Q&A: Sweaty Skin


So here's something you might not know about me, I LOVE beauty products. Nothing beats poking and prodding every product in a beauty hall and I am forever curious about new potions and lotions. It's this fascination that has made me acutely aware of quite how much I put my skin through when I'm training! I spend a lot of time outside, I get sweaty and muck seems to gravitate towards me, all of which can leave things a little grimy. Actually very grimy. Especially in summer. In light of this realisation I figure it's probably time to take things in hand, so (as I do with all beauty related questions) I hit up my friend Amy, who blogs at Really Ree, for some insight! 

1. Does working out cause breakouts? if so what can I do to prevent them?

It can do in several ways. If you wear make up while working out then the make up can block the pores if it isn’t non-comedognic (ie. formulated to not cause blocked pores). When you sweat, the trapped sweat in your pores can create acne.

You can also get heat rash which is also related to sweat glands getting blocked so the trapped sweat can become a rash a day or so later. Finally, since sweat is made of urea, lactate and minerals such as sodium, exercise can dry out the skin as you sweat and lose fluid. The sodium can exacerbate this further by irritating skin further. 

The solution is to keep make up light and pore friendly - use a BB cream, tinted SPF or a mineral powder, look for non-comedognic products and avoid heavy-coverage longwear foundations. If you’ve got a jaw line of tiny bumps, those are blocked comedones telling you somethings blocking them.

Also, if you desperately need extra coverage for a rogue spot or redness, use a light base and then concealer to cover it rather than a heavier base all over your skin. That way only a small area of your skin is having to tolerate thicker coverage.

However don’t assume that your workout is causing breakouts or redness – the most common causes are overly aggressive exfoliants, longwear foundation and facial oils (which contain all manner of irritants). A good solution is a chamical BHA exfoliant, light base and squalene or rosehip oil for an oil that won’t cause a reaction (The Ordinary do good version of the latter two).

2. sweat makes my skin itch, what can I do about it?

There’s some uncertainty about this, but its though that the friction and heat during exercise mean we release histamine during exercise which is the same factor involved in allergic reactions (remember anti-histamines for hay fever season). Another theory is that it’s exacerbated by tight workout clothing through friction or the material.

3. wipes, yes or no? 

Short answer, no, but this is tricky, because carrying an arsenal of skincare back and forth from the gym is exhausting, and is something that majorly puts a lot of us off. Personally, I’d always say no. I find wipes scratchy and not half as efficient as everyone else seems to think they are, plus they dry out easily. They also tend to have high alcohol content which can exacerbate any sensitivities in the heat and mean you're putting chemicals back on the skin when you cleanse them - nice. 

I am more likely to take a micellar water and cotton pads [ed. YES! I am doing something right!!] or a does-everything oil based face cleanser (which can gobble up mascara as well) but I appreciate that isn’t for everyone. Simple Cleansing Oil (£6.99, though currently £3.39 at Superdrug) is a good option or Hylamide High Efficiency Face Cleaner (£19). To makes things more portable I decant these into a MUJI flip top bottle (they never leak) in my gym bag- easy and portable. 

4. I've got literally 5 minutes to get ready, what should I focus on when it comes to my skincare? 

You probably need to do three things: treat, prevent, protect. 

Treat means something to hydrate and soothe your skin whatever its condition, so a basic is usually a hyaluronic acid serum like Clinique Moisture Surge Hydrating Supercharged Concentrate (£34) or the upcoming Vichy Mineral 89 serum (£25). Alternatively if your skin is being problematic then that would be an anti acne product like Roche Posay Effaclar Duo+ (£15.50 – use this after any serums however, and you could use the tinted version to even out skin tone and result in skipping base) [ed. this is my absolute favourite. Like if I could only have one product favourite. It saved my skin following a nasty bout of hormonal acne].

Prevent is your antioxidant layer. If you put this under your SPF then it strengthens it while doing all manner of good for your skin to prevent aging. I use Skinceuticals C E Ferulic (£129) but some other good ones are from Paula’s Choice.

Protect is your SPF. Make sure it's UVA and UVB and at least factor 30 (tests show going over 30 adds negligible extra protection while sometimes compromising on texture). I'm currently trying Murad City Skin Age Defence SPF50 (£45), but I've also used and loved Avene’s, Ultrasun’s and Eucerin’s (in fact I just recommended their mattifying Sun Fluid SPF 30 to Bethan’s other half for when he works outside). Don’t be fooled by SPF in BB creams or make-up; you need a proper broad spectrum product generously applied. If you're heading to the states then I often hunt for EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46 which is not only a lovely comfortable yet matt SPF but also has hyaluronic acid, lactic acid, zinc and Niamicide to calm acne and rosacea. It pains me how hard it is to get in the UK.

5. I workout outside a lot, how can I look after my skin?

First up is the preventative steps which are covered in the answer above, but you should also add an eye spf (I love Kiehls Clearly Corrective Dark Circle Perfector SPF 30 £29) and also be mindful of your scalp. Ideally wear a hat and sunglasses (I love a baseball cap for anonymity - it makes me look like an undercover FBI agent) and apply lots of spf along your hair line. Don't not forget the tops of your ears and your eyebrows too. Derms find these a skin cancer hot spots since they often get missed.

Then there's supporting repair. When you get hot and sweaty your skin can react. The trick is to soothe it. Wash your face as soon as you finish to get rid of grime, then you can adapt to whatever you're doing next. If you're going back to work then pop on your treat, prevent, protect layers making sure that everything is soothing and has no fragrance. This is not the moment for acid toners or wipes either - save that for bedtime when your skin has recovered. If you're home then pop on a soothing face mask before bed such as Bioderma Hydrabio Mask (£14.80). If your skin is really flipping out then a recent discovery is La Roche Posay Cicaplast (£14 – currently £10.50 here), which is so amazing at repairing your skin barrier that it gets used post surgery on patients. That's better. 

6. If you could only take one product to the gym for after your workout what would it be?

It's probably a cleanser to lift the sweat off. Hard choice though!