Yes, You Need to Wash Your Face Before Working Out

wash face before exercising

Photo: Valua Vitaly

By now, you know that washing your face after your gym session is essential: nobody wants sweat sitting on their skin, clogging pores and giving us breakouts. It’s tank top season! Nobody has time for that! But prepare yourselves for a shock: it turns out that it’s actually way more important for your skin’s health to wash your face BEFORE you work out, rather than cleaning it after.

It turns out that it’s all about hygiene; if you skip this mandatory cleansing, even sans makeup, your pores are all but guaranteed to clog. “If you don’t wash your face before working out, then you’re sweating up against all of the oil, dirt, debris, and makeup that is on your skin, which can clog your pores,” says New York-based dermatologist Dr. Dennis Gross. He also adds that when you work out, you tend to wipe your face with your hands or a towel to swipe sweat away, “which can push oil, dirt and debris further into your pores and lead to larger pores, collagen breakdown and future breakouts.” Terrifying.

As it just so happens, sweat isn’t the enemy—we are. “Sweat is one of the few mechanisms our bodies have to rid themselves of toxins,” says Skin Authority CEO, Founder, and Product Formulator Celeste Hilling. That should be a good thing, no? It is, but Hilling explains that problems forms when the toxins sit on your skin longer than they should. If many of these toxins were cleaned off before you worked out, sweat would mainly consist of salt and water, which would purify rather than irritate the skin. All you would have to do is splash your face with water post-workout and go.

Dr. Gross adds that it’s best to use very little product after exercise: “Hold off with anything occlusive [like thick moisturizers] because when you increase your metabolism, the oil glands have a natural desire to secrete. Skin has yet to equilibrate, so putting anything on right away may block the pores.” Wait until skin has returned to room temperature to apply moisturizer and makeup. “When skin is overheated, it can exacerbate redness even when skin is normally not prone to this condition,” Dr. Gross explains. “All products are designed to work under normal physiological conditions such as normal room temperature, non-sweating circumstances, and skin that is not already red.” Our gym bags just got a little bit lighter.

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