Sun. Sweat. Wind. Chafing. Chlorine.
We talk a lot about the benefits of a good workout, but we often overlook the toll that training can take on our skin.
That dryness, tightness and cracking is not only painful, but it can also leave you prone to infections. And let’s face it, when I’m trying to stay on top of our already-jammed training schedule, the last thing I want is to end up sidelined by an issue with my epidermis.
But don’t worry; you don’t have to be left high and dry. Dermatologists say there are plenty of ways to find relief by implementing a few simple changes to our daily lives.
“Keep your baths and showers short and make sure you use warm, not hot water,” says board-certified dermatologist Stephen P. Stone, MD, FAAD, professor of dermatology and director of clinical research, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Springfield. “Switching to a mild cleanser can also help reduce itching, and be sure to gently pat the skin dry after your bath or shower as rubbing the skin can be irritating.”
Dr. Stone shares a few more tips to relieve dry skin:
1. Apply moisturizer after getting out of the bath or shower. Ointments and creams tend to be more effective than lotions. Slather it on while skin is still damp to seal in moisture.
2. Read ingredients on skin care products. Deodorant soaps, alcohol-based toners and products that contain fragrance can irritate dry, sensitive skin. I look for more natural skin products with fewer ingredients to help reduce flare-ups.
3. Use a humidifier to add much-needed moisture to the air. Bonus: It also keeps nasal passages and sinuses from drying out; otherwise they won’t produce enough mucus or the mucus becomes too thick and can’t drain, making germs more likely to cause infections.
4. Wear soft fabrics that breathe, such as 100 percent cotton. If you want to wear wool and other rough fabrics, wear a soft fabric underneath. I break this rule while training (synthetics wick sweat better), but try to follow it otherise.
5. Don’t skimp on hand washing, which can remove harmful bacteria and viruses — especially at crowded gyms! If you need to wash your hands frequently, moisturizing hand sanitizers are a good alternative.
6. Apply hand cream after each hand washing. If more relief is needed, dab petroleum jelly on your hands before bed. If your hands are frequently immersed in water, wear waterproof gloves to help protect them.
I’d also add a few sport-specific tips of my own to the list:
7. Stay sun smart. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so slather SPF on all exposed areas — not only to keep skin from drying out, but also to help prevent skin cancer problems later.
9. (Don’t) show some skin. Combine cold temperatures and low humidity with long hours of exposure, and you’ve got a recipe for windburn. Protect delicate skin by wearing layers, and on harsher days, consider face masks, gloves, arm warmers, etc. to shield yourself from the elements.
10. Prevent potential problems. We all have those special hot spots that form from constant rubbing and chafing during long runs and rides, so lubricate skin ahead of time with products such as Ruby’s Lube, TriSwim and BodyGlide.
How do you minimize the damage to your skin during workouts?