How does exercise affect your skin?


exerciseandskin People that know me, know that fitness, in regards to exercise,  has never been one of my big priorities. To be completely frank, its never been any kind of priority to me. I even used to make up excuses to get out of gym class as a (rebel-) teenager. You know that annoying girl? The one on her period every week, or "brewing on a cold"  that moaned repeatedly and loudly at any physical activity required of her during those 45 minutes of strenuous hell, the girl that once passed out on a run around the local lake (I think not of fatigue, but in protest)? Yea, that was me. But now, its a new day! Meaning, my metabolism isn't what it used to be. And so, that girl is safely tucked away somewhere with my belly-button showing t-shirts, and spice girls collector items.

I'm still  kind of new to the fitness game as its  yet to become a big enough priority to make its way  into my hobo-life of constant traveling, or even rarer (never), into exam-periods.

I did decide prior to coming to Norway this time though, that I would sign up for a gym-membership and workout after work, which I have somewhat been able to stick to.

One of my post-work workouts was today, and as I was dripping away, sweating like a pig on top of my spinning bike, it struck me: "what are the concrete effects of exercise on skin, really?" the line of thought continued to: "must investigate"  Which ultimately became: "must blog about findings".  So there you have my intriguing, and extensive workup before this following post on skin and exercise.

Skin Effects of Exercise: 

"We tend to focus on the cardiovascular benefits of physical activity, and those are important. But anything that promotes healthy circulation also helps keep your skin healthy and vibrant," says dermatologist Ellen Marmur, MD


1. Exercise Increases Blood Flow to the Skin

When you exercise your heart rate rises and blood flow increases. This increases oxygen supply and nutrients to the skin. According to dermatologist Ellen Marmu M.D, a dermatology professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, it also transports waste products, free radicals and debris away from your skin. This can make the skin look and feel healthier.

2. Exercise and skin disease 

Some skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema and vitiligo are worsened by stress, and exercise is a great stress reliever.  A study from January this year, concluded that moderate exercise induced hormone regulation which could be beneficial for Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema) sufferers.

People with rosacea however, are prone towards flushing, skin redness, red skin bumps and visible blood vessels on the surface of their skin. Exercise can trigger the symptoms of rosacea in some people. To avoid aggravating rosacea, work out in a moderate temperature environment, such as swimming in a swimming-pool.

Exercise can also trigger acne outbreaks in some people short-term because of the sweat factor. If you have acne, exercise in a cool environment and cleanse your skin immediately afterwards.

3. Exercise and aging


Exercise may decrease and prevent the formation of AGEs (advanced glycation end-products). Remember my post on sugar and skin-aging? In short, AGEs are formed through metabolism of sugars;  when AGEs bind their receptors on cells in our skin and the rest of our body, they contribute to age- and diabetes-related chronic inflammatory diseases such as atherosclerosis, asthma, arthritis and myocardial infarction. - wikipedia.

In our skin AGEs bind to our elastin and collagen fibers, inducing their deterioration, as well as inflammation, which ultimately leads to skin sagging, and wrinkles, eg. skin-aging.

A recent study - link  showed that the participants who were less fit, had higher skin AGEs accumulation, and lower muscle strength and power. This may suggest a preventative effect of exercise on AGE accumulation, and thus prevention of skin-aging.

Also, exercise has a cortisol (a stress hormone) lowering effect which in turn reduces inflammation. And as we know, inflammation is bad news for youthful glowing skin, as cortisol accelerates skin aging by increasing the breakdown of collagen.

"Aging skin is inflamed on the inside, Dr. Perricone says. The easiest way to reverse the aging process in inflamed skin is through an anti-inflammatory diet.


It’s nice to get the natural glow that exercise brings but not if it comes from sun exposure. If you run or work out outdoors wear a waterproof sunscreen that blocks UVA and UVB rays with a SPF of at least 30. Fit your workout in before 9:00 A.M. or after 4:00 P.M. when you’ll get less intense UV exposure. If you work out indoors, apply a light moisturizer but avoid wearing makeup. This is a chance for your skin to “breathe.”

My favorite sunscreen for outdoor exercise is the La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL SPF50+ Fluide Extreme now sale from Escentual, at only £11.00 instead of £16,50.


When you exercise avoid tight-fitting clothing. When you wear tight clothing, especially clothing made of synthetic fabrics, you increase your risk of developing a condition called acne mechanica. These are acne-like breakouts that come from heat and the friction of tight clothing rubbing against the skin. Choose light, loose-fitting cotton fabrics or moisture-wicking fabrics when you exercise.

Wearing makeup while you exercise is going to lead to clogged pores, and clogged pores are yucky (pardon my advanced medical language). Before exercising, wash your face completely clean of makeup and gently pat it dry. Exercise also boosts cell renewal, which is good, unless those dead cells aren't promptly washed off your skin's surface to prevent blockages.


J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2013 January; 52(1): 58–63.  Published online 2012 November 20. doi: 10.3164/jcbn.12-51 PMCID: PMC3541420 Mild exercise suppresses exacerbation of dermatitis by increasing cleavage of the β-endorphin from proopiomelanocortin in NC/Nga mice Keiichi Hiramoto,1,2,* Hiromi Kobayashi,1 Atsuo Sekiyama,2 Eisuke F. Sato,2 Daisuke Tsuruta,1 and Masamitsu Ishii1

Changes in the control of skin blood flow with exercise training: where do cutaneous vascular adaptations fit in? Grant H. Simmons1, Brett J. Wong 2, Lacy A. Holowatz3, W. Larry Kenney Article first published online: 18 JUL 2011 DOI: 10.1113/expphysiol.2010.056176

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2011 July; 111(7): 1545–1552.

Published online 2010 December 25. doi: 10.1007/s00421-010-1779-x PMCID: PMC3114099 Skin advanced glycation end product accumulation and muscle strength among adult men Haruki Momma,1 Kaijun Niu,2 Yoritoshi Kobayashi,1 Lei Guan,1 Mika Sato,1 Hui Guo,1 Masahiko Chujo,1 Atsushi Otomo,1 Cui Yufei,1 Hiroko Tadaura,1 Tatsunori Saito,2 Takefumi Mori,3 Toshio Miyata,3 and Ryoichi Nagatomi

doi: 10.1530/acta.0.0480163 Acta Endocrinol January 1, 1965 48 163-168