- Why Does My Face Flush When I Exercise?
- More from HuffPost Healthy Living:
- Use these 8 tips to help soothe your super-red face after working out
- Why Does My Face Turn Red When I Exercise?
- When facial redness from exercising is beyond a normal red flushed face.
- Understand the source of your flushed red face during exercise
- Signs that your facial redness during or after exercise may not be normal and should be checked by a medical professional:
- Your red face during exercise is normal and healthy if:
- If diagnosed with Rosacea why catching it in it’s early stages is key
Why Does My Face Flush When I Exercise?
Q: Why does my face get so flushed after I workout and why does this seem to happen to some people (me!) more than others? Is there anything I can do about it? — Sarah, 29, Brooklyn, NY
A: The first thing you can do about it is relax! There’s nothing wrong with getting red — or even fuschia — in the face.
When you exercise, capillaries in your face and throughout your body dilate and blood flows through them in an effort to move the heat your body is generating to the skin’s surface, where it can be radiated off. This effort helps to keep you cool while you work out, but it can also make your skin look flushed — especially in the face.
“Patients who get pink in the face following exercise usually have more superficial blood vessels in the skin of the cheeks and chin,” Dr. James Marotta, a dual board certified facial plastic surgeon in practice in Long Island, NY tells HuffPost Healthy Living. “The result is that temporarily more blood is flowing through these superficial vessels resulting in a pink or ruddy complexion.”
But Dr. Naila Malik, a dermatologist in practice in Southlake, Texas and the creator of the Naila MD Skincare line disagrees. “It is less likely that the ‘red blushers’ have more capillaries under the skin of their faces than their ‘pinkish glower’ counterparts in the physiologic range of blushing.”
Instead, she offers this explanation to:
“Some people blush more than others and this is more likely due to the fact that these people have a more significant dilatation of the capillaries than the ones who merely get a pinkish glow; Plus the dilatation is more prolonged in these ‘blushers’ hence they stay redder for longer periods of time.”
Dr. Bobby Buka, a dermatologist based in New York City says that both Malik and Marotta are right; while some people — often those of Anglo-Saxon heritage — have more capillaries in their faces to begin with, others may have one of several conditions that can cause more blood to flow through the same number of capillaries.
If you have more capillaries in your face to begin with (i.e. those of Anglo-Saxon heritage), then exercising will cause them to fill (how we shunt heat from our bodies by redistributing blood closer to the skin’s surface) and give you a flush-face. On the other hand, several conditions can cause more blood to flow through the same number of capillaries.
“If you suffer from rosacea or other ‘vasomotor’ dysfunction (i.e. the way your skin’s nerve fibers are wired to your blood vessels), then even though you may have the same number of capillaries as your neighbor, those caps will inappropriately dilate to give you a flushed face,” Buka wrote in an email to HuffPost Healthy Living. “Which is more common? Probably the former.”
Of course, if you’re exercising in extreme heat, a red face could indicate the onset of heatstroke. Other symptoms of heatstroke include excessive sweating, nausea and lightheadedness, according to the Mayo Clinic. Heatstroke requires immediate medical attention, as it causes your body’s temperature to exceed 104 degrees Fahrenheit and can lead to brain, heart, kidney and muscle damage.
But if the cause is simply exertion, there is little you can do without surgical intervention. “Intense pulsed light or laser treatments can diminish the overall number of blood vessels, rid patients of unwanted spider veins, and diminish overly ruddy or reactive facial skin,” says Marotta.
Or you can just enjoy a temporary rosy glow — and a face that announces to the world that you’ve been living healthfully.
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When I workout, sweat and a bright red face typically go hand-in-hand. At this point, I’ve just accepted that I’m going to look like a tomato anytime I get my heart rate up. But I have to admit, I am curious… Why am I the only one in my class who leaves looking like a fire truck?
To get to the bottom of my facial redness, I reached out to someone who deals with skin issues every day: a dermatologist. And of course there’s a simple explanation for why it happens in the first place.
