As athletes we generally take good care of our bodies. We strengthen our muscles, work on perfecting our form, and make sure that our major organs are in proper working order (eating right for proper digestion and training to keep our heart and lungs functioning at a high level). The one thing we tend to ignore is our biggest organ - our skin.
Is it because it's not as glamourous or satisfying to to care for it? Or because we tend to overlook what is right in front of us day after day?
Just as I advocate for a real food lifestyle, I also advocate for clean, less toxic skin and body care. I have high standards when it comes to these things. I want products that function like the conventional products that I'm used to, but that don't put my body (or my training) in danger. I've slowly transitioned to products that meet this criteria, but it's definitely a process and you shouldn't be intimidated by it.
Start by replacing a few products at a time. Use up what you have, then buy new, cleaner products. It will take some time to make the shift, but your body will thank you in the end!
Full Body Care
I live in a fairly dry climate (Alaska) where it's cold most of the year. Not only does this result in dry skin, but it also means that I spend a fair amount of time exercising in multiple layers of clothes which is an excellent recipe for chafing.
While I have yet to find a good way to prevent chafing (other than overall skin health and moisture wicking clothing), one of my favorite products to soothe chafed skin is doTERRA's CorrectX ointment. It helps soothe and protect irritated skin as well as providing a barrier that helps support and hydrate it while it is healing.
Some chafe prevention tips:
- Anti-chafe balm: I like 2Toms Sport Shield. This is is especially good for anywhere a wetsuit might rub and to put on your feet to prevent blisters. It comes in a towelette too which would be convenient for race day (wipe your feet down in T1 as your put on your socks and bike shoes).
- Seamless gear can save your life (or you butt) if you have sensitive skin. Something I experienced recently was chamois chafe in my tri shorts. I ordered a pair of Coeur tri shorts with a chamoi that goes all the way down the legs which solved the problem beautifully.
- Stop wearing your favorite cotton race shirt and stick to clothing that wicks. Wool is my favorite fabric for winter. In the summer I like UnderArmour heat gear.
One of my favorite things to do after a hard workout is rub my legs down with DeepBlue rub and a few drops of AromaTouch essential oil. This combo provides a soothing massage for my legs and helps to ease feelings of tension prevent soreness the next day. Massage releases oxytocin which can help lower stress levels. If you don't have time to get a full body massage, rubbing down areas of your body that you can easily reach can provide some of the same benefits!
A lot of us do a majority of our workouts outside. This can have some benefits and drawbacks. Soaking up Vitamin D is great for our overall health and mood, it can also lead to some undesired side effects such as sunburn.
Again, I live in Alaska and do not find myself concerned about sunburn very often. However, for folks living in places farther south than me, sunburn can be a concern. I always advocate for spending a little bit of time outside each day without sunscreen so you can make some vitamin D, but a multi-hour workout in the blazing sun is not the place to do that if it puts you at risk for a bad sunburn.
Sunscreen options that I like:
- SolRX - this stuff is great for swimming. It's ocean friendly, which I assume means it's relatively non-toxic for your skin, but I'll admit I've never checked. I got found it in Hawaii and at the time I was mostly concerned with something that would last a long time so I didn't have to reapply while racing.
- Beautycounter is another brand that I love, although I've not yet tried their sunscreen. I know several other people who have tried it and love it. And it's super safe for all skin types! They also have a sunscreen stick just for your face, easy to put on, doesn't sweat off into your eyes!
Athlete feet tend to be neglected, especially in the winter when they are constantly covered by cozy wool socks. I tend to not care how my feet look any time of year because flip flop season in Alaska is quite short, and I spend enough time running, etc. that they just end up looking gross again.
A good pair of socks is important. I love wool as a fabric for any time of year, and especially for socks. A few years ago I transitioned all of my socks to Darn Tough brand. I found that other brands of wool socks wore out quickly. Darn Tough has a lifetime guarantee, if your socks get holes in them, they will replace them for free. So, I have about 10 pairs that I wear all the time (two pairs for running) and I have yet to get a hole in them (I think the oldest pair is probably at least 3 years old). These are my favorite running socks.
Blisters are caused when the first layer of skin pulls away from the other layers and fills with fluid. This happens when a body part (most often feet for athletes) gets warm and swells a bit, then rubs against shoes or clothing. Moisture is an important component of blister development, not only is moist skin more blister prone, but also moisture can change the texture of socks and actually make them more likely to cause blisters.
So, what can help prevent blisters? Here are a few things:
- Use an anti-chafe balm on your feet.
- Powder in your shoes can help absorb moisture.
- Good wicking socks (wool is a good option even if you live in a warm climate).
- Shoes that fit properly so you don't get extra rub when your feet swell.
Most of us are probably pretty excited not to be teenagers with teenage skin problems. Taking care of your face before and after a workout is super important to keep those teenager skin problems from returning. Afterall, it's pretty hard to hide your face!
Washing your face before a workout might actually be more important than washing it after, especially if you wear makeup. When you sweat the pores on your face open up allowing anything on your face to get inside them. This action is further exacerbated by you wanting to wipe the sweat away and mashing all that dirt and makeup into your face further. So, wash your face before you workout, especially if you have acne prone skin.
A few game changes for me as far as skincare goes are the charcoal cleansing bar and charcoal face mask by Beautycounter and the HD Clear topical essential oil blend from doTERRA. I've always had acne prone skin, but when I switched to using these products the frequency of breakouts decreased to almost zero! I use the charcoal bar to wash my face every day and apply the mask 1-2 times per week. I use the HD Clear on trouble spots if/when they appear.
Another important thing to consider is that you skin likes to be slightly acidic and washing it generally turns it slightly basic. Using a toner can correct this. I prefer the #3 Balancing mist from Beautycounter or the Everything Spray from Primally Pure. This is an especially important step if you are washing your face a lot and have either dry or acne prone skin. Double workout days are always when my face feels the worst, so I've done a lot of experimenting as far what will keep my skin happy when it's been abused a bit (in the pool, shower, running outside in the wind and cold, shower...poor skin).
I'm not going to get into the science of why moisturizing is important (yes, even if you have acne prone skin), but the gist is that your skin is a barrier and if it's dry and cracks easily, it doesn't work very well as a barrier. Finding the right moisturizer for your needs can be tricky, especially since most of us have skin with changing needs throughout the year. My skin tends to be different during different times of year so finding one moisturizer that works 100% of the time is likely impossible.
Beautycounter has a huge collection of facial moisturizers that I love, if you have skin that tends to be very dry or extremely variable, the Countermatch collection is an excellent option. The #1 Brightening and the #3 Balancing face oils are my absolute favorite and I use them in varying combinations depending on my skin's needs. At night I use a combination of the #1 and #3 face oils or the #3 face oil and then the Nourishing Night Cream on top. So good, especially when my face is extremely dry and has that awful tight feeling after getting out of the pool.
If you have questions about what skincare products might work well for you, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me a bit about your skin! I'd love to help you figure out what will help your skin be happy, healthy, and glowing!
Now that you are armed with information, go forth and love your skin!