Skincare Before and After Workout

Here are some easy-to-follow tips on how to take care of your skin pre- and post-workout.

November 18, 2021 6 minutes read
Woman exercising

In This Post

Should I wash my face before or after workouts? Do I need to reapply sunscreen after exercising? And what about the actives – Do I need a full-blown skincare routine both pre- and post-working out?

Long story short, it all depends on when you're working out (day or night), your skin type, and your general skincare habits. However, one is for certain – you don't need to go the whole nine yards more than once a day, regardless of when you're exercising. As far as the basics go – cleansing, moisturizing, and sunscreen – the things become a bit trickier.

So, to make things a bit easier on you and your workouts more enjoyable, follow these easy skincare routines for your a.m. or p.m workout sesh.

A.M. Workout: Skincare Before and After

If you're a fan of doing your training session first thing in the morning and keep your evenings for winding down with a Netflix show, here's what you need to focus on skincare-wise:

Before-Workout Skincare - Step-by-Step

woman using a cleanser

#1: Cleansing

If you have oily skin prone to acne, it would be best to cleanse your face before sweating. Even though you don't have any makeup on when you wake up, the oils, bacteria, and skincare residue that piled up overnight will mix up with sweat from your workout and potentially lead to clogged pores and breakouts.

However, be mindful not to use harsh soaps and aggressive cleansers, but rather go for those formulated for dry skin, as you'll likely have to repeat this step post-workout. On the other hand, If you have predominantly dry skin, you can skip pre-workout cleansing altogether.

#2: Moisturizing

After you've cleansed your skin, apply a lightweight moisturizer. It will allow your skin to breathe while, at the same time, help your skin stay hydrated throughout the workout. Even if you've skipped cleansing due to your skin being dry, you should still apply a lightweight moisturizer to prevent transepidermal water loss during workout, especially if you live (and exercise) in a dry and warm climate.

#3: Sunscreen

This step should be your skincare staple if you're working out during the day. Apply your sunscreen about twenty minutes before starting and try to choose water-resistant formulas, so you don't have to reapply it mid-workout.

After-Workout Skincare - Step-by-Step

#1: Take a Shower

After finishing exercising, take a shower as soon as you can and change your sweaty clothes. Sweat can be very irritating to the skin and aggravate acne. Hence, a full-body wash is a must, especially after high-intensity workouts. Also, if your skin breaks out easily, using a body wash with benzoyl peroxide might do you good, as it will eliminate acne-causing bacteria. Then follow up with a hydrating and moisturizing body lotion.

If you don't have access to showers, at least make sure to wash your hands and rinse the sweat off your face with water.

#2: Cleanse Your Face

Wash your face right after exercising (if you haven't done it while showering). This is especially important if you have oily skin. Do your post-workout cleanse with a face wash containing benzoyl peroxide if you suffer from acne. On the other hand, use more gentle cleansers if your skin is dry.

#3: Continue With Toner and Serum

After cleansing, you can apply your toner and then your serum. Choose hydrating and soothing toners with ingredients like hyaluronic acid, chamomile, niacinamide, licorice root, green tea, or Centella Asiatica. These will hydrate your skin and calm any irritation from sweating.

Likewise, you may benefit from serums with antioxidants like vitamin C, for example. Applying vitamin C during the day will shield your skin from pollutants and UV rays. However, if you've used a cleanser with benzoyl peroxide previously, avoid using vitamin C since these two ingredients together can cause irritation, and therefore, shouldn't be mixed.

#4: Moisturizer

Use your regular moisturizer. Choose lighter formulas during summer and richer and creamier formulas during winter.

#5: Reapply Sunscreen

Since it's still daytime, you should apply your sunscreen again. Remember that you should wear your sunscreen throughout the year, regardless of the seasons. The harmful UV rays are present year-round, and even though it might not feel like it, they are just as strong during winter as they are during summer.

P.M. Workout: Skincare Before and After

If you're a night owl and prefer to exercise in the evening after you've finished with work and other obligations during the day, here are some pointers for your pre-and post-workout skincare:

Before-Workout Skincare - Step-by-Step

#1: Double Cleanse

Makeup mixed with dirt, sunscreen, and sweat is a recipe for acne flare-ups. Layers of primers, foundation, concealer, and setting powder are pretty heavy on the skin by themselves and can lead to clogged pores and inflammation. So try to do your training sessions without your makeup on.

