It’s happened to the best of us: You walk out of the gym, head to the coffee shop on a blissful endorphin-fueled high, and then, as you’re ordering your oat milk latte or green tea or whatever, you see your ex-boyfriend/girl crush/wannabe boss out of the corner of your eye and immediately regret the decision to not wash your beet-red face after sweating profusely for a full freakin’ hour.
Then, if you’re anything like me, you put your coat hood up and awkwardly avoid eye contact. Because my unwashed post-workout face — almost always the exact hue of a delicious summer tomato — is not a face I want anyone I know to lay eyes on.
But there’s a reason I (and probably you, too) don’t learn my lesson, no matter how many cringe-inducing coffee run-ins I have: Because the idea of having a locker-room skincare regimen seems laborious. After all, who wants to lug their entire medicine cabinet with them in their gym bag?
This is why we asked Joanna Kula, licensed esthetician at Philly’s Rescue Spa — the spot known for giving folks the kind of skin you want your ex-boyfriend/girl crush/wannabe boss to see you with — to spill her secrets for getting a quick, low-maintenance post-gym glow. (Bonus: She also shared her top don’ts.)
Below, Kula’s tips and tricks for perfecting your post-workout skincare routine, to prevent unwanted blemishes and unwanted beet-faced run-ins alike — without having to stuff your gym bag full of products.
If nothing else, keep micellar water in your gym bag.
In Kula’s own words, “This is a must-have in every gym bag.” Noted.
As she explains, “Micellar water is one of the best skincare innovations because it basically works like a magnet to attract makeup, oil and dirt. I like Bioderma’s SensiBio H2O Solution Micellaire for on-the-go cleansing. It doesn’t require rinsing and is easy to use. Just a few swipes with a cotton round and you’re done.”
And this may seem obvious, but if you’re prone to breakouts, Kula says you should avoid working out in makeup, because “heat, sweat and oil will create a breeding ground for bacteria.” Ick. So, she suggests washing your face with a non-foaming cleanser before hitting the gym, then using micellar water as an easy, can-use-anywhere cleanser substitute after your workout.
Throw away your face wipes. Yep, you heard her!
Face wipes are a lazy face-washer’s vice of choice, and I know this because I am a bonafide lazy face-washer. But after hearing what Kula has to say on the convenient gym-bag staple, I’m officially abstaining. She names using face wipes as the number one mistake people make in their post-workout skincare regimens.
“Face wipes aren’t effective because they don’t remove all traces of oil, sweat and dirt,” she says. Plus, “even the mildest formulas oftentimes still contain fragrance or irritating ingredients,” — not helpful when your skin is already the color of a tomato — “and they can be extremely drying.” No thanks.
If you’re prone to post-workout redness, know that cold water is your friend.
If the beet-red face I described above is all too familiar to you, work what Kula calls “cold therapy” into your locker-room routine.
“Cold therapy is the best thing because it helps to constrict the capillaries and reduce inflammation. Ice cubes work really well if you have access to them. You can also try soaking a towel in cold water and applying it as a compress to the face.” Beet-red cheeks, be gone!
If you’re really serious about keeping your skin looking fresh post-workout, adopt Kula’s easy four-step locker-room skincare routine.
If you want to be able to leave the gym feeling run-into-your-ex or run-into-work ready (read: not a hot mess), Kula has four simple steps to get you there.
1. The first step is to cleanse with the magical micellar water mentioned above or a non-foaming face cleanser, like Biologique Recherche Lait ViPO2 cleansing milk.
2. Next, you’re going to spray your face with a hydrating mist. I know, I know: This seems a bit indulgent, like something Kylie Jenner spends her days doing, but it’s worth it. As Kula says, the mist will “rebalance the skin’s pH level, soothe, and replenish electrolytes,” plus it will help to hydrate and cool your skin down after a sweat session. She likes the Tata Harper Hydrating Floral Essence or a simple pure rose water.
3. The next step is to apply a hyaluronic acid serum, like the Dr. Dennis Gross Hydrating Booster, which Kula says is like a nice, cold glass of water for your skin. “Hyaluronic acid is the best ingredient for restoring hydration levels because it binds to water and holds onto it.”
4. The final step in your locker-room routine is to apply a good tinted moisturizer with SPF. Kula’s top pick, the IT Cosmetics CC Cream (psst: They have a wallet-friendly travel size), is a triple-threat, acting as a moisturizer, a light-coverage foundation and SPF in one.
“Ingredients such as collagen, peptides and antioxidants will help to moisturize, nourish and protect the skin from free-radical damage, while the tint will give just enough coverage to counteract any post-workout redness,” she says.
And there you have it! Your esthetician-approved guide to leaving the gym feeling unafraid to, you know, run into other humans, without stuffing your gym bag silly with products.
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