Gross Gym Habits That Are Ruining Your Skin

Aly Walansky
brunette working out

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Going to the gym is a great habit for your health and wellness. However, you just may be making some pretty gross skin care faux pas while you’re at it! If you’ve grown accustomed to any of the below bad habits, you may want to rethink things.

When you exercise, your skin loses water due to evaporation, leaving the skin dehydrated, says celebrity esthetician Renee Rouleau. Dehydrated skin increases surface lines and causes skin cells to die prematurely, leading to premature aging as well as dead skin cell build up causing the pores to clog. Using a lightweight moisturizer will help to retain the water in the skin. If you are exercising outdoors, try to use a very light moisturizer with a sunscreen.

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Not pulling your hair back
Hair should always be pulled back from your face, not only because of sweat, but because of your hair products, too! If you are seeing breakouts on your forehead or hairline, mousses, gels, or other hair products could be to blame.

…but be careful HOW you pull it back
Headbands, hats, or bandanas across the forehead are not recommended as they can cause a backup of oil and perspiration in the pores, says Rouleau. This results in little clogged bumps or break outs. If your skin is not prone to breakouts, this may not be an issue for you. If you find that you’re getting clogged pores, try to keep your headband or bandana further back in your hairline, but not directly across the forehead.

Not wearing gloves while you work out
They protect your skin from getting injured by handles and barbells. But also, says Michael Lin, MD, a dermatologist and founder of Dr. Lin Skincare, they prevent the transmission of bacteria and viruses like warts and staphylococcus bacteria, which can cause impetigo. Impetigo is a common skin infection that can be easily transmitted at the gym and result in blisters and sores. If you choose not to wear gloves during a work-out, disinfect your equipment with a wipe or spray.

Touching your face…
Avoid touching your face during workouts especially if you are using cardio or weight machines, Rouleau says. The machines do breed bacteria, so it is best to keep your hands off of your skin. You don’t want to introduce bacteria to the skin, this can possibly result in new break outs, or the spreading of existing break outs. Always wash your hands after working out.

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Not washing your face
You know this. But it’s actually more important to wash your skin after than before working out since oils, bacteria, and sweat have accumulated on the skin, says Rouleau. If you are wearing a heavy foundation it’s good to wash your skin with a mild, non-drying cleanser, followed by an alcohol-free toner and lightweight oil-free lotion.

Post-workout, always wash your face and moisturize. When you exercise, sweat combined with increased oil production can cause problems for the skin so it’s always recommended to wash immediately afterwards with a mild sulfate-free gel cleanser to remove dirt, oil and bacteria.

Not wearing flip flops in those gym showers
Obviously, you’ll want to shower after you work out, especially if you sweat a ton. No one wants smell you or workout on you! Also, if sweat builds up on your skin, it will clog your pores not allowing your skin to breathe. And, if you have a cut or skin abrasion, sweat can trapped in there and can cause an infection. Bathing after exercise is especially important for swimmers as chlorine can damage your skin and hair and should be immediately rinsed off in a warm shower.

Dangers exist in that shower, though. You won’t believe what circulates on the floor of public showers — it’s not only sweat, but there are also various strains of mold, algae and fungi that grow in moist environments and/or carried on the bottom of people’s feet. And, whether on purpose or not, some people do pee in the shower! “Consider that people come in from the street wearing their shoes right into the locker room and the locker room leads to the shower, bringing in the outdoor contaminants which eventually make their way onto the public shower floor. To avoid being exposed to these elements and therefore getting a foot fungus or viral plantar warts, it’s best to wear waterproof shoes while in a public shower After the shower, dry your feet thoroughly with a clean towel, even in between your toes,” says Dr. David Bank, a dermatologist, and author of Beautiful Skin: Every Woman’s Guide to Looking Her Best at Any Age and Founder and Director of The Center For Dermatology, Cosmetic & Laser Surgery in Mt. Kisco, New York. After you’ve cleaned and dried your feet, lay a clean towel on the floor to stand on while dressing so you you don’t defeat everything you have just done to keep your feet clean!

Not washing workout gear (clothing or towels) after working out in them
Bacteria and fungus love damp clothing so workout clothing that is not washed after each use (especially if you sweat excessively) is an ideal place for them. First, you should hang up your wet workout gear to hang dry as soon as possible. This not only helps to eliminate the odor, but it also helps reduce the risk of mildew, says Dr. Bank.