Your skin is full of blood vessels that transport oxygen and other nutrients to the cells responsible for your skin's appearance. If you're in poor health, you have fewer blood vessels in your skin, and it shows. You lose that rosy, healthy looking glow, which consciously and subconsciously affects and informs others' opinions of your state of health.
Throughout the day, your skin also accumulates toxins and grime from a number of sources: polluted air, dirty surfaces it comes in contact with and hygiene products such as deodorant or lotion. Exercise helps to flush these toxins out of your skin, removing both the layer of film and the foreign particles that trigger the immune response and sometimes lead to inflammation.
So if exercise is so wonderful for the skin, why do some people break out? Most negative effects of exercise on the skin are due to external factors. Protective helmets and chin straps often cause a form of acne called acne mechanica. Acne mechanica is caused by a number of environmental factors such as heat, friction and constant pressure against the skin. Headbands may cause a breakout along the forehead, and close-fitting workout gear made of synthetic fibers may also cause skin problems. Try wearing workout clothing made of cotton instead.
Be warned that wearing makeup while you exercise is going to lead to clogged pores, and clogged pores lead to trouble. Before exercising, wash your face completely clean of makeup and gently pat it dry. You'll also want to wash your hands before and after working out, and try not to touch your face or wipe hair away from your eyes. After your workout is over, change out of sweaty clothes and shower as soon as possible -- the act of sweating unclogs pores, but once sweat evaporates, it leaves behind salt that can clog them again. Exercise also boosts cell renewal, which is good, unless those dead cells aren't promptly washed off your skin's surface to prevent blockages.
Finally, outdoor activity increases the likelihood of your skin being damaged by the sun. If you exercise outdoors, do so in the early morning or late afternoon, avoiding the middle of the day when you're at highest risk of UV exposure. Wear a strong sunscreen to protect your skin.
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Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- American Academy of Dermatology. "Acne Mechanica." (Aug. 31, 2009)http://www.skincarephysicians.com/acnenet/article_acnemechanica.html
- American Academy of Dermatology. "Dermatologists Warn Fitness Enthusiasts: Watch For Exercise-Related Skin Problems." Nov. 16, 2007. (Aug. 31, 2009)http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071109195546.htm
- American Academy of Dermatology. "What is Acne?" (Aug. 29, 2009)http://www.skincarephysicians.com/acnenet/acne.html
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- Research News (Ohio State).http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/exereld.htm