and oxygen into these capillaries. 

Blood and oxygen are essential to any healing process, so the best way to get that youthful glow is to increase your heart rate and blood flow!

Sweat and its benefits

Sweat is frowned upon because it is thought to clog pores, but this is not the case. Sweating is actually the way our skin naturally detoxifies itself, and one of the main ways our body eliminates toxins. 

A sweating session is a kind of steam cleaning for the pores from the inside out!

Make sure you remove make-up and cleanse yourself thoroughly before going to the gym so that sweat and bacteria don't get trapped in your pores.

How hormones, stress and exercise contribute to acne

Say no to stress! The benefits of physical exercise greatly help combat stress-induced hormonal surges. Regular exercise creates healing endorphins that can effectively counteract the harmful effects of cortisol, commonly known as the ‘stress hormone’.

Cortisol damages the collagen and elastin that keep skin taut, while slowing down cell renewal. 

When we are stressed, a surge of testosterone causes an increase in the production of sebaceous glands, which increases the risk of bacterial infection in the pores of the skin and leads to the formation of pimples and other skin imperfections. 

Yoga, meditation and breath awareness are all excellent tools for reducing stress. Intense physical exercise is particularly effective in breaking down cortisol in the blood. Regular moderate exercise releases endorphins and serotonin, which reduce cortisol levels. 

Work out!

In short, exercise does not cause acne, but poor hygiene after training can cause acne.

Although many acne sufferers go through many treatments before finding something that finally works, the cause of acne is quite simple. 

Sebum, the technical term for the oil produced by your skin, can accumulate in your pores. When it mixes with bacteria and other debris, acne is the inevitable result.

Sweating can be especially harmful to your complexion if you wear makeup or sunscreen when you exercise, as these products can mix with sweat and get trapped in your pores.

Likewise, exercising and going straight to bed without washing your face will make your skin more vulnerable to acne. 

Food for thought: keep your skin clean both before and after a workout!