“Getting a red face while working out is completely normal—this is our body’s natural response to regulating temperature,” says Sheel Desai Solomon, MD, a North Carolina-based dermatologist. “As we exercise, blood is being pumped through our blood vessels, or capillaries, at a faster rate to maximize oxygen intake. The capillaries widen to deliver more oxygen to the working muscles and also push heat to the surface of the skin to avoid overheating. This can lead your face to appear red and is especially visible in people with fair skin.”
Fair skin definitely checks out in my case. But the reason you might always be so much redder than your workout pals goes beyond skin tone.
“If you’re someone who gets redder than others, this could be because you have more capillaries in your face than others who have a light pink glow,” Dr. Solomon explains. “Other causes for facial redness can be skin conditions such as rosacea, alcohol use, certain foods, and different medications.”
No matter what the reason behind your redder-than-normal post-workout complexion may be, you don’t have to go through life basking in that overly-bright glow. Instead, use these expert-backed tips to give your skin some relief.
Use these 8 tips to help soothe your super-red face after working out
1. Splash or spray your face with cold water during a workout.
Instead of scrolling through your phone mid-workout as a break, splash some water on your face to help combat redness.
“This is a great tip to prevent facial redness after a workout altogether,” Dr. Solomon says. “During your workout, spray or splash cold water on your face to help your body cool down and calm down circulation. The sweat you produce when you exercise is already trying to do this for you, but a splash of cold water will take this cooling process one step further.”
2. Use a cold compress and moisturizer after a workout.
Aside from extra hair ties and deodorant, consider packing a washcloth in your workout bag. Your skin will thank you for it. “Applying a cold, damp washcloth to your face after exercising will alleviate tightness around the skin and reduce redness before cleansing your face,” Dr. Soloman says. “Follow this up with a gentle paraben-free moisturizer that will nourish the skin and help soothe inflammation.”
3. Use a cleansing wipe.
The next time you’re shopping, make a quick stop by the skin care aisle to pick up a pack of cleansing wipes. “There are a lot of great cleansing wipes on the market right now to help reduce redness and refresh the skin post-workout,” Dr. Soloman says. “Wiping your face with an aloe vera-based cleansing wipe will help calm everything down and prevent further irritation.”
4. Avoid alcohol and spicy foods.
It’s not just your workouts that are causing facial redness—it’s also what you do after you leave the gym.
“If you want to reduce facial redness, it’s essential to avoid things that may cause or aggravate inflammation,” Dr. Soloman says. “Excess alcohol can trigger the same response in your blood vessels when you workout, causing inflammation to become visible on your skin—especially your face. The same goes for spicy foods. They dilate the capillaries under your skin, thus making facial redness more noticeable.”
5. Add aloe vera to your skin care routine.
Having aloe vera-infused cleansing wipes can help combat redness after working out, but adding the soothing plant into your daily routine can do wonders, too.
“Facial redness is usually an indicator of inflammation or irritation, so lathering on some aloe vera or aloe-based moisturizer can aid in reducing its appearance,” Dr. Soloman says. “Its healing properties help to reduce redness, replenish the skin, and promote cell growth. If you’re someone who blushes more than most, I suggest using aloe vera on the skin daily.”
6. Try not to exfoliate too often.
Yeah, yeah—exfoliating makes your skin feel amazing. Unfortunately, if you deal with facial redness regularly, it’s best to keep it to a minimum. “Exfoliating is a great way to rid your face of dead skin, but it’s easy to go overboard,” Dr. Soloman says. “If you’re prone to redness or you have sensitive skin, exfoliate your skin sparingly and stick to chemical exfoliants.”
7. Grab the hydrocortisone cream.
If your facial redness won’t budge, you might have to bring in the big guns. And by that I mean hydrocortisone cream. “A hydrocortisone topical steroid cream is used to treat redness, swelling, and other irritating skin conditions,” Dr. Soloman explains. “Apply a small amount of an over-the-counter 1 percent hydrocortisone steroid to the affected areas daily to see visibly less red skin.”
