Why Is My Skin So Red & Flushed After Working Out? Derms Explain
Workouts can do wonders for the skin. The sweat can clear pores ("Sweat is the best cleanser," board-certified dermatologist Ellen Marmur, M.D., once quipped to us). Moving your body can improve circulation, thereby delivering more nutrients to the skin cells. And being in touch with your body can improve your mental well-being, which in turn can do wonders for skin health.
All around great, no? Unfortunately, there are some common skin complaints post-workout. Occasionally, individuals will complain of increased acne (which is actually the result of not washing your face, gear, or clothing correctly). Or if the increased workouts result in significant weight loss it may cause slight skin sagging. And for some: flushing.
Often we speak of the post-workout glow (it's real!), but not everyone gets that dewy vibrancy. Some, especially those with light to medium skin tones, appear red—really red.
Why some people get so red and flushed after a workout.
Sure, flushing post-workout may be an annoying side effect of a hard-core workout for some, but the reason behind it is pretty cool. Allow board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, M.D., to explain.
"When you exercise, your body temperature increases. One of the homeostasis mechanisms used by the body when body temperature increases to maintain a healthy body temperature is to carry more blood to the surface of the skin so that heat loss from the skin increases," she says. “This entails peripheral vasodilation—or widening of the small blood vessels found in the skin so that more blood is carried through them. This can cause a red, flushed face, particularly noticeable in fairer skin types."
Essentially: Working out causes improved circulation no matter who you are—a good thing that has a laundry list of benefits for the skin and body—but for those with skin that's more transparent or even thin, the color comes through more visibly.
Can you prevent it?
In short: no, and you really don't want to. "There's no 'cure' for this because it's a normal body mechanism," says King. Remember, circulation to the skin boasts a major net gain—so even if the redness isn't ideal in the short term, in the long term you'll be happy.
If it really bothers you, however, "you may be able to minimize it by exercising in a cooler environment and wearing breathable fabrics," she says.
OK, so how do you cool it after the fact?
But just because it may be inevitable for some, that doesn't mean you can't have a few tricks handy to calm the skin down following your sweat session:
- Splash your face with cold water. Since the flushing is a mechanism to cool your body, help it in the process by using a splash of cool water or compress. It may not be immediate, but it will speed up the process.
- Reach for chilled aloe vera gel. Want to take the above point up a notch? Have some cool aloe vera gel handy, and use it as your post-workout moisturizer. Aloe vera is known for being anti-inflammatory and therefore may help reduce some of the redness and even swelling.
- Use light makeup. If all else fails, and the tone doesn't seem to go away in a timely manner, a tinted moisturizer will be your best bet. Just gently dab it on the most affected areas (pro tip: let a bit of pink show through on the cheeks for all-natural blush). And if you have serious redness, you may even want to look into green color correctors.
Redness post-workout is totally normal and may be especially prevalent in those who have light or thin skin. There's really no way to prevent it (not that you would want to, as it's good for skin overall), but there are plenty of quick, easy fixes to give a go post-sweat.
Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.