The Major Skin Care Mistake You're Making at the Gym

A Portland skin-care veteran wants to school you—and change your face forever.

By Allison Jones June 2, 2015

If Portland has a skin care guru, it's Sharon Dzialo of Dzialo Skin Care. From her cozy studio on NW 23rd, Dzialo has spent the past three decades watching the city change around her, crafting her radically different approach to facials and everyday skin habits—and if her rabid fanbase has anything to say about it, she's on to something great. While the rest of the skin care world pushes fruit acid peels, gritty exfoliants, lasers, and drying cleansers, Dzialo's skin gospel is simple but revolutionary: Never rub the skin on your face. According to Dzialo, friction and heat are some of the major causes of acne, rosacea, and early aging—and they can be avoided.

Her unique method prescribes keeping your face out of the stream of hot showers, avoiding facial products that use exfoliants or require rubbing, patting on creams instead of rubbing in, and—if your skin is irritated—reducing lifestyle habits that lead to heat and friction of the skin. One place that most people encourage the most friction and heat? The sweaty, sweaty world of the gym.

"Working out creates heat in the skin," explains Dzialo. "Your body warms up and the capillaries dilate to attempt to release the heat and, for most of us, your sweat glands are activated to cool you. A common myth is that sweat will clog our pores. Not so! Sweat is not the culprit for the clogging we know as blackheads or whiteheads—sweat is 98% water and 2% salt and is designed to cool you when you are hot—it doesn't clog our pores! The sweat will evaporate and the salts fall off. It does make sense to me, though, that if you are hot, the other elements of your skin such as the sebaceous glands (commonly called oil glands) will also be more active."

"Obviously, sweat running down your face is annoying and we want to get rid of it," acknowledges Dzialo. But most people will rub the sweat away with a towel, the back of your hand, or with a sleeve of a t-shirt—and according to Dzialo, this rubbing creates problems. "When you are rubbing away the sweat, you are sending the message 'friction!' to the brain. The brain's job is to keep your epidermis healthy and strong and it will read that message of friction as potential damage or irritation. Repetitive friction on the skin will, over time, create defensive responses by the brain, such as, increased callous (thickened layers of skin) and redness (increased blood flow) and increased sebum in the pore."

What does that mean for gym-goers in search of clear skin? That constant rubbing off of your sweat can contribute to elevated redness and the blocking of the sebaceous pores—and can ultimately may lead to infection and acne.

Dzialo's advice is simple: Avoid all rubbing, take a towel, and gently pat the sweat off the skin.

Cold compresses can also be your ally. "A cool compress helps to bring your skin’s temperature down and reduce redness more quickly. This can be done while you are working out as well as at the end of your workout. This is imperative for people with Rosacea and acne. Working out is a wonderful thing for the health of our bodies, but it does not generate the calm even skin tone we all want."

The botton line? Train your skin as well as your muscles. "Be gentle with your skin and talk to your brain with kindness by minimizing heat and friction for a more beautiful, calm complexion," explains Dzialo. For more information on the Dzialo skin care method, visit her website or book a facial for the full scientific skin 411—your skin will thank you.
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