8. Try laser or light therapy.
While natural treatments are great, you can also combat facial redness with laser or light therapy. It only takes a couple treatments to see results.
“Laser or light therapy can help reduce the visibility of blood vessels, redness, and thickening skin. The vascular laser wavelengths target the blood vessels and increase the heat, causing them to break down and disintegrate, all the while promoting repair and collagen growth,” Dr. Soloman says. “Patients can see between a 50 to 75 percent decrease in the appearance of redness in just after the first two treatments. The pulse dye laser, such as the VBeam laser, is an excellent treatment option for someone with mild to moderate rosacea or chronic facial redness.”
For more assistance, try these nutritionist-backed foods for soothing facial redness. Then give yourself an ice cube facial, because it feels ah-mazing.
Why Does My Face Turn Red When I Exercise?
There’s nothing like the feeling of getting all hot and sweaty from a good cardio workout. You feel amazing, full of energy, and all revved up on endorphins, so why do people keep asking if you’re OK? You catch a glimpse of your sweaty self in the bathroom mirror, and the unnaturally, brilliantly red face staring back takes you by surprise, too. Wait-are you OK?
Your frighteningly scarlet skin may not look the prettiest, but it’s no cause for alarm. It’s actually just a sign that you’re working hard and building up heat. When your body temperature begins to climb, you perspire to keep cool, but it also dilates the blood vessels in your skin to reduce your overall body temp. Your face turns red because warm, oxygenated blood rushes to the surface of your skin, which helps heat radiate off of it and prevents you from overheating.
Go ahead and continue exercising as long as you feel good and have no other symptoms. If you find that your flushed face is accompanied by fatigue, dizziness, sweating more than usual, or nausea, then it could be a sign of heat exhaustion, which is more likely to happen outside on hot and humid days. Working out in a hot room or in higher temps is definitely a risk, so if you experience these symptoms, stop exercising immediately, get inside where it’s cooler, loosen up tight clothing (or remove it altogether), and drink plenty of cool water.
To prevent heat exhaustion, make sure to drink plenty of fluids before and during your workout. If you love outdoor workouts, try to exercise during a time of day when temperatures are the lowest, like in the early morning. It also helps to run on shady trails in the woods or on a breezy path near a lake or beach. Here are more tips on how to stay cool when working out in the heat and how to recover after a hot and humid workout.
This article originally appeared on Popsugar Fitness.
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- By POPSUGAR Fitness @POPSUGARFitness
Do you ever wonder how some people can walk out of a gym looking like they just walked in? If you are reading this then you, most likely, are one of lucky ones whose face turns beet red after even the shortest workout.
A red face from exercise may seem like a cause for concern, but more often than not it is just your body’s way of handling the extra heat created by exercise. When you exercise, many changes happen in your body:
• You will breathe faster to maximize the amount of oxygen in your blood.
• Your heart will beat faster, which increases blood flow to your muscles.
• Your small blood vessels will widen to deliver more oxygen to your muscles and carry away carbon dioxide and other waste products that build up.
It is this widening of the blood vessels that causes the flushing of your skin during exercise!
When you exercise, your body temperature increases and carries the blood towards the skin’s surface, causing one to sweat and cool off. This natural body mechanism can lead to a flushed, red face, which can be especially more noticeable in fair-skinned individuals.
Most facial redness during exercise can be considered normal; however, if you are exercising in extreme heat, a red face could be an early sign of heat exhaustion or even heat stroke. According to the Mayo Clinic, other symptoms of heat exhaustion can include excessive sweating, nausea and light headedness. Heatstroke occurs when the body can no longer compensate for the excess heat. This may involve a reduced ability to sweat with skin that is hot and dry or only slightly moist. Heatstroke can be life threatening and requires immediate medical attention, as it causes your body’s temperature to elevate beyond 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
While the redness you experience during exercise cannot be cured or fixed, you can take measures to try and reduce the redness. Try exercising in a cool environment and wear light-colored and loose fitting clothing. Staying hydrated with plenty of water is key in preventing heat stroke. If exercising outdoors, exercising in the early hours or late afternoon may reduce your heat exposure.
