Your skin tells a story about you: It can show that you slept well, that you’ve been training hard, and that you care about the face you present to the world. Or it can show that you’re tired, lacking energy, and eating poorly. You ask a lot of your skin, but how well are you taking care of it, and how can you treat it better? Here’s what you need to ask yourself:
Are you sleeping enough?
This won’t come as a big surprise, but adults truly do need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night for optimal health, especially if you’re an active athlete who spends time training most days. And there’s no medal for getting less sleep—in fact, a lack of sleep makes you much more likely to underperform in training and at work. But it also has a massive impact on skin health. When you sleep, your body works to balance hormones, boost your immune system and release human growth hormones. Skip sleep, and your skin will actually start to look tired and puffy as a result—and it’s not just in your head. Research has found that people can spot tired-looking skin, and they find it less attractive.
Do you sweat regularly?
Training isn't just good for your body, it's important for your skin. Sweating on a regular basis can help cleanse your body naturally: Studies have found that sweat can help the body remove BPAs, the chemical contaminant found in many plastic products. Research has also shown that exercise literally keeps the skin young by boosting the skin cell's mitochondrial number and health. And of course, in the moment, exercise gives your skin a healthy, flushed look, thanks to the increase in blood flow.
What does your post workout look like?
Sure, you have a great glow right when you finish your workout. But after you sweat, make sure you take the extra time post-workout to quickly clean up. This means rinsing your body, especially if you're acne-prone, rather than changing back into street clothes while still sweat-covered. No shower? No problem: Just do a quick wipedown of critical areas (face, underarms, chest, groin) with water or a gentle soap. Then, use a cleansing toner on your face to ensure that the sweat doesn't stick around, especially if you were wearing any protective headgear during your workout. This quick step will help rebalance your skin so you're ready for the next round (or Zoom meeting).
Are you cleansing correctly?
It’s tempting to use your body wash for your face (or your face wash for your body), but there’s a difference between the skin on your face and the rest of your body. A face wash is designed to help balance your skin’s pH while gently removing dirt, oil and other impurities. A body wash will remove impurities, but might be too harsh for the delicate, thinner skin that’s on your face. It may sound elementary, but the simple act of properly cleansing your face with a quality face wash daily can completely change how your skin looks and feels.
How do you manage stress?
Research has shown that stress can mess with your skin. Rising cortisol levels—the hormone we release when we get stressed—can lead to an increase in oil production in skin, as well as a decrease in skin's ability to act as a barrier. That's right: All that stress from work, family and even healthy inputs like training can show up in a bad way on your skin. While some stress is unavoidable, it is important to develop healthy coping mechanisms to try to drop those cortisol levels. That means doing things like meditating (you knew it was coming), practicing deep breathing, and of course, eliminating stressors in your life when possible—or at least, figuring out how to deal with that annoying boss without getting upset. And while exercise is important, take recovery days too: Overloading exercise can cause the body to show signs of stress, even if you're using training to alleviate the mental side of stress.
When’s the last time you moisturized?
Regardless of your skin type, moisturizing matters. The American Association of Dermatologists recommends using a daily moisturizer—even if you have oily skin. In fact, you may be surprised that moisturizing regularly actually helps your skin even out. Sometimes, our skin overproduces oil because it's dry, but a gentle moisturizer can help your skin find a happy balance. In winter months, researchers note that it's even more important to keep skin moisturized, since the cold, bitter weather can wreak havoc on our faces unless there's a protective barrier between the elements and our skin.
Do you drink enough water?
While drinking water doesn’t mean the water goes directly to your skin cells, maintaining a happy hydration status makes everything work better, from digestion to powering through a tough workout. No matter how much you hydrate the outside of your skin with moisturizers, if you’re not hydrating your body as a whole, you won’t be able to perform at your peak. That doesn’t mean chugging a bottle of water post-workout while relying on coffee or energy drinks during the day though: It means sipping water all day, from the minute you wake up until bedtime. As an athlete, you need to prioritize hydration even more: Male athletes should be drinking roughly 5.7 liters of water on training days and 3.7 liters on rest days, according to the American Council on Exercise.
What’s your diet look like?
It's no surprise that how you eat can impact your skin, though not in the ways you might think. While eating oils and oily foods won't directly cause acne, eating a nutrient-dense diet that contains plenty of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, plus a good balance of protein, fat, carbohydrate and fiber can keep skin in good shape. And if you're prone to conditions like rosacea or eczema, what you eat may have an even more drastic effect on how your skin looks. In fact, if you do have serious skin conditions like eczema, you may even want to work with a dietitian, naturopath or dermatologist to identify potential trigger foods that are causing skin issues.
Do you have a skincare routine?
As someone who’s used to a training regimen at the gym or a daily schedule to get things done at work, you already know how important developing habits and routines can be for getting things done. And research has shown that a simple skincare routine practiced daily can actually improve your overall quality of life!
But skincare doesn't have to—and shouldn't—cost you time. Keep it simple by cleansing, toning and moisturizing daily, but don't go overboard by adding a whole slew of other products into the mix. In fact, dermatologists warn against using a lot of different products, since some ingredients may not mix well with others. That's why we've kept our cleanser, toner and moisturizer simple and natural. In less than a minute, your daily routine is low-stress and easy to implement.