Pre & Post-Workout Skincare: How To Care For Your Skin When You Hit The Gym

by Gio
gym skincare

I only workout first thing in the morning.

I literally roll out of bed, put my workout clothes on, and get started with a bit of cardio or strength training.

It’s the only way I can stick to it. Just the thought of changing my clothes and doing my skincare routine AGAIN in the middle of the day is enough to make me want to curl on the sofa eating chocolate chip cookies.

I’m not kidding. I’m lazy like that. I want to get ready only once during the day and that means getting the exercise bit out of the way ASAP.

But what if you prefer to exercise in the afternoon or love to hit the gym in your lunch break (ok, but maybe not right now. But you’ll get back to it when the pandemic is over.)?

Here’s how to take care of your skin after an intense workout session at the gym:

Pre-Workout Skincare

Your pre-workout skincare is your usual morning skincare. As soon as you get out of bed, apply your skincare products as you would on any other day (that includes a generous dose of sunscreen).

It’s your makeup routine that needs a little tweaking. I’m not a fan of the full glam Kardashian look on any day of the week, but it certainly ain’t a good look on workout days.

If you know you’re gonna sweat in the gym in the middle of the afternoon, keep your makeup to a minimum: a light layer of tinted moisturiser to even out your skin tone; a dab of concealer to hide dark circles and blemishes; and a coat of waterproof mascara.

You can add a touch of blush or lipstick if you feel naked without it, but don’t go overboard. It’ll all melt away in a few hours anyway.

PRO TIP: If your skin isn’t too oily, skip the setting powder and opt for oil-blotting sheets instead.

Related: Do Your Morning And Evening Skincare Routines Have To Be Different?


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During Your Workout

This isn’t the time to do your skincare (obvs). But, there are a couple of things you can do to prevent your workout from giving you unwanted “presents”, like acne. Ugh.

  • Drink up: Have a bottle with you at all times for extra hydration. Hydrated skin = softer, younger-looking skin.
  • Loose tops: I usually prefer a tailor fit for my clothes, but at the gym, it pays off to go a little loose. Tight tank tops and sport bras may trap too much sweat underneath, leading to breakouts (especially if you can’t shower straight away afterwards).

Related: If Your Skin Is Perfectly Hydrated, Do You Still Need To Worry About Anti-Aging?

After Your Workout

There’s no one size fits all here. If you prefer to go home straight after a workout and do your skincare routine there, you may just inspect your face at the gym and touch up on makeup (lightly!).

But I do recommend you do your skincare routine as soon as possible after a workout. All that sweat and grime on your skin aren’t doing you any favours.

Ready for your routine? Let’s get started:

gym skincare tips 01

Do You Need To Wash Your Skin After A Workout?

I know it’s tempting to just reapply moisturiser or sunscreen and get on with your day. Bad idea!

Your sunscreen and makeup have melted away and mixed together with all that sweat that your body pumped out to regulate your temperature.

That mixture is a delicious treat for P.Acne, the bacteria that gives you those ugly red zits. Not to mention, the extra gunk will clog your pores, leading to whiteheads and blackheads, too.

I recommend a balm or oil-based cleanser for this. Takes everything off without the need to double cleanse.

Best Picks:

Related: How To Double Cleanse In One Step

Do You Really Need To Reapply Sunscreen After A Workout?

This depends on what time of the day and year it is. If you’re exercising at 5pm on a cold winter day, skip it. No point putting sunscreen on when the sun is asleep.

As a rule, if the sun is still in the sky, do reapply sunscreen. Generously. Don’t rely on a powder or tinted moisturiser with SPF. Slather on your sunscreen as you do in the morning.

You need at least 1/3 of the teaspoon for your face. More for your neck and any other exposed areas. Use less and you’re diluting its sun protection.

Best Picks:

  • Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30 ($34.00): available at Cult Beauty, Sephora, and SpaceNK
  • Elta MD UV Pure Broad Spectrum SPF 47 ($25.00): available at Dermstore and Walmart.
  • Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 50+ WetForce For Sensitive Skin And Children ($42.00): available at Nordstrom and Sephora

Related: Do Cosmetics With SPF Provide Adequate Sun Protection?

gym skincare tips 02

Should You Do Your Entire Morning/Skincare Routine Again?

This is tricky. Good skincare isn’t about following a pre-conceived set of rules to a T. It’s understanding what your skin needs in every given situation and give it exactly that.

After a workout, inspect your skin and ask yourself:

  • Does my skin feels dry/dehydrated?
  • Does it have any blemishes/pimples I need to treat now?
  • Is it too early to do my evening skincare routine now?

If your skin feels a little dry after a workout, by all means, apply a hydrating serum or moisturiser. Bonus points if it has antioxidants.

If you’re already dealing with a pimple or breakout, go ahead and dab a spot treatment on it to shrink the nasty bugger faster.

What about antiaging products? Again, this is up to you and whether you want to do your entire routine now or just give your skin the essentials and do the rest in the evening.

If you’re exercising later in the day and the sun has already come out, you may go ahead and do your evening routine now.

Just be careful with retinoids. Tretinoin, for example, degrades (i.e. becomes ineffective) in presence of light, including bright artificial light. It doesn’t make sense to slather it on at 7pm. Wait until you go to bed and you’re ready to turn the lights off.

I know this is frustrating. But you know your skin better than anyone else. Trust what it tells you.

Related: The Beginner’s Survival Guide To Tretinoin

The Bottom Line

On workout days, keep your makeup as light as possible. When you’re done, inspect the damage and ask yourself, “what does my skin need right now?” Tailor your post-workout skincare routine accordingly.

What’s your post-workout skincare routine like? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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