Red, itchy skin long after a workout might mean your body has more going on that just standard warm up and cool down during exercise. If you are struggling with skin issues and don’t know where to turn, the skin health experts at Forefront Dermatology are ready to help. To find the Forefront dermatologist nearest you, visit the locations page today.
It sure does get old when people constantly point out your red face after a tough workout.
But instead of sucking on ice cubes, standing in front of a fan or trying other tricks to de-redden your face, try embracing your vivid hue as a proud sign of your effort.
Rob Newton, Edith Cowan University professor of Exercise and Sports Science, says a red face is actually a sign that your body is working efficiently to cool you down.
“When we exercise, our vascular system redirects blood away from non-essential organs and systems, such as the digestive system, to supply more blood flow to the working muscles,” he told Coach.
“If the body senses that its temperature is rising, we start to sweat and the vascular system shunts blood to the skin to try and shift heat away from the muscles and interior of the body, so that this heat can be radiated into the atmosphere.”
Our faces have a particularly high capacity of blood supply, which is why we go particularly red there.
Women are particularly prone to red face because they tend to sweat less and shunt more blood to the skin, whereas men rely more on sweat to keep cool.
“This is actually a much better mechanism when exercising in the heat, because it also means that women lose less fluid and so are more effective at exercising in the heat compared to a man with the same fitness level and other features,” Professor Newton point out.
Of course, some women – and men – go brighter red than others, which Professor Newton says comes down to variation in individuals’ cooling systems, as well as skin tone.
“People with paler skin will appear much redder when they exercise,” he points out.
“This is not necessarily a bad thing, as the head and face have a large surface area relative to the volume and so are a very effective ‘radiator’ to get rid of heat from the body.”
Weights sessions tend to lead to short bursts of red-face because blood pressure increases and sends blood to the face temporarily. But when the effort stops, your face returns to normal.
“It is important to breathe while you lift – breathe in during the lowering phase and breathe out with the lifting phase,” Professor Newton says.
“This should reduce increases in blood pressure and therefore generate less red-faced appearance.”
It’s sustained aerobic exercise, such as jogging, group fitness classes or high intensity sessions, that will give you the long-lasting red face.
“The harder you are exercising and the hotter the environment, the more red-faced you will appear,” Professor Newton explains.
Ultimately Professor Newton says you shouldn’t blush about a red face.
“Enjoy it – your red face means that your vascular system is directing large amounts of blood through your skin which is bringing lovely hormones and cytokines, as well as nutrition and removing toxins which will help keep your skin younger looking and healthier,” he points out.
“If you really want to reduce this lovely blood flow however then I recommend exercising in cooler environments, and using cooling practices such as wet towels and fans.”
The one time you do need to worry about a red face is if you are too hot and are at risk of hyperthermia, which is an extreme elevated body temperature that can be deadly.
To avoid this, Professor Newton says it’s important to stay hydrated in the heat and seek medical assistance if you have a headache, dizziness, dry, clammy skin or have stopped sweating.
RELATED: Running hot and cold: Why blushing isn’t all that bad
When facial redness from exercising is beyond a normal red flushed face.
Facial redness that is the hue of a sunburn or has others in proximity looking at you in concern that you may be over doing it due to your bright red face during your workout that persists in redness long after your work out is through are hallmark signs of rosacea.
As any rosacea sufferer can attest, exercise is one of the primary triggers for rosacea. In fact, a key tell-tale sign of whether one has rosacea is your skin’s reaction during and after exercise.
The red face of a rosacea sufferer is usually much more intense than the reaction of normal skin during exercise. Indeed, whereas facial redness from exercise in people without rosacea normally peaks at a “healthy pink hue” and subsides within 15 to 20 minutes after exercise, rosacea sufferers experience a pronounced red flushing that lasts considerably longer after a workout.
