(Photo by Josephine Daño)
After an especially long workout or grueling rehearsal, there’s a good chance your energy’s completely drained. And with errands to run, dinner to eat and homework to do, what’s the point of changing out of your leo and yoga pants? They smell fine and are oh-so comfy (not to mention pretty trendy these days!). But don’t be fooled—there are a number of nasty scenarios that could unfold if you lounge around in your sweaty dance clothes for too long.
Acne and Folliculitis
Dancing equals sweat—and, if you don’t take care of your skin properly, sweat can equal acne and folliculitis (inflammation of the hair follicles). Athletic clothing tends to hold sweat closer to the skin, which means there’s more friction against your pores and they’re more likely to get clogged. Most dancewear is made with synthetic materials designed specifically to wick moisture away from the surface of your skin—and into the clothing’s fibers. So even if it feels like your clothes are dry and sweat-free, all that sweat is still in close contact with your skin. And don’t think acne only appears on your face and back—dermatologists have seen a rise in the dreaded butt breakout (“buttne”) because of sweaty, tight workout and yoga pants worn for extended periods of time.
Icky buttne isn’t the worst of it, though. Dirty workout pants go hand in hand with another gross (and serious) issue: yeast infections, which occur when your body chemistry “down there” is suddenly thrown off, causing too much yeast to be produced. One of the main causes? You guessed it: damp, sweaty workout pants. If you’re fresh out of the gym or a Pilates class, your pants are essentially the equivalent of wet bathing suit bottoms. Prolonged exposure to the moisture trapped in their fabric is the perfect scenario to trigger a yeast infection. If you notice any itchiness or discomfort, it’s best to consult with your doctor for a diagnosis—and ditch the 24/7 yoga pants uniform.
Every Day Is Earth Day!
Believe it or not, even the smallest choices can help the planet. Luckily the dance world has tons of eco-friendly products to choose from.
For Your Face
(Courtesy Juice Beauty)
Makeup is a dancer must-have.
But many drugstore options are tested on animals and contain chemicals that can irritate skin. Opt for makeup products enriched with antioxidants or minerals, like bareMinerals or organic brand Juice Beauty. They’re eco-friendly—and your skin will benefit, rather than suffer under another pancake layer.
(Courtesy Sara Neal)
For Your Feet
All dancers deserve a little foot TLC. And while it’s easy to pick up a generic brand of foot powder, it’s not always easy to know where the ingredients came from. Pointe Snaps Ballet Products is a dance product company that takes the guessing out of it. They’ve got plenty of certified organic options to keep your feet as pristine as possible, including pointe powder, to make sure your shoes stay fresh, and a sea-salt foot soak that soothes everything from achy arches to bunions.
Did You Know?
That humble bottle of apple cider vinegar in your pantry? Turns out it’s great for you! Not only does the fermentation of the vinegar aid digestion, but ACV can also give you a power boost before an intense performance thanks to its acetic acid, which helps your muscles process carbs more efficiently. While straight vinegar can be hard to stomach, you can enjoy ACV’s benefits by adding one or two tablespoons to a glass of fruit juice, or by mixing it with honey for a sweet-tart salad dressing.
(Photo by Vladimir Floyd/thinkstock)
As dancers, we’re used to getting our sweat on in a full face of makeup—it’s part of being a performer. But when it comes to the studio, makeup may not be our best friend.
Your pores open up when you sweat, making it easier for heavy foundation to get in and clog them. Clogged pores cause breakouts, and no one wants that. But you don’t have to stop wearing makeup to class altogether. With a few simple steps, you can transition your face from school- to sweat-ready in a flash.
- Use a face wipe to remove your foundation and blush, being careful not to smudge your eye makeup. While sweating in mascara and eye shadow isn’t ideal, the makeup is unlikely to clog your pores.
- Smooth a tinted moisturizer over your face to even out any discoloring. It’s thinner than foundation, so it allows your pores to breath.
- Skip blush. A couple rounds of petit allégro and you’ll have that natural flush working for you!
- Use a light gloss on your lips. The extra touch of shimmer will make you feel like you’re wearing more makeup than you really are.
Be sure to wash your face ASAP after class. It’s the perfect time for exfoliation, since your pores are already open. That also means your skin is more sensitive, however, so use a gentle cleanser, then moisturize.
