Symptoms: Skin-colored bumps, usually on the heels or balls of feet; may feel rough to the touch; may have black dots at their center. May or may not be painful.
Triggers: Because they’re on the bottom of the foot, exercise can exacerbate pain.
Treatment options: Over-the-counter products that contain salicylic acid, either in liquid formulation or through bandages. Dermatologists can freeze warts off with liquid nitrogen, remove them with a laser, inject medications into them or apply topical products to stimulate the immune system.
Other ways to overcome: Always wear shoes in the gym and flip-flops in the locker room. If necessary, put a corn pad around the wart to minimize pressure while exercising, and do non-weight-bearing activity until it feels better. To prevent further infection, moisturize your feet to keep skin healed and sealed.
Symptoms: Dry, red, itchy patches, which may bubble and ooze. In adults, they usually occur on the face, neck, and insides of the elbows, knees, and ankles.
Triggers: Sweating can worsen eczema. Sports like hockey, lacrosse and soccer, where protective gear rubs against the skin, also can be irritating. So, too, can broken-down elastic from older workout apparel, chlorine in swimming pools, and rubber mats or flooring. If washed in conventional, fragranced laundry products, fitness apparel that sits directly on skin can also make eczema worse.
Treatment options: Regular fragrance-free lotions and creams (e.g., Cetaphil, Aveeno and Lubriderm) help moisturize and heal the skin, while cold compresses and antihistamines can relieve itching. If the condition doesn’t improve, nonprescription corticosteroid creams and ointments are available. Prescription corticosteroid creams and ointments or oral corticosteroids may be necessary. Untreated eczema may lead to a staph superinfection, which may require topical or oral antibiotics.
Other ways to overcome: Adjust your habits to avoid aggravating the skin, says Christina Steils, MD, a dermatologist in Hinsdale, Ill. For instance, use fragrance-free detergent when washing clothes; wear sweat-wicking clothing when exercising; avoid rubber mats or flooring in gyms (if you’re allergic to latex); shower after sweating; and slather your skin with a heavy moisturizer like Un-Petroleum Jelly before swimming to protect your skin from chlorine.
Symptoms: Small, pus-filled pimples around the base of hair follicles on the arms, legs or scalp.
Triggers: Sweating can make it worse, and it can be especially troublesome where clothing is tight or rubbing against skin.
Treatment options: You might have to avoid the gym for a while, as this superficial bacterial infection is usually spread by direct contact. See a doctor to have one of the bumps cultured. Treatment will depend on the type of bacteria but could include antibacterial lotions, medicated cleansers or oral antibiotics.
Other ways to overcome: Wear loose-fitting clothing that wicks sweat when exercising. Also, use pump soaps versus bar soaps, and when the infection is active, avoid hot tubs and whirlpool spas because you’re contagious at that point, and hot tubs and whirlpool spas are breeding grounds for bacteria.
Symptoms: Honey-colored scabs or crusts around the nose, chin, face and other areas that signal a bacterial infection.
Triggers: Often mistaken for herpes, impetigo is actually a bacterial infection � usually staph � of the skin.
Treatment options: Topical or oral antibiotics.
Other ways to overcome: When there’s crusting or oozing, you’re contagious, so avoid close contact with other people, even skipping the gym until the impetigo is under control, which usually takes one to three days.
Freelance journalist and fitness professional Karen Asp is the fitness columnist for Allure and is a regular contributor to numerous publications.
An Integrated Approach
Proper nutrition and regular exercise aren’t just good for maintaining general health and fitness — they’re also crucial for your skin.
Take, for instance, eczema, acne and rosacea, all of which can be exacerbated by inflammatory reactions to dairy, gluten or sugar. Even if you don’t have a full-blown allergy or intolerance, consider minimizing your intake of trans fats and refined sugars and flours (all of which are known to increase inflammation in the body) and load up on antioxidant-rich, alkaline-forming foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and healthy omega-3 fatty acids, all of which help to reduce inflammation and rev up the body’s self-healing capacities.
You might also consider taking a daily probiotic supplement — especially if you’re treating your skin woes with antibiotic medications. Getting 30 to 50 billion organisms a day through probiotic supplements or foods like yogurt can maintain skin health by keeping the immune system in balance.
Experience Life magazine is an award-winning health and fitness publication that aims to empower people to live their best, most authentic lives, and challenges the conventions of hype, gimmicks and superficiality in favor of a discerning, whole-person perspective. Visit www.experiencelifemag.com to learn more and to sign up for the Experience Life newsletter.