For people who think they may have rosacea, it helps to use built in heart rate and blood pressure/pulse rate monitors found on cardio equipment, such as stair climbers and elliptical fitness machines, to record their resting heart rate and blood pressure prior to starting their workout. These are generally reliable and will give a baseline reading to help evaluate facial redness and flushing reactions during individual exercises and after a complete workout. Once your heart rate and blood pressure return back to baseline values after exercise, facial redness should subside within 20 minutes.
Understand the source of your flushed red face during exercise
Realizing that your exercise red face is atypical can alert you to the presence of rosacea, thereby encouraging you seek advice from a medical professional vs. trying to self-diagnose what is going on with your skin. Of equal importance, it could also help you recognize some of the “other symptoms” beyond rosacea that may be a indicator of something more serious such as heart or blood pressure issues. Regardless of the cause of your atypical red face, it is vital to seek diagnosis from a qualified medical professional first.
Understanding the source of your skin’s reaction to exercise, and seeking appropriate medical advice if its appears abnormal, helps you to make educated choices for you and your health.
Signs that your facial redness during or after exercise may not be normal and should be checked by a medical professional:
- Your face turns significantly redder than other people performing similar exercises.
- Facial redness that is accompanied by itching, burning and/or stinging — similar to a sunburn reaction.
- Facial flushing that extends down into the “V” line of the neck and/or your upper chest area.
- Facial flushing that extends up to the scalp and all the way back to the vertex of the head.
- Pulsating blood flow through the nose, ears or upper cheek region.
- Facial swelling during or after exercise.
- Broken blood vessels that occur during exercise or increase in number or size after your workout.
- Core exercises, such as those focused on the abdominal area, cause a bright red face. Internal pressure build-up caused by core exercises is a strong trigger for rosacea flushing.
- You can’t enter a sauna, heated whirlpool, or a hot room without intense facial redness.
- Facial redness increases when talking to people in the gym (e.g. flushing in response to social engagement).
- Bloodshot eyes that occur during exercise.
- Facial redness that does not subside after extended cool water soaks.
- A red face that lasts for more than 30 minutes after exercising.
- Facial hyper-sensitivity to touch or external stimuli following your workout.
- Facial skin is more prone to flushing for hours after your workout is over.
- Red dots or bumps (papules) appear in the middle of the face later that same night or the following morning after exercise.
- Other symptoms such as shortness of breath, tingling and numbness in face and/or limbs, a feeling of someone sitting on your chest, indigestion and dizziness may be a sign of something more serious and should be examined by a qualified health care practitioner.
Your red face during exercise is normal and healthy if:
- Your face returns to a normal color within 20 minutes of completing your exercise routine.
- A soak with a damp, cool cloth calms down the redness.
- You can enter a sauna or heated whirlpool and the redness dissipates within minutes after exiting the sauna or whirlpool.
- You do not experience uncomfortable facial sensations such as stinging, burning or itching during exercise.
- You do not experience facial hyper-sensitivity or hyper-reactivity following your workout.
- Your eyes don’t become bloodshot during exercises.
- You don’t experience facial swelling during exercise or after your workout.
- You don’t experience papule acne like outbreaks after your workout.
- You don’t feel other physical uncomfortable symptoms like ears ringing, trouble breathing, dizzy, weak or other….
If diagnosed with Rosacea why catching it in it’s early stages is key
Rosacea is a complex inflammatory skin disorder with many symptoms, subtypes and triggers ranging from mild to severe. It usually starts deep in the skin – years before the first symptoms are visible to the naked eye. Even after symptoms do appear, many “red face exercisers”, “flushed faces” or “adult acne” sufferers don’t recognize the early signs of rosacea and consequently fail to seek medical advice for their exercise induced red face. Without knowledge of typical rosacea signs and symptoms, it can be years before a physician properly diagnoses the disorder as rosacea because many other skin disorders exhibit similar symptoms of rosacea. This is why being self-aware about rosacea, as well as communicating all of your symptoms, is so important….it helps your physician ultimately make the correct diagnosis. Notably, early detection is key, since rosacea is a progressive disorder, meaning it will continue to worsen over time if left untreated.
