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Danielle Shimley, coach at Top Fuel CrossFit in Valparaiso, says a fit lifestyle can be tough on the skin.

“We are pretty active all day, from morning to the evening, so (skin) kind of takes a beating as far as cleanliness,” Shimley said, citing sweat buildup and exposure to weightlifting chalk.

Gym enthusiasts build muscle, improve times, and trim fat, but skin health is not always on the agenda. In spite of this, coaches, aestheticians and health care providers say there are ways to ensure break-through workouts don't lead to breakouts.

Nicole Ayala and Christine Rivera, aestheticians at SpaPointe & Hair Studio in Munster, a part of Community Healthcare System, note that working out is beneficial to our skin.

“Regular exercise is key to healthy-looking skin. Exercise increases circulation and blood flow to your skin just like it does to your heart and lungs, keeping your skin vibrant and glowing,” Rivera said, adding that cardiorespiratory exercise helps flush toxins from the body.

“Exercise increases blood flow, which helps feed and replenish our skin. Blood carries (oxygen) and nutrients to our working cells, which then stimulate collagen and elastin, the skin’s ‘building blocks,’ ” Ayala said.

While an elevated heart rate benefits skin health, overheating and sweating can worsen conditions such as eczema or rosacea, Rivera said.

Shimley said heat has also played a major role in what her skin has gone through as a CrossFit coach of five years.

“When it's hot and you add in working out, there's so much more sweat involved. So obviously, the summertime is a lot harder on the skin, (with) breakouts and things like that,” Shimley said.

When working out in the heat or outdoors in the summer, Rivera said, skin can become mildly to severely dehydrated. She said it is key to have a water bottle to rehydrate on the go.

Ayala and Rivera recommend removing makeup, cleansing and using a lightweight moisturizer before working out. 

“Sweating while wearing makeup can be bad for your skin, causing it to clog with bacteria,” Rivera said.

By its very nature, a gym harbors bacteria with surfaces highly trafficked by perspiring participants.

Ayala said machines, weights, stair railings and exercise equipment can be particular havens for germs and bacteria that can easily spread to skin.

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“Everyone is sweating and producing oils, which cause bacteria, so make sure you clean off your machine with wipes and use hand sanitizer before touching your face,” Ayala said.

Shimley said despite regular cleaning at CrossFit, her hands get dirty from the persistent activity. CrossFit athletes use pull-up bars and barbells, which can stress the skin and cause calluses.

“I would say a lot of people do a lot of preventive care when it comes to their hands as far as like putting tape on or using gloves to hop up on a bar, just so there isn't so much pressure between your skin and the steel bar,” Shimley said.

Those new to CrossFit may damage their skin a bit more than their experienced peers, but Shimley said this is normal. She said developing calluses is natural and helps maintain healthy hands.

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“Moisturizing your hands after washing and wearing weight-lifting gloves in the gym can also help to reduce the incidence or severity of callused hands,” Rivera said.

A paraffin dip or a good hand exfoliator are sound callus-control options too, she said.

Proper nutrition is another key to keeping skin healthy. Great foods to nourish one’s skin include anything with antioxidants, Rivera said, as well as foods rich in vitamin C and biotin.

Carrots, tomatoes, leafy greens (such as spinach), salmon, and oranges are some antioxidant-rich foods helpful fight free radicals, she said.

“Antioxidants protect your skin from free radicals. Free radicals are environmentally damaging components. In Northwest Indiana, we are surrounded by pollution and chemicals from industries, such as the steel mills,” Rivera said.

“I know for me personally too it comes down to a lot of my diet," Shimley said. "If I am eating very clean, which is what we always try to encourage people here (at Top Fuel Valparaiso) to do, my skin just feels and looks better."

Shimley suggests a natural, clean approach to topical skin products. She makes sure hers are free of parabens and harsh chemicals.

Ultimately, she said that everyone must discover their own recipe for healthy skin.

“As far as skin care, it really just comes down to finding what works best for you,” Shimley said.

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