Working out without wreaking havoc on your face and hair isn’t easy, especially if you’re trying to fit exercise into your workday. But with planning and preparation it can be done. So don’t talk yourself out of a class at lunchtime or after work, says Kelly Brabants, a Boston-based certified personal trainer (bootybybrabants.com). “Commit instead and go for it,” she says. “Because afterward you’ll have a natural glow and can save your look with some quick fixes.” Here’s how to look your best — even after sweating up a storm.
1. Go Bare
Let’s get this clear right now: Skin needs to breathe during a workout — and sweat mixed with beauty products doesn’t let that happen. “For best results, you really should wash your face both before and after your workout,” explains Lisa Marie Blair of The Skin Girls, a boutique skin care salon in Vancouver. The post-workout wash will remove residual bacteria or products (such as hair gel that’s migrated from your bangs) from your face before they can cause breakouts.
2. Face Wipes Are Your Friend
Nowhere to wash after your workout? Face wipes with glycolic or salicylic acid can help in a pinch. So stash a pack in your pocket or gym bag. “Leaving all the sweat and toxins on your skin, even just for the drive home from hot yoga or the gym, can cause problems,” cautions Blair.
3. Protect Your Skin Post-Workout
Sweat and bacteria can wreak havoc on other areas of your skin as well, so showering off after a tough workout is ideal, especially if you’re prone to back or chest acne. Not an option? Lightly dusting problem areas with baking soda can help absorb oils and sweat, Blair says. Another alternative: spritzing on a light rosewater or herbal toner or wiping down the skin with pH-balanced, alcohol-free body wipes like Goodwipes or SweetSpot On-the-Go Wipettes.
4. Apply Dry Shampoo Before You Sweat
You probably already know that dry shampoo can preserve your style between washings, but according to Boston-based hair expert Lori Hosea (lorihoseastudio.com), the magic lies in when you apply it. “Spraying dry shampoo, with its powder and other chemicals, onto a sweaty scalp with open pores could clog them and lead to breakouts,” Hosea warns. Her alternative method: Apply dry shampoo to the roots of your hair well before a workout. The alcohol and powder contained in most formulations will help absorb the sweat as you exercise. After your sweat session, further dry your hair with a blow-dryer set on low. Boom — you’re done.
5. Clean Hands, Short Nails, Can’t Lose
Shorter nails are not only easier to care for, but they also trap less bacteria from sweaty gym equipment and yoga mats. As for helping your manicure outlast your grueling workouts, Dr. Dana Stern, a board-certified dermatologist who specializes in nail health, recommends you start by making sure you’re using the correct nail file. “Most emery boards create microscopic tears in the nail that result in peeling and snags,” she explains. That’s why she recommends a glass file, which leaves edges smoother and better prepared for polish. (Check out the glass files she created at drdanabeauty.com.)
6. Don’t Mistake Convenience for Quality
You’ve seen them in every gym locker-room shower and on every vanity counter — bottles of generic soap, shampoo and body lotion. And while they might work in a pinch, they’re often not the quality, customized products you should be using daily. “Skipping your regular skin care regimen once in awhile isn’t going to kill you,” explains Gregory Dylan, a skin care expert and owner of Gregory Dylan Beauty in Los Angeles (gregorydylanbeauty.com). But he recommends buying or creating your own travel sizes of the same products you use at home to avoid any allergic reactions and maintain consistency in your routine.
7. Master a No-Fuss Backup Look
No surprise here: How we look before and after exercising can be radically different. Instead of fighting it, Dylan recommends having a second look that you can feel as confident with as you do your perfected-at-home version. Maybe it means slicking back your hair or sporting a more tousled look. “Ask your stylist to teach you how to create a low-maintenance alternate look for when you don’t have all your products and need to cut down your prep time,” Dylan says.
8. Don’t Cross-Contaminate
Think twice before throwing your clean towel over the handlebars of a stationary bike. Germs and bacteria cling to them and get transferred directly to your skin when you wipe off sweat. It’s better to drape your towel around your neck, says licensed New York City aesthetician Elizabeth M. Donat (emdskinsolutions.com). Also, don’t forget to soap up your hands before you splash your face with water after your workout, otherwise you’re just spreading gym germs from your hands to your face.
9. Pack the Right Stuff
Half the battle of balancing your workouts with maintaining healthy skin, hair and nails is knowing which products work for you — and making sure you have them on hand. For Abby Hughes Ringquist, a member of the U.S. National Women’s Ski Jumping Team (and someone who trains seven days a week), that means figuring out how her skin reacts in different conditions and then having the appropriate remedy stashed in a jacket pocket. Her best tip: Choose products that do double duty, like Usana’s Sense Night Creme. “I use it on my lips, on scrapes, windburns and rashes,” Ringquist says. “I don’t go to a workout without it.”
What Do YOU Think?
How do you refresh your look after working out? Do you have a favorite product? What other tips and tricks can you share? Share your thoughts in the comments! —Audrey Brashich; Audrey D. Brashich covers lifestyle trends, wellness, pop culture, and parenthood for national publications including The Washington Post and Yahoo. Follow her @AudreyBrashich