I have been practicing yoga regularly for over five years and feel that it has been essential in promoting feelings of wellness and balance. That’s the beauty within. But in addition, yoga affects beauty on the outside, too—it helps you attain and maintain healthy, radiant skin.
Our skin reflects our overall health and how our organs are functioning internally, so consider yoga as a means to achieve healthy skin from the inside out. Needless to say, yoga plays a big role in an individual’s overall lifestyle to achieve better health, and thus healthier skin!
How does your yoga practice directly improve your skin health? The easiest answer is good blood circulation; we know that yoga increases circulation, and increased blood flow promotes glowing skin.
As a medical practitioner, I believe that twisting is another way to stimulate the body in a skin-positive way. Yoga poses with twisting reach our visceral system by applying gentle wringing pressure to our internal organs. Twisting affects our digestive tract and hastens the release of toxins from our body.
For example, revolved triangle pose actively twists the body at the midsection, increasing the “squeezing” sensation in our stomach. If you could imagine the stimulating effect of contracting and releasing, the stomach and intestines are compressed in a way that aids the movement and release of excess gas and toxins. Supporting our body’s natural detox process through yoga can also help rid the body of unwanted agents that can dull the skin and cause problems such as acne and aging.
Of course, with or without yoga, the body is always detoxing, by way of our lungs, kidneys, liver, and digestive system. With that said, any form of physical activity stimulates our organs, regulates the elimination cycle, and aids your overall health. Consider yoga poses as a gentle boost to your body’s regulatory system, rather than a turbo effect on the detox process.
But let’s talk about one major skin foe that yoga clearly affects—stress. By now it’s no mystery that stress takes a toll on your skin. Stress is linked to a wide range of skin problems from itching and eczema, to psoriasis and acne. In the case of inflammatory skin conditions such as rosacea and acne, research linking stress and the nervous system have shown that stress make these conditions worse. Stress also accelerates the aging process within our cells. Studies have shown that yoga improves anxiety, stress, quality of life and sleep quality. Yoga can therefore help us reduce our stress levels to reduce its impact on our skin. We can hope to see less breakouts, appear more rested, and slow down the aging process and premature wrinkling.
Now let’s turn the tables and consider how yoga can adversely affect the skin. What are some skin problems we may see if we regularly practice yoga? In my practice, I see many active people who participate in yoga and other forms of exercise who break out with pimples on their face, neck, back and chest. Acne is common even as adults. I typically recommend using products in the shower such as Neutrogena acne wash with salicylic acid or Panoxyl 10% benzoyl peroxide wash. Leave the wash on for a few minutes before rinsing off.
If necessary, I may prescribe a topical antibiotic. For a more organic solution, try tea tree oil. I also recommend taking a shower soon after exercise and incorporating a regular routine of cleansing and moisturizing twice a day, in addition to using sunscreen daily. Don’t skip moisturizing just because you’re breaking out; just as in life, your skin needs balance. The moisture you lose during exercise needs to be replenished, even if you’re using acne products. For acne prone skin, I recommend Neutrogena Hydro Boost water gel and CeraVe AM or PM facial moisturizer.
Let me reemphasize the importance of using sunscreen! My favorite for acne prone skin is EltaMD’s UV Clear SPF 46, which comes in both non-tinted and tinted formulations.
While moisturizing from the outside is important, hydrating from within is just as crucial for skin health. As with all strenuous exercise, practicing yoga (especially the hot formats) depletes your body of essential hydration and nutrients. In a typical hot yoga class, you can expect to lose about 1.5 cups of water in sweat. Aim to replenish at least four times that amount after class, not to mention being hydrated before class. Water loss accelerates skin aging and can worsen acne, so make rehydrating a priority throughout your practice.
With the freedom of yoga on our bare feet and hands—in an often warm and humid environment (not to mention wet floors and yoga mats)—comes exposure to various forms of fungal infections. Ew, right? But don’t despair. If you suspect a fungal infection, get diagnosed by a dermatologist and receive proper treatment. Tinea versicolor, otherwise known as haole rot, is commonly seen on the trunk as white, pink or light brown patches that are slightly scaly.
Contrary to popular belief, this skin condition is not contagious. An easy solution is to use Selsun Blue shampoo in the shower and leave on for a few minutes before rinsing off. If widespread, in my practice I prescribe an anti-fungal pill or cream.
Fungal infection of the feet is called tinea pedis or athlete’s foot and is also very common. Now this is friendly and loves company, so avoid sharing towels, slippers or shoes. I recommend treating with tea tree oil, diluted vinegar soaks or a topical anti-fungal cream or powder such as Zeasorb. Finally, keep your socks and footwear clean!
This is just a few of many discussions about yoga and your skin, ranging from benefits to problems. Feel free to schedule a consultation should you have any specific questions. Meanwhile, go get your yoga glow, stay hydrated, and Namaste.
Dr. Miki Garcia M.D.
Miki Garcia is a dermatologist in private practice specializing in all areas of dermatology including medical, surgical and cosmetic dermatology. She is married and has two sons. Outside of work she spends time with her family, exercising and of course yoga!