Exercise does many great things for your body. But it’s not always kind to your skin. And we’re not just talking about pore-clogging sweat or bacon. Even if your gym looks clean and shiny, it’s probably crawling with germs that can lead to infections, rashes, athlete’s foot, and more.
So, we talked to dermatologists to learn their top tricks for healthy, glowing, gym-proof skin. Here’s what they want you to know.
Your gym is a giant petri dish
Why are gyms so germy? “Bacteria thrive in warm, moist places, which makes the gym the perfect environment for bacteria,” says Michael Horn, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon in Chicago, IL. “Studies show that 70 percent of the bacteria on fitness center equipment can potentially harm humans.”
Locker rooms and showers are the obvious culprits. But the workout area is equally problematic. From treadmills and ellipticals to CrossFit boxes, gym-based germs are so pervasive that a recent study of 16 fitness centers found that 38 percent of surfaces are swabbed. S. Aureus, Staph is the bacteria responsible for infection. And about 12 percent harbor antibiotic-resistant MRSA.
Wiping down exercise equipment with a sanitizing wipe can go a long way in protecting against bacteria and fungus. But don’t stop there. These are the biggest gym-based skin risks to watch out for, plus tips to prevent them
your outfit Skin problems often start before you even step foot in the gym, starting with your workout clothes. “Many gym goers wear tank tops or cut off shirts that expose more skin [bacteria-covered] Gym surfaces, says Dustin Portella, DO, a dermatologist at Treasure Valley Dermatology in Boise, ID. “If you wear a shirt with sleeves and shorts that are a little longer, you’ll be more protected.”
And if you’re thinking of wearing the same outfit to run to work later? “Wearing sweaty clothes after a workout won’t kill you, but it can wreak havoc on the skin,” says Horne. “Oil and dirt can get stuck to wet clothes and lead to clogged pores and acne, plus the bacteria there can cause an itchy rash like folliculitis.”
Loose hair. “When you’re working out, sweat and dirt can transfer from your hair onto your face,” says Horn. “So, it’s a good idea to keep hair out of your face by styling it in a bun or rocking a dry and clean sweatband.” Also, go easy on hairspray, which can transfer to your skin and mix with sweat during exercise, leading to breakouts, irritation, and breakouts.
your towel As convenient as towel service can be, you might be better off without it. “The so-called “clean” towels at the gym can be delivered by the same transport as the dirty ones,” says Horne. “It’s wise to bring a towel from home to cover the mat and exercise ball while you use them.” There’s another nice thing about using your own towels, he says. You can usually mark the side that is put on the tool with a “D” for dirty with a Sharpie. This way, you will always know which side is safe to put in contact with your skin and which side to avoid.
Supplementary parts. Adding a scoop of it Protein powder in a shake or smoothie may be great for building muscle but not for your skin. That’s because protein supplements, especially whey protein, can act like androgens, hormones that can trigger acne, Portella says.
The locker room. At one point or another, 70 percent of us will have athlete’s foot. Wearing flip-flops in the locker room and shower is an excellent first line of defense. Horn recommends trimming your toenails short to prevent the fungus from becoming trapped. He’s a fan of covering the locker room benches with a towel to keep out any germs that might be living there.
Your gym bag. When you finish working out, your used gym clothes in your gym bag may be tempting to wear next time. Not so fast, says Portella. Even if you don’t sweat much—or your clothing is made of odor-resistant material—it’s probably picked up. a lot of bacteria. Instead, put dirty clothes in a plastic bag before putting them in your gym bag, so they don’t coat it with germs. Then, you wash them off when you get home and pack a nice clean outfit for next time.
Delayed bathing. The sooner you can shower after your workout, the better, says Portella. Ideally, she recommends using body wash and a clean towel. But if there is no time? “Use some acne cleansers with a low percentage of salicylic or glycolic acid to help remove excess sweat and oil from your skin, as well as neutralize harmful bacteria and fungi.”
Finally, don’t forget to moisturize. “Skipping this essential step can unknowingly dehydrate your skin, causing the oil glands to compensate by overproducing oil,” says Horne. “For best results use a moisturizer formulated for your specific skin type and condition immediately after cleansing.” Then enjoy the glow!
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, changing your sleeping habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.