There are plenty of reasons to exercise. For some, it’s because you booked a beach vacation, while others are focused on staying healthy. No matter what your motivation is, we can all agree that the benefits of exercise are obvious. But there’s a stealthier payoff: healthy skin. Read on to learn more about the skin and beauty rewards that come from regularly working up a sweat.
When you get your heart pumping from aerobic exercise, you’re supplying your skin with a nice dose of oxygenated blood, says Noëlle S. Sherber, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist based in Baltimore, Maryland. “It gives you that great post-workout glow.”
Working out also helps maintain healthy levels of the stress-related hormone cortisol, Sherber says. “Elevated cortisol levels are linked to increased sebum production, which means more acne breakouts,” she says. Too much cortisol can also cause the collagen in the skin to break down, Sherber says, which can increase wrinkles and sagging. “Exercise actually supports the production of collagen,” says Amy Dixon, a Los Angeles–based exercise physiologist and celebrity trainer. “The boost in this protein helps to keep your skin firm, supple, and elastic.”
Regular exercise boosts circulation. “It nourishes your skin, bringing more blood flow and oxygen to it,” says Mauro C. Romita, M.D., a board-certified plastic surgeon and founder of Ajune Center for Beauty Synergy in New York City. “This will help draw toxins out of the body.” Plus, all that sweating cleans out the pores of congested skin. “Working out corrects the hormonal imbalance that can cause adult acne,” Romita says.
To reap the beneficial skin effects of working out, a few extra steps are required, Sherber warns. “If you’re acne prone, make sure to keep gentle, fragrance-free cleansing wipes in your gym bag.” Be sure to cleanse your face and other areas that tend to break out immediately after exercising, she says. “For eczema, wear fabrics that wick perspiration away from the skin, since the wet-dry-wet-dry cycle will dry out your skin and provoke flare-ups,” Sherber says. And above all, avoid exercising with makeup on your face.
The improved blood flow helps keep your hair stronger and healthier, Dixon says. This blood, full of nutrients, stimulates the hair follicles and promotes growth. “Exercise is also a big stress reliever,” she says. “Lower stress means your hair is less likely to be brittle and, worse, fall out.” Even if you’re as stress free as a cucumber, Dixon recommends checking with your dermatologist about any hair loss to rule out other causes.
As for the best type of exercise for your skin, Dixon says it’s all good. “Every modality will improve circulation and reduce stress,” she says, “but it’s a wise move to mix up your workouts as often as possible.” Try adding 30 minutes of a few simple yoga postures or a brisk walk to your day three times a week, Dixon says, to see the beauty returns in your hair and skin.