Skin Care Tips for Athletes: How to Protect and Maintain Healthy Skin
While we all should take care of our skin on a daily basis, athletes especially must take a proactive approach to skin care. Professional athletes and student athletes alike should take measures to avoid various skin conditions, especially those that they may contract from others. Understanding general skin care tips for athletes can help them prevent problems while allowing them to maintain soft, hydrated, healthy skin.
General Skin Care Tips for Athletes
Skin infections can be transmitted from one athlete to another directly through skin-to-skin contact or indirectly through contaminated objects such as towels, mats, and equipment.
Although there are many different types of skin infections that may be related to sports participation, symptoms commonly include lesions, blisters, or sores. An athlete who develops any of these symptoms should refrain from training and competition until he or she can be evaluated by a doctor.
Skin infections and conditions commonly seen in athletes include warts, molluscum contagiosum, herpes simplex virus, scalp infections, nail infections, tinea cruris (jock itch), and tinea pedis (athlete’s foot).
Whether they play on the sand in the sun or on the field in the snow, the following general skin care tips apply to most athletes.
General skin care tips for athletes include keeping sports and exercise equipment clean.
- Shower as soon as possible after participating in sports or games.
- After the shower, gently dab your skin with a towel, and then apply moisturizer while your skin is still moist.
- Avoid harsh soaps that contain perfumes, dyes, and a large amount of chemicals.
- Unless you’re told otherwise by a dermatologist or other health care professional, avoid hot showers, as the hot water can dry your skin. Take lukewarm showers instead.
- Use UVA/UVB protection sunscreen daily, even in the winter. Wear sun-protection sunglasses as well. This is especially important for athletes who play outdoor sports, including football, baseball, volleyball, and track. Individuals who enjoy outdoor recreation as a hobby should follow this advice as well, such as those who spend time camping, hiking, canoeing, swimming, and bicycling.
- Clean equipment prior to and after each use, including exercise equipment and shared sports gear.
- Wear clean, dry clothing to every practice and game.
- Use shower shoes in the locker room.
- Do not share towels, soaps, razors, or other items that come in contact with bare skin.
Wrestling and Skin Care
Due to the nature of the sport, wrestlers have specific issues they should watch out for. Of particular interest for wrestlers is ringworm, impetigo/staph aureus, herpes gladiatorum, and MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). Following are a few tips wrestlers should keep in mind.
- Pads, headgear, and shoes should be cleaned regularly.
- Wrestling mats should be washed at least before every practice.
- Do not wear street shoes on a wrestling mat. Wipe any shoes before stepping on the mat.
- Avoid physical contact with athletes with known skin conditions that can be transmitted from person to person.
- Skin conditions should be evaluated by an athletic trainer, coach, or health care professional. Merely covering infectious, contagious or draining lesions is not enough.
- Abrasions, cuts, and open sores should be cleaned and covered with the proper dressing.
- Consider wearing knee pads, elbow pads, and lycra-style long-sleeved shirts/tights during practice to reduce skin abrasions and skin contact.
A free skin infection webinar is available through the National Wrestling Coaches Association.
Swimming and Skin Care
Chlorine and other pool chemicals can be hard on your hair and skin, but the following tips may help.
- Wear a swim cap.
- Rinse hair immediately after swimming.
- After rinsing your hair, wash your hair with a specially formulated swimmers’ shampoo and follow with a deep conditioner.
- Because pool chemicals can dry your skin, taking a hot shower afterward may worsen this effect. Instead, rinse off quickly in lukewarm or cool water, and opt for a mild, oil-based soap or soap substitute. Apply an oil-based protective emollient immediately after patting dry with a clean towel.
Preventing Athlete’s Foot
Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection that most people get from walking barefoot in moist public places, like a swimming pool deck or locker room. Because this fungus thrives in warm, moist areas, wearing sweaty shoes is a common cause of athlete’s foot as well.
The condition is characterized by flaky skin, cracking, and itchiness on the soles of the feet and between the toes. To protect yourself, dermatologists recommend the following precautions.
- Wear shower shoes, flip-flops, or sandals when walking around pools, gyms, showers, and hotel rooms.
- Keep your feet dry, such as by wearing sandals when it’s hot outside. You should also avoid plastic or rubber shoes, which are likely to cause sweating.
- Wash your feet every day with soap and completely dry them after washing.
- Wear socks made of natural fabrics or fabrics that dry quickly.
- Change your socks every day or as necessary when your socks get wet.
- Alternate the shoes you wear each day to air them out.
- If you know someone has athlete’s foot, don’t share towels, linens, or shoes with him or her.
These basic skin care tips for athletes are generalizations for educational purposes only. There are many other conditions athletes should be aware of. At the same time, a skin condition you may be experiencing could be something other than a sports- or sweat-related issue. It’s important to see a dermatologist to fully evaluate any growths or other skin care concerns.