Unfortunately, according to the National Rosacea Society, less than half of those afflicted with rosacea seek medical treatment, primarily due to lack of awareness and understanding the signs of rosacea. That said, rosacea awareness campaigns have grown significantly during the past few years through social media, national media outlets, the National Rosacea Society and the American Academy of Dermatology. In fact, April is officially listed as “Rosacea Awareness Month” by the National Rosacea Society. National focus on rosacea has increased lately because many people remain unaware that their red face is a physical disorder that can be treated. Instead, they simply proceed with their daily activities despite dealing with chronic facial redness, bouts of reactive facial flushing, inflammatory breakouts and uncomfortable facial sensations.
How to help exercise red face.
Sadly for many the first recommendation they hear is to avoid their red inducing triggers. While giving up flare foods, direct sun or controlling environmental temperature, de-stressing can be do-able for many giving up or tapering back their fitness routine may be a no go. If you do exercise and have rosacea here are a few tips that have helped others to minimize the red.
- Carry a small bottle of Thermal Water.and spritz occasionaly.. La Roche Posy makes a nice one that is reasonable..
- Cool damp hand towel and blot face or wear around your neck. Helps with cooling down your temperature.
- Drink your cool water throughout your exercise routine.
- If possible exercise in a cooler environment with good air flow vs. the hot room yoga type environment.
- Take breaks and work out in a more intermittent fashion vs a sustained blood pressure building.
- Try to keep your head above your heart..
- Take a cool shower post workout.
- Wash, moisturize and protect the skin immediately after exercise. (rosacea/sensitive skin products please)
Don’t ignore your exercise-induced facial redness, especially if it lasts abnormally long, flushes beyond the face and is more intense than normal. It is the hallmark symptom of rosacea. Catching rosacea in its nascent stages is vital because it is much easier to slow down or halt the progression of rosacea when discovered early. In addition to minimizing the visible symptoms of rosacea, early detection also mitigates the emotional toll that many with advanced stage rosacea suffer.
Working out is a sweaty business, but it can leave some people red in the face. To answer this reader’s question, we turned to a board certified physician for information and advice.
Dear Dr. Sugar,
I still have to take PE in school this year and next, and I turn beet red. It’s really embarrassing; no one else seems to get as red as I do. It makes me sad to be teased about it . . . Is there any way to get less red?
— Feeling Rosie
We all worry about red faces (blushing, rashes, acne, etc.), but when it comes to exercise and a red face, there really shouldn’t be too much worry, as it typically represents your body’s normal reaction to the physical demands of exercise! I suffer from a seriously red face after vigorous exercise, and sometimes it lasts for hours after I’ve cooled down! Most of my fair-skinned family reacts the same way, and we’ve learned to just accept it. To learn more about exercise and a red face, keep reading!
When you exercise, many changes happen in your body. You will breathe faster to maximize the amount of oxygen in your blood. Your heart will beat faster, which increases blood flow to your muscles. Your small blood vessels (capillaries) will widen (vasodilation) to deliver more oxygen to your muscles and carry away waste products that build up. It is this vasodilation, or widening, of the capillaries that causes the flushing of your skin (and yes, your face), during exercise!
Also, when you exercise, your body temperature increases, and as WebMD states, blood vessels dilate and carry more blood to the skin’s surface, causing one to sweat and cool off. Both of these mechanisms can lead to a flushed, red face, which can be especially more noticeable in fair-skinned individuals.
Medline Plus states other causes of facial redness, including: extreme emotions, hot or spicy foods, rosacea, alcohol use, carcinoid syndrome (a group of symptoms associated with carcinoid tumors), certain medications to treat diabetes or high cholesterol, high fever, menopause, and rapid changes in temperature. Rosacea, acne, allergic reactions/hives, lupus, and perimenopause can also be causes.
Most facial redness during exercise can be considered normal; however, if you are concerned or worried that the redness represents something more than just the normal cooling-down process, or if it is accompanied by other symptoms including diarrhea, shortness of breath, palpitations, low blood pressure, or light-headedness, you should consider being evaluated by your primary care physician in order to rule out any medical condition. Also, read up on heat exhaustion and heat stroke in order to be aware of symptoms that these conditions cause, and seek immediate treatment if they occur.
