Training for a triathlon is a long-term commitment and with the outdoor nature of the disciplines, here in the UK it can often mean a gruelling, trans-seasonal battle with the elements. Tri training takes its toll not only on your body, but on your skin. As the count-down to Brighton & Hove Tri commences, Dr Anita Sturnham, Dermatologist and consultant to pH balanced skincare brand, Sebamed, shares her advice on how to look after your skin in training.
Our skin is a dynamic and regenerating organ, it has an important protective role, and is likely to be exposed to many changing elements throughout the training period for a triathlon.
Whether you are open swimming in the sun, cycling through biting winds or even just getting caught out in the rain on a run, our skin acts as our protective shield, helping us to block environmental damage and regulating our temperature control.
Just as we consider what clothing we wear to train and select protective kit accordingly, we should follow the same philosophy and consider our skincare routine to help defend our skin in the process.
How exercise affects the skin
Whilst exercise has a number of health benefits, it can cause issues with our skin.
As you exercise, your body temperature increases and your heart rate rises, causing your pores and sweat glands to open up. They start releasing sweat in an attempt to cool the body down, by a process called thermoregulation.
Wearing make-up whilst training can cause additional problems, as it forms a barrier over the skin and clogs pores, preventing sweat from leaving the pores. Instead, the sweat leaks into the surrounding skin, where its acidic nature can lead to redness and a heat rash. The build-up of sweat and oil in the clogged pores acts as fuel for spots and pimples to appear.
If you experience outbreaks, following a daily skincare routine of gentle cleansing, rejuvenating exfoliation should help. In addition, try to stick to ‘non-comedogenic’ skin products and makeup, as these won’t clog your pores.
The effects of prolonged UV exposure
Spending prolonged periods training outdoors with exposure to UV rays can dehydrate your skin, leaving it feeling rough, dry and looking lacklustre. Even worse, too much UV exposure can promote increased melanin production (the pigment that turns the skin brown) resulting in uneven skin tone, pigmentation and lasting damage, increasing the risk of premature skin ageing, and even skin cancer.
Wear an SPF 30 daily - particularly when training outdoors in daylight - and where possible, avoid spending long periods of time in the direct sun to protect your skin from UV damage. To repair sun damage and encourage new, healthy skin cells to grow, it’s vital that you first remove the dead skin cells to prime the surface for rejuvenation. The best way to eradicate dead skin cells and improve skin quality is to exfoliate regularly.
Sweat and sun exposure can also damage your skin's hydration barriers, allowing large quantities of water to evaporate from its layers. This reduces its strength, elasticity and leaves it feeling dry and unloved. It’s important to drink lots of water throughout your training, at least 2.5L daily to replenish water lost through sweat. In addition, use an intensely moisturizing face and body cream to restore your skin's hydration.
Dr Anita Sturnham’s Top Triathlon Skincare Tips
Remove any makeup.
Ensure you wear clean workout clothes - Dead skin cells, bacteria, and oils on unwashed clothes can clog your pores, leading to acne.
Wear breathable fabrics, such as cotton or specially designed breathable fabrics. These keep you cooler whilst your train by absorbing the excess moisture, which, in turn, will reduce sweating. This also reduces the pore clogging activity of the sweat too.
When exercising outdoors, don’t forget your oil free, mineral based SPF, to reduce UV damage.
Use a clean towel to wipe off sweat.
When you remove sweat from your skin, gently pat it off. Rubbing your skin can cause acne to flare.
Avoid sharing protective equipment like helmets whenever possible. These can be full of acne-causing bacteria and oil, which may cause you to breakout.
Take a bath or shower straight after exercising and change into clean clothing.
Wash your face with a gentle, clarifying cleanser, to unblock pores such as Sebamed Skin Clear Cleansing Bar. Follow with Clear Face Deep Cleansing Facial Toner.
Follow with a ‘non-comedogenic’ moisturiser to restore your epidermal skin barriers and rehydrate the skin.
Our skin is naturally slightly acidic, with a PH of around 5.5. If we upset its PH balance, not only will our skin look less radiant and healthy, the skin’s ability to function well in its protective role is reduced.
As exercise can increase your risk of clogged pores and breakouts, and disruption of the skin’s PH, it makes sense to be prepared and use gentle PH balanced skincare to prep your skin pre- workout and restore your skin post workout.
Sebamed has a range of PH balanced cleansing and skincare products to suit various skin types, for more information visit www.sebamed.co.uk and if you’re taking part in this year’s Brighton & Hove Tri, good luck and come visit us on the day for further skincare advice and samples.