Damage control

There is no point in developing a great athletic-looking body if you neglect your skin, writes Gary Kwok

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 April, 2013, 3:24pm

Working out and getting in shape is a never-ending quest for men, but a sweaty gym session can come with some unforeseen side effects: pimples, dry skin and blackheads, to name a few. Exercise also induces the formation of free radicals, which over time can damage the skin's cellular integrity, resulting in premature skin ageing.

"Whether you're a professional sports star or just a weekend warrior, there's no point in developing a great athletic-looking body if you ignore taking care of your skin, which is the first thing people look at," says Clare Matthews, director and co-founder of Australian men's grooming brand VitaMan. "Even the world's best bodybuilders can come unstuck when posing if they have bad acne, aged skin or wrinkles. So it makes sense that attention is given to looking after your skin equally as much as your fitness, physique and health."

In response to rising demand, VitaMan is one of several brands that has developed sports-related product lines. British spa chain Champneys offers a complete collection of Sports Therapy items, ranging from an Intensive Moisture Balm to a Muscle Rehab Bath Soak. American skincare brand Jack Black, which features a pain-relieving cream and wound gel, has even enlisted NFL quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to promote its shaving and cleansing products.

Dermatologist and founder of Skin Clinic of New York and New Jersey Dr Chang Bae Son says men in general are now more willing to spend time taking care of their skin. "Due to a recent cultural emphasis in beauty and grooming with a focus on skin, investing in skincare and having good skin is no longer a social 'taboo', but rather a desirable asset for modern men," he says. " More common issues in men are excessive sebum production [oily skin], general and uneven thickening of skin, and dyschromia [uneven skin tone]."

Adding to these issues, says Ting Chiu, brand director for Olay Hong Kong and Taiwan, is the fact that men's skin dries more easily. "Men's skin has slower absorption and a weaker ability to retain moisture," he says. "It becomes rough and dry , and working out will increase the likelihood of developing problems."

So what's an athlete to do? Matthews suggests applying VitaMan's Desert Muscle Rub before working out to prevent any possible muscle tears. The black mountain pepper helps increase circulation, while wattle seed resin is useful for pain relief.

A moisturiser, such as Olay Men Refreshing Energy Balancing Gel or Giorgio Armani's new Perfect Master soothing and anti-ageing cream, can also be applied pre-workout to maintain the balance of oil in the skin.

Skin infection is a common problem at most gyms, with often-sweaty clients sharing machines and dumbbells. After a workout, Matthews says it is important to remove the build-up of sweat, grime and dirt to prevent formation of acne and blackheads.

VitaMan's Anti-bacterial Face & Body Wash and Exfoliating Body Soap, which is especially popular among bodybuilders, contains natural plant extracts such as aloe, grass lily and blue cypress oil to nourish the skin and prevent flakiness. Other options include ClarinsMen's Shower Scrub with microbeads for exfoliation and salicylic acid for deep cleansing, and Kyoku for Men's Earth Body Scrub with moisturising jojoba beads.

With summer around the corner, a lot of active men will be partaking in more outdoor activities. Research shows that men spend 40 per cent more time in the sun than women, and Matthews warns that long-term exposure to ultraviolet rays threatens skin health.

"It results in skin dehydration, redness, heat, skin damage caused by the sun's free radicals, speeding up of skin cellular ageing and possible skin cancer," she says. "You often see the results in athletes as their skin ages a lot quicker throughout their life than other men's." A study by international skincare brand SK-II also shows that the level of glycation in men's skin is significantly higher than that of women's, resulting in diminished skin elasticity and yellowing of skin tones. That being said, sun protection is essential to any outdoor activity.

SK-II's Men UV Protect Moisturizer features an enhanced moisturising formula that aims to brighten skin while its Facial Treatment Essence revitalises the skin and reduces the effects of environmental damage. Sulwhasoo's Sun Cream for Men offers SPF 50 PA+++ protection with herbal extracts to enhance skin texture and guard against external aggressors. Targeted specifically at sports enthusiasts, Ultrasun's High 50 SPF Sports Clear Spray Formula provides all-day protection in a light, sweat-resistant formula.

Few understand the risk of sunburn better than a swimmer who spends hours training in the pool or open waters. Former Olympic swimmer Michael Klim started his skincare company Milk & Co in Australia in 2008, after he retired from professional swimming in 2007. "Australia's climate is pretty harsh, that coupled with my hours in the pool, made looking after my skin tough. I couldn't find a product that was right for me, so I made my own," he says.

The brand's product offerings include a Dry Touch SPF 30+ Sunscreen for the body and a Face Moisturiser + Sunscreen SPF 15 with marine-based ingredients that are rich in vitamin A, B and E. Despite the plethora of products for use before, during and after sports, Matthews advises caution when it comes to certain ingredients, such as alcohol and aluminium. "Don't use skincare containing harsh synthetic chemicals, such as artificial fragrances or colours, as they are a major cause of 90 per cent of all men's skin allergies and problems," she says.