Recently, I became a fan of hot yoga. Actually, to be more accurate, I recently became addicted to hot yoga. The stretching, the sweating, the fact that you’re burning an estimated 630 calories an hour - it all sums up to a painful, sweaty experience that somehow ends up in a proud state of bliss.
That having been said, I started to research what yoga does for the skin. Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly:
1.) Better Circulation = good
Yoga increases the circulation throughout the body, as proven in a 1993 study in which three yoga instructors were found to have an increase in mean body skin temperature after 3 months of practice (Physiological Changes, 1993). This results in increased oxygen delivery to the skin, resulting in a “glow” similar to that of pregnant women. The increased oxygen delivery also ensures that the skin’s keratinocytes and melanocytes are functioning more optimally than in a state of hypoxia (i.e., decreased oxygenation).
2.) May alleviate acne in some individuals = good.
It has also been suggested by some that yoga may alleviate acne in some individuals (Alternative and Complementary Therapies, 1996; Indian Journal of Dermatology, 1997). Acne is now known to be caused by a bacterium, P. acnes. However, yoga can help combat bacteria by improving cellular function (and hence defense), reduce inflammation-inducing cortisol release from the adrenal glands, and increase levels of the “relaxing” brain neurotransmitter GABA (Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2007). Altogether, these functions may cause the regular practice of yoga to reduce levels of acne over time.
3.) Hot yoga may make rosacea symptoms worse in some individuals = bad.
According to several case studies, including one from the July 2010 Journal of Family Practice, yoga may cause rosacea to become worse in some individuals. A disease of the skin characterized by persistent redness, flushing, papules, pustules, telangiectasias, irritation, or some combination therein, rosacea can be made worse by prolonged exposure to heat, as in bikram yoga.
While the rosacea exacerbation related to hot yoga practice is treatable with oral antibiotics (minocycline) and topical creams (sodium sulfacetamide/sulfur 10%/5% wash, azelaic acid 20%, and metronidazole 1% gel), it is advisable that patients with moderate to severe symptoms of rosacea avoid hot yoga altogether (Journal of Family Practice, 2010). Given the fact that 78% of patients with rosacea reported in a recent study to have better control of symptoms when avoiding external heat, spicy food, and UV light, this comes as no surprise, although it is probably something of a disappointment to those yogis suffering with rosacea.
4.) May make acne worse if you wear makeup and do not wash your face promptly afterwards = bad.
Like any other form of exercise, yoga causes the release of sweat and sebum, which in combination can clog the pores and create a bacteria-friendly environment. This is made even worse whenever you wear makeup to work out, as the evaporation of sweat is blocked altogether, leading directly to breakouts.
My best advice is to use a cleanser both before and after you workout, which permits proper evaporation of sweat from the skin and prevents sweat from permeating on the skin for too long. I like Sebamed Liquid Face and Body Wash (official website; $28.58, Amazon.com), which I find to be gentle enough to use before and after a workout. It is also mildly hydrating, so I don’t find it necessary to apply a moisturizer afterwards, leaving my skin more time to breathe.
Research shows that yoga is beneficial for your skin, so long as you wash your face before and after each workout and do not have rosacea. I’ll also say, on a more personal note, yoga helps me stay centered, more focused, and even a bit more relaxed throughout the day. I definitely am a fan!