Could your exercise routine contribute to skin ageing or acne?

Sweating it out—whether you’re trying a new dance class or working in a long walk into your day–can be extremely beneficial for your skin too. “Exercise gets the heart rate up and can also improve blood circulation. This can in turn improve the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the skin which can keep the skin healthy,” shares celebrity trainer and Pilates expert, Namrata Purohit.

What is the connection between exercise and skin ageing?

“There is data to show that exercise may slow skin ageing,” says Dr Joshua Zeichner, a New York-based dermatologist. “Exercises increases activity of skin cells’ mitochondria, which are like the batteries that make the cells run efficiently. Exercise also enhances circulation throughout the body and promotes removal of lymphatic fluid to decrease puffiness,” he adds.

“But what you need to be careful of is high intensity workouts, which if done consistently, can diminish the youthful fat in the face,” warns Mumbai-based dermatologist and cutaneous surgeon Dr Satish Bhatia. “As we start ageing in the early 30s, our skin loses this elasticity and with loss of collagen there is loss and displacement of fat from the eyes and temples towards the corners of the mouth and angle of the jawline.” Plus, “high impact workouts with a lot of running and jumping means upwards and downward forces which put a strain on your skin and theoretically could lead to premature fine lines,” says Dr Zeichner.

For those with dull skin, cardio exercises can help improve a glow, says Dr Shetty. “For glowing skin inversions are recommended as it increases blood flow and oxygen to the face thereby rejuvenating the skin and helping to keep it younger,” says Mumbai-based yoga teacher Tara Menezes.

Does exercise affect acne?

“Teenage acne or adult acne especially in women is linked to hormonal issues, and those hormonal issues are associated to androgen excess due to PCOS. This condition is also linked to something called insulin resistance,” shares Mumbai-based celebrity dermatologist Dr Rashmi Shetty. When you exercise, you help the body regulate its insulin resistance as well as regulate the symptoms of PCOS, (one of which is acne on the skin, mostly face).

However, if your acne is often inflamed by sweat and spikes in stress, you may want to lower the intensity. “You should try light cardio like a walk, or yoga, which can relax you,” says Dr Shetty, in lieu of ratcheting up cortisol levels with a high intensity exercise like Tabata. “You don’t want to cause an increase in stress hormones if that is related to your acne,” she says.

If your skin is prone to rosacea, you may want to keep it simple too. “We know that exercise is a triggering factor for conditions like rosacea. Anything that leads to facial flushing can promote a rosacea flare,” says Dr Zeichner. Either way, to tackle the issue of sweating and overheating, Purohit suggests keeping the temperature steady during the workout and showering right after.

How to protect skin when you’re working out

Dr Zeichner shares his list of dos and don’ts pre and post workout for glowing skin: “Remove makeup before working out. If you are exposed to the sun when exercising, you need to protect your skin just as you would otherwise. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 protection. Make sure that you fully cleanse the skin and remove sweaty clothing post workout to prevent potential acne breakouts.” Even if you are indoors, you still need to wear sunscreen. “We know that UVA light penetrates right through window glass, which means that you are at risk for sun damage even if you are indoors by window,” adds Dr Zeichner.

The article was first published in Vogue


  • Aparrna Gupta

    Transitioning from crafting stories for The Asian Age and Bombay Times to setting beauty trends in Verve, Aparrna Gupta’s journey has always revolved around resonant storytelling. Her prowess in content creation is unparalleled, with articles featured in renowned publications like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, L’Officiel India, Lifestyle Asia, Elle, and Femina. She also excels in content ideation, trend identification, mood board creation, and product styling. Her expertise has proven invaluable to homegrown brands, enabling them to authentically connect with their audience.

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