While the redness that you are experiencing likely cannot be “cured” or “fixed”, you can take certain preventative measures to try and reduce the redness. Try exercising in a cool environment and wearing light-colored and loose fitting clothing. Avoiding exercise during early and midafternoon may reduce your heat exposure. Also, staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water will help in keeping your body temperature stable and may help with redness. Scaling down the intensity of the workout may also help a little with the redness as will taking some time to cool down.
DrSugar’s posts are for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment recommendations. for more details.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography
Most likely, your flushed face is a sign that you’re hot and fit. The body gets rid of heat by sweating, and also by dilating blood vessels (including the ones in your face) to increase blood flow to the skin, where it can transfer the heat to your surroundings. Studies have shown that men who do regular endurance training experience up to 40 percent more blood flow to their skin when they exercise than untrained men, possibly because they’ve trained their bodies to begin dilating their blood vessels at a lower internal temperature than non-athletes. It’s an adaptation that allows athletes to get rid of heat more efficiently so they can train harder without overheating, and one that may occur after only 10 consecutive days of training for an hour a day.
But scarlet skin can have other causes. A red face is one of many symptoms signaling the onset of heat stroke, including nausea, dizziness, and fatigue. Exercise can also exacerbate rosacea, a skin condition that typically occurs in people with fair skin and is characterized by flushing, redness, and visible facial blood vessels. And some people are prone to getting exercise-induced hives, which can be associated with itchiness and stomach cramps, particularly after eating certain foods.
So what can you do about it? If your face is flushing simply because you’re working hard, you could cut back on the intensity to keep your core temperature down. And if it’s because of rosacea or a general tendency to flush easily even when you’re not exercising, researchers are currently looking at Botox as a possible source of temporary relief, though results thus far haven’t been promising.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Your red face could well be a sign of superior fitness. But if it bothers you or accompanies other symptoms, like itching or an upset stomach, see your doctor to rule out other possible triggers, including rosacea and exercise-induced hives.
Lead Photo: Rupena, via
You hit the gym to be healthy and look hot, so it’s a bummer when you walk out with an embarrassingly bright-red face. Let’s not even discuss the backne, sports-bra-induced boob chafing, and hives. Or rather, let’s: “Internal factors such as allergies and skin type play a key role in how your skin responds to exercise, but external factors like clothing and the weather can help or hurt workout-related skin problems too,” says Jeannette Graf, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at The Mount Sinai Medical Center.
Meaning, you have a lot of control over how irritated your flesh gets. Besides, working out can be good for your skin. “Exercise increases circulation, which makes your skin glow,” says Graf.
Check out these four simple skin tips for what you can do before, during, and after workouts to reap the radiance-bestowing rewards, minus any flare-ups.
“This is the most upsetting workout-related skin issue I hear about,” says Graf. Especially for women who have rosacea or sensitive skin—those prone to severe flushing. “Women with rosacea have more broken capillaries, so any vasodilation caused by working out makes it worse. Sensitive skin just gets irritated very easily, so heat combined with sweat will cause a flare-up.”
Prevent it: Start using anti-redness moisturizers formulated for sensitive skin; soothing ingredients like thermal spring water, zinc, licorice extract, or feverfew will get your moisture barrier in peak condition and make skin more resilient. Try: (1) Eucerin Redness Relief Daily Perfecting Lotion SPF 15 ($15, drugstore.com). Avoid using treatments that irritate skin—such as retinol, acne products, or chemical peels—the night before a big workout.
Keep your body temperature as low as possible during your workout by spritzing yourself with a cooling body spray like Restore Instant Hot Flash Aid ($25, restoreaid.com). Another good find: Mission Athletecare Enduracool Large Instant Cooling Towel ($15, at Dick’s Sporting Goods); use it to wipe your face when you start feeling hot.
