How To Protect Your Skin During Hot Yoga
The moment I stepped inside a heated yoga studio, I knew I could never go back to the days of humidity-free classes. There’s something so gratifying about taking a hot yoga class. Maybe it’s the way my muscles open with ease or the way my breath deepens almost automatically. Whatever the case, I’ve been hooked on hot yoga since day one.
The benefits of hot yoga are plentiful: From increased circulation throughout the body to cardiovascular intensity, heated yoga has made a name for itself as a preferred practice across the nation.
The only downside? For some, it has some less-than-desired effects heated yoga can have on your complexion.
Why hot yoga may make some people break out.
After practicing and teaching heated yoga for over two years, I started to wonder what in the world was going on with my skin. I couldn’t kick breakouts, I had a combination of dry and oily spots on my face, and even worse, busted blood vessels around my nose. As a 20-something who was hopeful breakouts were reserved for my younger years, I knew something had to change.
I met with an acne specialist and owner of Spa Kingston in San Diego, Renee Maloney, who confirmed my suspicion that heated yoga was the culprit in my unwanted blast-from-the-past breakouts and skin issues.
"Hot yoga can be absolutely amazing for the body and skin. It’s detoxifying, increases blood flow, encourages circulation and elimination, and creates a healthy flexible body without harm to the joints due to the heat," says Maloney, however, "hot yoga causes the body to heat up, which then can increase already inflamed skin. This heat and excess elimination can cause areas of inflammation to go on overload and cause adverse or more intense inflamed acne."
Essentially: Heated yoga can cause increased inflammation in the body. Because acne is inflammation, this causes even more unwanted breakouts and unappealing marks. Add in the humidity, and the increased oil production that comes with it, and you're in breakouts.
So, what’s a yogi to do? After several months battling breakouts, she and I finally found the perfect natural skin-care routine to combat the unwelcome "friends" on my face. Whether you love hot yoga or sweaty workouts in general, here's what worked for me—maybe it can help you, too.
Use a natural cleanser.
A natural cleanser was key for helping me neutralize and clean the skin. The ingredients in most facial products are packed with harsh surfactants, so finding a gentle, yet thorough, natural wash can make all the difference. This is key, as often people will opt for a wash that makes their face feel squeaky clean post workout—but in the long run may actually contribute to inflammation by weakening the skin barrier function.
On days when I’m practicing, I wash my face in the morning, after yoga, and right before bed to ensure my pores are clear of sweat and dirt buildup. However, some might find this to be too much washing for their skin type (everyone is different!), so you may only be able to tolerate once or twice a day. However, never workout in your makeup—it will make the breakouts worse.
Ice your face with tea tree oil.
Out of all the changes I made to my skin-care regimen, this one made the biggest difference. After cleansing, take one to two minutes to rub an ice cube across your face. Similar to icing a swollen ankle, applying ice to the face reduces inflammation that is built up during your practice. For acne-prone skin, Maloney recommends adding this into your skin-care routine every morning and night.
The trick with icing your face is to make sure that the water you are using is clean (read: If you don't normally drink your tap water without putting it through a filter, don't use ice made from tap water either). After filling an ice-cube tray with filtered water, use a drop of tea tree oil from your favorite essential oil brand to help unclog the pores from oil buildup.
While this step may be harder to fit into your routine when you're on-the-go, it is a crucial way to fight inflammation and acne that can build up from the heat your body generates during a heated yoga practice. We don’t always have time to ice right after practice, but if you do, take the few minutes to add in this step. Your face will thank you after!
3. Go for cold water.
Sometimes you don’t have access to a tray of ice cubes—I know I don’t! If you find yourself running from the yoga studio to work without time to ice your face, a splash of cold water will work in a pinch.
4. Drink up!
You may be chugging water during class, but what about before and after? With the excess sweating, it’s important to increase your water intake on days that you practice to avoid dehydration. Dehydration adversely affects your skin by making it overly dry. Too much dryness can cause dead skin and dirt buildup that can clog your pores, so do yourself a favor and keep your water bottle close on days that you practice. And on the flip side, getting enough water daily has been shown to improve your skin by thickening your epidermis1.
5. Use a natural moisturizer.
As someone with oily skin, when I was a teen I avoided moisturizer like the plague. It wasn’t until I met with my aesthetician that I realized how crucial moisturizer is to balancing the skin. Many times when you have problematic skin, you skip moisturizer altogether, but by skipping this step, your skin will dry out and respond with more oil production. This vicious cycle actually causes more breakouts.
For me, I stick to Face Reality’s Hydrabalance Gel and apply it every night after icing my face. If you’re looking for a new moisturizer, look for brands, like this one, that are noncomedogenic.
Heated yoga can be an amazing addition to your fitness routine, and embracing the sweat is all a part of the fun! Check your skin-care problems at the studio door by integrating this natural routine into your daily regimen and return to that natural yoga glow in no time.
Ava Johanna is an internationally recognized and certified meditation and yoga instructor (E-RYT), breath work facilitator, and transformational mentor based in San Diego. Her mission is to bridge the gap for anyone craving more love, health, and happiness in their lives.
After suffering from severe corporate burnout, Johanna turned to yoga and holistic healing to redirect her life, and found these powerful ancient practices to be the ultimate rejuvenation of spirit. With great devotion to her personal healing, her mission is to share these modalities and can be found teaching yoga, meditation, and breath work around the globe, as well as provoking conscious conversations on her podcast, The Alchemized Life. The Alchemized Life Podcast features top thought leaders in the wellness industry and lessons to inspire listeners to blossom into who they were always meant to become.
Johanna has her bachelor's in integrated marketing communications from National University.