The health benefits of exercise are well known. It is not surprising that exercise improves your heart and lungs, but did you know that exercise could also help your skin. Here is a list covering the newest research on 5 surprising benefits of exercise for your skin
1) Exercise may improve acne
There is an often-shared myth that sweat from exercise causes acne. Multiple studies show that this is not the case. In one study they evaluated body acne in three groups. One group exercised 5 days per week and showered 1 hour after exercising, one group exercised 5 days per week and showered 4 hours after exercising, and one group did not exercise at all. At the end of two weeks they found no difference in body acne between the three groups. This study shatters the myth that sweat from exercise causes acne
In fact, exercise may in fact improve acne. In one study, women with abnormally high male hormones (also known as androgens) had lower androgen levels after regular exercise. Androgens are one of the many causes of hormonal acne in women.
These studies suggest that exercise certainly won’t hurt acne and may, in fact, make acne better.
2) Exercise decreases the risk of skin cancer
We are now learning that exercise reduces the risk of all types of cancer in fact, it may reduce your risk of skin cancer. In a recent animal study, mice that exercised had fewer skin cancers after 14 weeks when compared to controls that did not exercise. Researchers think that there is a link between excess fat and tumor growth, which could explain these interesting results. So please don’t use the sun as an excuse not to exercise. Instead exercise in the early morning or evening and, of course, wear sunscreen.
3) Exercise helps prevent psoriasis
In a recent study from Harvard School of Medicine, women who participated in vigorous exercise reduced their risk of developing psoriasis by 25-30 percent. This may be due to two well-known benefits of exercise, reduced inflammation and reduced stress. Inflammation is a major factor in psoriasis and, of course, stress makes all skin diseases, like psoriasis, worse. So if you have psoriasis or a family history of psoriasis, make sure you are exercising regularly.
4) Exercise helps prevent and treat varicose veins
Exercise is one of the most important and frequently overlooked treatments for people with varicose veins. This is because low impact exercise such as walking improves the muscle tone in the calves. Good muscle tone in this area helps to support the veins and improve blood flow back to the heart. Keep in mind, not all types of exercise are good for varicose veins. High impact exercises, such as running, may make them worse. However, low impact exercises along with compression stockings are simple interventions to improve circulation in people with varicose veins.
5) Exercise may help your skin look younger
There are many reasons why exercise can make you look younger. First, we all know topical antioxidants are important to prevent aging in our skin, but did you know that exercise increases antioxidant activity in our whole body! In one study, researchers found increased antioxidant activity in the blood of people immediately after exercising. Antioxidants prevent wrinkles and other signs of aging by combating damage to DNA and other vital structures in our skin cells.
Another often forgotten benefit of exercise is that it improves sleep. In one study, people who exercised over 20 minutes per day had 65% better sleep quality. We all know that a rested face is a youthful face, so exercise really helps our skin in that aspect.
Keep in mind that exercise also reduces stress and rapid weight fluctuations, which are other common causes of dull, tired, and sagging skin.
So there you have it, 5 absolutely indisputable reasons to start exercising. Your body AND SKIN will thank you for it!
I have written blogs before on acne and diet in the past, and now we have a new study that was just presented at this year’s American Academy of Dermatology meeting.
For years dermatologists have told their patients that diet and, specifically, chocolate did not cause acne. This was actually based on a very old study from 1969 where participants were fed a milk chocolate candy bar or a candy bar without milk chocolate. In this original study there was no difference in acne between the two groups.
Now a new study challenges these findings. In this new study, 10 adult male volunteers were invited to eat up to 12 oz. of Ghirardelli unsweetened, 100%-cacao chocolate at a single sitting. They then returned for follow up visits four and seven days after eating the chocolate. The researchers counted pimples at baseline and at the two follow up visits. The average number of pimples increased from 2.7 at baseline to 13.4 on day 4, and 18.2 on day 7. The researchers also noticed that the more chocolate that a participant ate, the more pimples he developed. So based on this small study, it appears that there may be some evidence to support a link between chocolate and acne. Of course there needs to be more research on this hot topic. I am sure there won’t be a shortage of volunteers…who wouldn’t sign up to get paid to eat chocolate?!
Based on all of the new research coming out linking diet and acne, I do think that diet clearly plays a role. Research shows that diets rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables are associated with less acne and less wrinkles. So a healthy diet certainly won’t hurt and may help your skin. However, hormones and many other factors play a role in acne so changes in diet alone won’t clear up most cases. See a dermatologist if you have acne that does not improve with over-the-counter treatments AND maintain a healthy diet for the best results.
This myth really bothers me because it implies that people with acne have poor hygiene and just need to “wash better”. Well the truth is acne has nothing to do with how frequently you wash your face. Basically we get acne because the lining of our pores gets sticky. The skin cells that are normally naturally shed out of the pores build up and clog the pores. We are not sure why the lining of the pores get sticky but we do think hormones definitely play a role. Washing the face with regular cleansers does not clean out the pores or make the lining less sticky. Only acne medicines can do that! Once the pore is clogged, oil and bacteria build up inside of the pore, which leads to a pimple. If the pimple gets really large or inflamed then it can turn into a cyst. Once you understand this whole process, you can see that acne has nothing to do hygiene. Treating acne focuses first on making the lining of the pore less sticky. Retinoids like RetinA, Differin, and Tazorac do that. Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide can also help with this. Benzoyl peroxide kills bacteria. Antibiotics kill bacteria and also decrease inflammation. Therefore when we treat acne we typically use one or more of these different treatments to achieve improvement. Washing the face more frequently does not make acne better and in some cases can irritate and make acne worse. Washing twice daily with a medicated wash is more than sufficient to keep the skin clean and to treat acne. This, in addition to good acne regimen, is the best approach to achieve even clear skin.
Myth #2: Fried foods and greasy foods like pizza cause acne.
This is a tough one to answer because it is a little complicated, but here we go… Until recently, it was not believed that diet had any relation to acne. But recent studies looking at diet have suggested that milk and high glycemic diets may be associated with acne. In one study, high milk consumption was associated with higher rates of acne. The reason for this is unclear but excessive milk consumption appears to contribute to acne.
High glycemic diets are diets high in simple sugars. Every food has a glycemic index. Foods with a high glycemic index cause a rapid and high peak in insulin when that food is consumed. Processed foods high in simple sugars, potatoes, and candy have high glycemic indexes. High fiber foods like whole grains and vegetables cause a more gradual peak in insulin and are therefore have a low glycemic index.
Studies show that people in countries with diets rich in whole grains and vegetables (low glycemic diets) have lower rates on acne. When these individuals move to countries with diets rich in simple sugars and processed foods, acne increases. So just like I mentioned in my previous blog on chocolate and acne, stick to a diet rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables if you have acne. You may not only see an improvement in your acne but you will get all of the other health benefits too.
Acne is the most common skin condition that dermatologists see. Patients frequently ask me about common acne myths and I wanted to take some time over the next few blogs to discuss these.
Myth #1: Chocolate causes acne
This is a very interesting myth because a study has actually been done on this topic. I know what you’re thinking–sign me up! In the study they actually made the participants eat chocolate daily to see if they got more pimples. The good news is that they didn’t get more pimples. So chocolate does not cause acne. But does eating sugary food like chocolate cause acne? The answer to that question is more complicated. But the short answer is that it does appear that diets that high in sugary foods may be linked to acne. So if you have acne, a diet rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables may help. This gives us one more reason eat a healthy well balanced diet.