Cure it: De-toastify yourself fast. As your body temp drops, so does the flushing, says Graf. Suck on ice chips or splash cold water on your face. Rinse with an anti-redness cleanser, followed by an anti-redness face cream that contains licorice, green tea, oats, or feverfew. Try: Aveeno Ultra-Calming Daily Moisturizer SPF 15 ($17, drugstore.com). Cover remaining blotchiness with a CC cream, whose optical diffusers help visually color-correct redness, then apply a yellow-based concealer. Try: Clinique Moisture Surge CC Cream SPF 30 ($35, clinique.com) and Bobbi Brown Creamy Concealer Kit ($34, bobbibrowncosmetics.com).
“No sunscreen is ultimately sweat-proof, and a hard 30- to 45-minute workout is enough to sweat it away,” says Brian Adams, M.D., acting chairman of dermatology at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, who specializes in sports dermatology. Your burn risk rises if you’re working out around snow, water, or sand. Since all reflect sunlight, you get the rays not only from above, but bouncing up at you from below.
Prevent it: Avoid the peak UV hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and wear dark-colored clothes and a visor. Apply your sunscreen liberally 30 minutes beforehand, because it takes up to that long to become active. Choose sweat-resistant sunscreen formulas, such as LaRoche-Posay Anthelios 60 Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid ($30, laroche-posay.us) for face and Neutrogena Wet Skin Spray SPF 50 ($12, at drugstores) for body. And be prepared: Slip a sunscreen cream compact in your pocket to reapply every 30 minutes if you’re perspiring profusely. Try: Eau Thermale Avene High Protection Tinted Compact ($32, at drugstores).
Cure it: Stay out of the sun for the rest of the day. “The more you inhibit the inflammation, the less damage you may have, so it’s crucial to treat it within the first 24 hours,” says Graf. Take a dose of aspirin or Advil every four hours. Every few hours, apply aloe gel, followed by a topical cortisone cream.
Notice blisters? They indicate a second-degree burn; see a dermatologist immediately. Shun the sun for several days until the burn has healed, says Graf.
Itchiness and Hives
Exercise-induced allergies like itching, stinging, or hives can happen to some people whether they work out indoors or outdoors. In women, they tend to start around the age of 20 and can recur for years. Your chances increase if you have other allergies, like hay fever. When body temperature rises during exercise, mast cells, a type of white blood cell linked to allergies, can release histamine, causing allergic symptoms like mild hives, trouble breathing, or low blood pressure.
Prevent it: Take an oral antihistamine like Claritin or Zyrtec before working out. “The hives may come and go with allergy seasons, and you may not need to pop a pill all year long,” says Graf.
Cure it: If you didn’t take an antihistamine before working out, take one as soon as you notice the hives.
When you get really hot, the natural oils on your scalp drip down your face and body and mix with your sweat, settling into pores along your hairline, neck, and shoulders, causing breakouts. Then your form-fitting workout wear seals it all in, increasing the odds of backne and buttne.
Prevent it: “Make sure you use a noncomedogenic sunscreen, which means it won’t clog your pores,” advises Adams. Dress in clothes made of moisture-wicking material like Lycra and nylon, which won’t trap sweat. “I like the Luon fabric, a mix of nylon and Lycra, that is used in a lot of Lululemon’s yoga wear,” says Graf. Post-workout, shower immediately with a cleanser that contains pore-degunking salicylic acid. Try: Neutrogena Body Clear Body Wash ($6.49, at drugstores). Can’t shower? Wipe off breakout problem areas—T-zone, chest, back, and between your breasts—with a face-cleansing towelette. Try: Yes To Cucumbers On-The-Go Facial Towelettes ($3, at drugstores).
Cure it: Acne scrubs that contain 1 percent salicylic acid are great for adult breakouts; use it up to a couple of times per week. Try: Biore Acne Clearing Scrub ($6.49, at drugstores). Then spot-treat with concealer laced with salicylic acid. Try: Physicians Formula Blemish Rx Blemish Healing Concealer ($9, at drugstores).