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How to look after your skin while you’re exercising

If your plan to get wedding ready includes working up a sweat in the gym, you’ll need to switch up your skincare regime to accommodate your new healthy lifestyle

We all know the merits of a serious sweat session, from emotional health benefits to beating lethargy and feeling like the best version of yourself. But hitting the gym hard can wreak havoc on some people’s skin – especially if you’re prone to spots.

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Can exercise cause spots?

“Sweat and dirt can clog pores during workouts, leading to congestion, blackheads, whiteheads and breakouts,” explains cosmetic dermatologist Dr Stefanie Williams.

If your pre-wedding exercise regime is causing your skin to suffer, it can be tempting to abandon your workouts in favour of a clear complexion. However, it is possible to have the body and the skin of your dreams – you just need to tailor your skincare routine to suit your lifestyle.

How to keep your skin clear when exercising

“One of the most important measures to keep your skin looking good is to remove make-up before working out,” says Dr Williams. It might seem convenient to use a facial wipe to quickly rid your face of foundation, but this is a recipe for skin sabotage.

“Rather than wipes, use a gentle yet effective cleanser that doesn’t strip the skin of natural oils,” advises Leyla Cooper, founder of skincare brand Pretty Athletic.

“After your workout, shower and cleanse your face straight away to wash sweat and dirt off the skin swiftly, otherwise this may cause breakouts,” advises Dr Williams.

One thing to note is that cleansing your face this frequently can cause your skin to become dry or irritated, so make sure to use a product that prevents this.

“A gentle gel cleanser is a good choice, as using a stronger foaming cleanser too often will dry out your skin, while a gentle, creamy version wouldn’t be effective enough,” says Dr Williams. “I also advise against using cleansing oils post workout, as they don’t give the deep-pore cleanse you’ll need.”

Pretty Athletic’s Cool Down: Purifying Gel Cleanser, £18, is a gym-bag staple for workout worshippers. It calms and soothes the skin, removing sweat, excess oil and impurities with nourishing ingredients including aloe vera, cucumber and green tea. It also contains hyaluronic acid, for a hydrating post-workout wash. If you’re a lunch-break gym goer and want to apply make-up after your class, reach for CliniqueFit Post-Workout Neutralizing Face Powder, £19.50, and Post-Workout Mattifying Moisturizer, £18.

The moisturiser provides a matte, shine-free finish, while the powder neutralises the look of redness and reduces shine, which is ideal for calming that post-workout flush.

How to look after your skin in the swimming pool

If you’re a keen swimmer, you might notice that chlorine can be irritating to blemish-prone skin. After a dip in the pool, the first thing to do is shower to clean off the chlorine. “Chlorine can remove the natural oils in the skin and can be very oxidising, so it’s important to rinse off,” says Dr Tom Mammone, vice president of skin physiology and pharmacology at Clinique.

Avoid double cleansing as it can be too harsh for the skin after a swim; use a gentle face wash and focus on hydration. Sunday Riley Tidal Brightening Enzyme Water Cream, £60, is famed for its hydrating properties, while Kate Somerville Dry Skin Saviour, £41, is perfect for sensitive skin, and promises to moisturise for up to 24 hours.

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Gym bag beauty

We quizzed four leading fitness influencers on the beauty products they reach for pre- and post-workout – from high-end buys to high-street steals.

Lucy Mecklenburgh, Founder of Results with Lucy.

Coconut Merchant Raw Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
“After a workout, I like to use a small amount of coconut oil to soften and smooth my skin.”

Cowshed Lippy Cow 
Natural Lip Balm
“If you apply this before working out, it keeps your lips feeling moisturised and soft.”

Victoria’s Secret Love Spell Fragrance Mist
“To freshen up, I use this body mist. It has a fruity peach scent and is infused with calming camomile and conditioning aloe vera.”

Boots Botanics 100% 
Organic Rosewater Toning Spritz
“I apply two sprays of this before a workout, and two after for revitalised skin.”

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Mimi Bouchard, lifestyle influencer, The Mimibee Magazine Podcast

Dr Barbara Sturm Cleanser
“I never work out with make-up on, so I wash my face with this cleanser beforehand. I love how hydrating it is.”

111 Skin Space Defence Eye Lift Gel
“I’ve been obsessed with eye gels lately and this one really works. I instantly feel less puffy around my eyes, and it’s essential to my post-workout routine.”

Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Gel
“I love to use this as a finisher at the end of my skincare routine. I’m trying my best to take care of my skin, and keeping it hydrated after working out slows down signs of ageing and wrinkles.”

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Helen Glover Olympic rowing champion

Clinique Moisture Surge 72-Hour Auto-replenishing Hydrator
“I use this when I’ve been exercising outside in the elements.”

The Body Shop Vitamin E Lip Care
“This product feels lovely after a day rowing in the wind or rain.”

Origins Out of Trouble 10 Minute Mask to Rescue Problem Skin
“If I get the beginnings of a spot, I put this mask straight on (the whole face or just the area) and it really helps prevent any exercise-induced breakouts.”

Pretty Athletic Workout Glow
“Whether I’ve been to the gym or not this is a must for me. It makes my skin feel hydrated and nourished, and it is very quick and easy to apply.”

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Ciara London, personal trainer and fitness influencer

SportFX Balance Boosting BB Cream
“This brings my skin back to a neutral shade after a red-faced workout.”

La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Baume B5
“I suffer from very dry skin and lips. This is one of the only lip balms that really does the trick.”

Rimmel Volume Flash x10 Mascara
“I’ve been using the same mascara since I was 16! It doesn’t clump and stays put no matter how hard I sweat.”

Miaflora Organic Rosehip Oil
“I use this morning and night, and it works wonders.”

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