A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Sweaty skin: How to care for your skin after exercise

Skin Health and exercising 5-30 feature

Changing out of damp clothes and showering soon after you exercise helps prevent sweat-related skin problems like acne and folliculitis.

Exercise does your body good. Taking care of your skin after exercising will give you a healthy complexion to match.

“The main thing your skin needs is a gentle cleansing,” said Dr. Larry Scherrer, a Marshfield Clinic dermatologist. “Try to take a shower as soon as you can after exercising.”

Most skin problems associated with sweating can be prevented or treated using simple, mild products.

What causes rashes, chafing and acne?

Get out of sweaty clothes as soon you can after exercising. Wearing damp, sweaty clothes for a long time can cause skin problems.

Clothing that isn’t breathable holds sweat and bacteria close to the skin. That can lead to folliculitis, which is inflammation of the hair follicles. It looks like a red, pimply rash and usually occurs around the thighs, hips and buttocks.

Skin can start to break down if it stays wet for too long. Friction from damp clothes rubbing against the skin can cause chafing.

Exercising usually doesn’t cause acne unless you spend a lot of time wearing equipment that touches your face like a chin guard or helmet. Exercising with makeup on usually is harmless but you may want to wash your face before working out if you start to notice acne.

Occasionally, gym equipment can be the cause of skin problems. Dirty equipment can harbor bacteria that cause staph infections or viruses that cause shingles.

“It’s always a good idea to wipe down gym equipment before using it,” Scherrer said.

Skin care for exercisers

Simple products can keep your skin healthy and treat problems caused by prolonged contact with sweaty clothing or gear.

Cleanse your skin after exercising with mild soap or an antibacterial soap like Dial if you’re worried about odor and bacterial growth.

“Don’t forget to wear sunscreen if you’re exercising outdoors,” Scherrer said. “The small amount of sun you get during each workout adds up to hundreds or thousands of hours of sun damage in your lifetime.”

Treat acne caused by sweat the same as you would any other acne, using 2.5-3 percent benzoyl peroxide. Hydrocortisone cream will soothe pimply rashes like folliculitis or rough, irritated skin.

You can prevent chafing with an ointment like Vaseline, but a drying powder may work better, Scherrer said. Use a talc-based powder or a cellulose powder like Zeasorb instead of a cornstarch-based powder to reduce risk of yeast problems in skin folds.

If skin problems stick around after you try to treat them, make an appointment with a dermatologist.

Related Shine365 stories:

Safeguard your skin with sunscreen

Don’t burn out: How to prep for hot-weather sports

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