Therefore, start by removing your makeup first with a double cleanse. First, dissolve all the makeup and dirt with an oil-based cleanser or balm, or use micellar water, whatever works best for you. And then, cleanse your skin with your regular gentle cleanser.

On the other hand, if you don't have problems with acne, you might be totally fine working out with your makeup on. So, it's all up to you and what you think your skin can handle.

#2: Moisturizer

If you do go for a double cleanse, follow up with a moisturizer. Just like in the skincare routine for your a.m. workout, use lightweight moisturizers in the form of gels or fluids to unburden your skin and prevent clogged pores.

After-Workout Skincare - Step-by-Step

woman applying a face toner

#1: Wash Your Hands, Body, and Face

If you're working out at the gym, make sure to wash your hands before touching your face since gym equipment is usually full of bacteria. Then continue with a shower and face cleansing to wash off all the sweat and prepare your skin for the following skincare routine steps.

#2: Toner, Serum, Essence

After cleansing, follow up with your toner, serum, and everything else you're usually using.

#2: Apply Your Treatments

Since it's already evening and if you're planning to stay at home, you can go on with your spot treatment (if you have acne) and anti-aging routine.

#3: Moisturizer or Night Cream

Seal the deal with a nourishing moisturizer. Or, if it's really late and you're planning to go to bed soon after, you can apply your night cream or mask.

All the Steps In-Between

woman taking a break during a training session

So, now that we covered all the skincare basics before and after workout, the question is – How to take care of your skin and prevent breakouts while working out?

Here are a few things to always keep in mind:

#1: Choose the Right Towel

For starters, avoid using the towels offered by the fitness center and always bring your own. This is the only way to make sure it's properly washed. In addition, your gym might use some detergents or fabric softeners you're allergic to.

Speaking of fabric softeners, it's best not to use them on the towels you use for training because they reduce their absorption power. Also, it would help if you chose a towel that is not too thick or plush since bacteria is more likely to hold onto its fibers even through a washing cycle. Ideally, you'd want a classic cotton terry fitness towel without any details on it (bacteria and dirt can easily get stuck in all the folds and nooks). However, the most important thing is to wash your towel after each use and always use a freshly cleaned towel.

#2: Keep Your Hair Back

Sometimes, your hair care habits may contribute to acne. To keep your skin healthy and acne-free, keep your hair off your face while exercising. This way, you'll prevent sweat, oils, and styling products that are on your hair from getting onto your face, potentially leading to clogged pores and breakouts.

#3: Drink Enough Water

During your sweating sessions, it's essential to sip water throughout and make sure your body stays hydrated. Drinking water during exercise will replenish the fluids you lost through sweating, maintain your performance level, and keep your body and skin healthy.

#4: Try Not to Touch Your Face

Gyms and fitness centers are breeding grounds for bacteria since there are traces of other people's sweat everywhere – so keep your fingers away from your face while at the gym. This is especially important for all of you who exercise on equipment and with props that others frequently use.

We know this is easier said than done, but trust, this will save you a lot of trouble in the long run. All in all, try your best not to touch your face during exercising, and as soon as you finish, wash your hands and clean your face thoroughly.


Regular physical activity has many benefits for our overall health, and therefore, it greatly impacts the health and look of our skin. With proper skincare before and after workout (and all the other little things in-between), you'll make sure your skin is always hydrated, clean, and acne-free post-workout.


Can I do skincare before workout?

It will depend on your skin type. If you have dry skin, you can cleanse your face and do your skincare after workout. If you have oily skin, you should remove your makeup, cleanse and moisturize your skin before workout, to prevent sweat and dirt buildup that can clog your pores.

What should apply on face before workout?

If you're exercising during the day, you should cleanse your face and apply your moisturizer and sunscreen before your workout. If you exercise in the evenings, cleansing and moisturizing are enough.

Should you wash your face before or after working out?

If you have problems with acne, you should wash your face both before and after workout. If your skin is dry, you can skin the pre-workout cleansing, and do it right after your training session instead.

Should I moisturize before workout?

Yes, particularly if you already have dry skin. In addition, you lose water through sweat, leading to dehydrated skin potentially. So, you should apply your moisturizer before workout to keep your skin hydrated.

How do I prevent acne after working out?

To prevent post-workout acne, make sure to cleanse your face both before and after workout and apply your moisturizer (plus sunscreen during the day). After your workouts, you can use cleansers containing benzoyl peroxide to kill all the acne-causing bacteria.

...Liked what you read?