It always seems to happen at the worst time: Just as you’re getting ready for a first date or an important performance, a big pimple appears in the middle of your face. It’s huge, it’s painful and it’s so embarrassing. Should you lock yourself in your room until it heals?
Don’t go into hiding! Dance Spirit spoke to dermatologists to get the scoop on all your most pressing acne questions—why it happens, how to prevent it and how to get rid of it.
Why do I have acne?
The reason some teens have acne and others don’t is mostly luck of the draw, with family history being a big contributing factor. Most likely, your pimples are also related to changing hormone levels during puberty. “Acne is so common in the teen population that it’s almost physiologically normal,” says Dr. Bethanee J. Schlosser, dermatologist and director of the Women’s Skin Health Program for Northwestern Medicine in Chicago. In fact, 70 to 95 percent of teens have some level of acne.
(Photo courtesy Thinkstock)
Does sweating all day in class lead to zits?
Sweat itself won’t cause acne. The real culprits are the dirt and dust that stick to your moist skin. “Dancers need to shower after every workout,” Schlosser says. “If you don’t have access to a shower, use an over-the-counter pad that contains salicylic acid.”
Can wearing tight dance clothes make body acne worse?
Yes. “When tight-fitting clothing puts pressure on skin that’s prone to acne, oil and dead skin get stuck more easily,” says dermatologist Dr. Daniela Kroshinsky of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
(Photo courtesy Thinkstock)
Will eating junk food make my skin worse?
Not exactly. If you break out after eating junk food, it’s most likely due to the reason you’re eating junk food in the first place. Stress hormones can increase certain acne-causing pro-inflammatory molecules within the body—“and stressful times are when you’ll tend to binge on junk,” Schlosser says.
However, foods full of sugar or highly processed carbohydrates may exacerbate skin problems. Dairy intake, specifically skim milk, has been shown to lead to a greater risk of breakouts as well. Schlosser recommends almond milk or fortified orange juice as a calcium alternative for teenagers experiencing issues with acne.
(Photo courtesy Thinkstock)
A pimple is coming! What can I do to stop it in its tracks?
“Nothing is going to work overnight,” says Schlosser, who adds that a pimple actually begins forming up to three months before it causes a bump. “To ward it off, you need an ongoing maintenance regimen.” This includes washing your face daily—preferably with an acne treatment wash—and then addressing flare-ups with a spot treatment.
What are the best products to use?
Most over-the-counter acne treatments contain one of two main ingredients: salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. Salicylic acid, often found in acne-reducing face washes, cleans out the pores, so it’s best for blackheads. Benzoyl peroxide, on the other hand, is key for treating your red, inflamed pimples.
“Those two treatments used in combination can help keep mild acne at bay, but it’s important to use them judiciously, because both have the potential to cause irritation and drying of the skin if overused,” Kroshinsky says.
When should I see a doctor about my acne?
If you have fewer than 10 bumps over your face, chest and back, with no evidence of scarring, Schlosser recommends trying an over-the-counter medication first. If you’ve used that for two months with no improvement, have trouble tolerating the medication or your acne worsens, ask a pediatrician or dermatologist about other treatments, including prescription medication.
What Exactly Are Pimples?
Zits happen when excess oil and dead skin cause a blockage in a pore. “As the pore fills with debris, it stretches to capacity, which allows bacteria to grow and creates inflammation,” explains Dr. Daniela Kroshinsky, a dermatologist with Massachusetts General Hospital. “Once those contents spill into the deeper layers of the skin, the body’s immune system tries to push them out from the skin.” Here’s a breakdown of the different types of pimples you may experience.
(Photo courtesy Thinkstock)
Comedones: Clogged pores that form tiny bumps, commonly referred to as blackheads or (when skin grows over the top) whiteheads. Regular use of a salicylic acid–based wash can help prevent and heal comedones.
(Photo courtesy Thinkstock)
Papules: The red bumps everyone hates to see pop up—but loves to pop. They form under the skin and are often tender. Papules may require benzoyl peroxide or prescription treatment to heal without scarring.
