Countless studies have proven the physical benefits of regular exercise on your beauty—more radiance, fewer blemishes and improved tone, to name a few—but there is a risk of getting too much of a good thing.
Frequently hitting the golf course, tennis court or pavement can pose unique challenges to your skin, hair and nails. Think of it as the beauty equivalent of tennis elbow. Read on to learn more about the biggest offenders, and how to keep your looks in top form.
Beauty risks: Increased sunburn on exposed skin and bruised toenails.
Improve your game: Research shows that marathon runners are more likely to develop sunburns and skin cancer than other athletes, thanks to logging in long hours under the rays. “And recent studies have also shown that perspiration boosts photosensitivity,” says Dr. Brian B. Adams, Director of the Sports Dermatology Clinic at the University of Cincinnati.
A German study found that 15 minutes of sweat-inducing jogging shortened the time that it takes your skin to burn by up to 40 percent. Liberally apply a waterproof and rub-resistant sunscreen like Neutrogena Ultimate Sport Sunblock Lotion SPF 30 before hitting the pavement, wear moisture-wicking clothing to deter excess sweating, and frequently towel off your face to remove any droplets.
Black-and-blue toe nails, a hallmark of many long-distance runners, result from the chronic slamming of the nail against the shoe, so always keep nails clipped short and straight across instead of curved to prevent trauma. “Correctly-sized shoes will also reduce shock each time your feet hit the pavement,” Adams says. It’s best to go to a specialty sports shop for help finding the right fit for you. Running shoes need to have a proper-fitting toe box to accommodate foot swelling during vigorous exercise.
Beauty risks: Rough, calloused fingers and hands, or painful blisters.
Improve your game: Callouses are caused by friction, and unfortunately, they exist for a reason. “They’re a form of self-protection,” explains Jordana Gilman, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. “Your skin thickens to defend itself against repeated rubbing.” As for the blisters, they’re created by heat, continuous motion and moisture from sweat. Regular tennis players should towel-dry their hands as much as possible, and add a grip tape to racquets for extra cushioning and comfort. At home, try using a hand cream that contains glycolic acid or lactic acid to help counteract roughness (like Priori Advanced AHA Hand and Body Revitalizing Lotion), ingredients that “slough away built-up cells and temporarily soften texture,” Gilman says.
Beauty risks: Breakouts on your cheeks or back from contact with your mat, or rashes on your back or chest from a combination of perspiration and tight clothing.
Improve your game: Mats are a hotbed for germs, so bring your own to the studio or gym. If that’s not possible, “Lay a clean towel on top to shield your skin from acne-causing bacteria and other residue,” says Dr. D’Anne Kleinsmith, a cosmetic dermatologist in Royal Oak, MI. Always wash your hands thoroughly after class and avoid touching your face in between poses, since germs can travel quickly and clog pores. Devotees of Bikram yoga are especially prone to uncomfortable heat rashes thanks to soaring room temperatures, so it’s worth the investment to buy moisture-wicking clothes designed for this type of practice. As soon as you can after Savasana, suds up with gentle body cleanser to rinse away germs and help discourage skin irritations.
Beauty risks: Dark spots or freckling on the backs of your hands, forearms and neck, or sunburn on your neck and ears.
Improve your game: Apply sunscreen containing an SPF 30 or higher all over exposed skin—including the back of your neck and ears—and reapply every two hours. “That’s about every nine holes,” says Gilman, who is the spokesperson for the Skin Cancer Foundation. Golfers need to be especially diligent with sunscreen since sand traps and ponds reflect the sun’s dangerous rays up, meaning you can’t solely rely on a hat for protection. Choose a formula with zinc oxide, which tends to stick better even when you’re sweating, and wear a hat with a broad brim of at least three inches. Lastly, prevent aging hands by keeping them covered with golf gloves every time you tee off.
Beauty risks: Static-y hair (thanks to knit caps and goggles) split ends, and dry strands overall.
Improve your game: Frequent trims (at least every eight weeks) are a must, according to Jessica Gillin, a stylist at the Marie Robinson Salon in New York City who has helped Olympic gold-medal skier Lindsey Vonn care for her long, blonde locks. “Ice and snow can stick to hair and cause stress and breakage,” she says. “So it’s important to eliminate damaged ends.” Another surprising texture offender? Perspiration. “Hair expands when it comes in contact with sweat, then contracts when it hits the cold air,” Gillin says. “This constant pattern makes it more fragile and prone to breakage.” Before you head for the slopes, apply a deep conditioner with hydrating vitamin E (Gillin likes Colorist Cure) to dry strands, then braid your hair or pull it back into a bun under your hat. Off the mountains, protect hair daily with a light serum applied to ends to prevent breakage, and avoid alcohol-laced hairsprays, which can be even more drying to already stressed hair.