(Photo courtesy Thinkstock)
Cysts: Cystic pimples often show up in clusters. They’re large, inflamed and can lead to scarring. Common bouts of cystic acne are a good reason to see a dermatologist for treatment.
(Photo courtesy Thinkstock)
Nodules: Large, solid raised bumps that form deep within the skin. Nodular acne may require a cortisone shot from your doctor in order to heal quickly.
To Pop or Not to Pop?
According to dermatologist Dr. Bethanee J. Schlosser of Northwestern Medicine in Chicago, popping a zit is a big no-no. “Any manipulation of acne lesions can potentially cause scars—not just the red or brown spot left over after the lesion goes away, but an actual dip in the skin that looks like someone poked you with a toothpick,” she says. “That’s not a process that can be undone by any medication.”
Schlosser’s general rule is that once you see a pimple start to form pus, you can carefully swab it with a cotton Q-tip, but you should never pick, squeeze or dig. If there’s no pus and your spot treatment isn’t working fast enough, try a warm compress, which will decrease some of the inflammation and potentially bring the pimple to a head.
Illustrations by Lealand Eve
You always work hard in dance class, but lately, you’ve been a little distracted. During port de bras, you worry about whether your deodorant is working. By petit allegro, you’re sure everyone is staring at your sweat stains. And what if your dance crush sees that giant zit between your shoulder blades?
It can be embarrassing to bring these kinds of issues up with your parents, your teachers or even your friends. You want to fix them—but you don’t want to talk about them. To help you shift your focus back to your dancing, DS spoke to three physicians to find out how to deal.
“Healthy people sweat!” says Dr. Lori Baxter, a pediatrician in Maryville, TN. “Sweating helps maintain body temperature, hydrates skin and helps the body balance fluids and salts.” All of these functions are vital for dancers, whose artistic performance depends upon the body working at its best.
Of course, some people naturally sweat more than others. If you’re feeling self-conscious, you have a few options. Make sure the deodorant you buy includes an antiperspirant component—deodorant alone will not prevent sweating. You can even use a basic deodorant/antiperspirant on locations other than your armpits (for instance, if you tend to sweat beneath your breasts). If you sweat even when you’re cold or inactive, you might have a condition known as hyperhidrosis, where the sweat glands are overactive. In such cases, your doctor can recommend a prescription antiperspirant, such as Drysol.
Sweat by itself doesn’t smell, but it contributes to body odor in a major way. Body odor is produced by bacteria that grow on your skin, particularly in warm, moist areas. Just as some people sweat more than others, some people are genetically predisposed to experience body odor. BO can also be influenced by your lifestyle and diet. Dr. Nicole Carignan, a trained ballet and modern dancer who is now an anesthesia resident at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, points out that the scents of potent foods like garlic and onions can actually be excreted through your skin, for instance.
Aside from using deodorant and antiperspirant, the biggest key to preventing body odor is good hygiene. If possible, shower immediately after class or rehearsal, and put on clean clothes. If you can’t shower right away, change into dry clothes. Sweaty, dirty clothing can harbor bacteria, so wash your leotards and tights in between wears. Finally, shaving your underarms regularly can help decrease both sweat and odor.
Body acne has the same cause as facial acne: clogged pores. And just like facial acne, body acne can be more rampant during puberty because of the sudden increase in hormones. Luckily, the same hygiene regimen that helps fight body odor can help you conquer body acne, as well.
In addition to showering after dancing and making sure not to re-wear dirty dance clothes, try using an exfoliating body scrub or a loofah to remove the dead skin cells that clog pores. “Use a gentle scrubbing motion,” Carignan says, “rather than scrubbing so hard you irritate the skin further.” She also recommends seeking out acne-treatment body washes that contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. The former slows the shedding of skin cells that can clog pores. The latter actually kills the bacteria that can cause acne and helps remove excess oil and skin cells from the skin. Acne-treatment products can dry out your skin, so always moisturize after washing, and stay hydrated by drinking lots of water.
Avoid picking at acne—scratching or popping zits can lead to scarring. Also, avoid covering acne in heavy makeup that will only clog pores further. If you must cover up pimples for a performance or special occasion, use a concealer that has salicylic acid in it.
Cold sores around the mouth are caused by the herpes simplex type 1 virus, and can be triggered by stress, illness and overexposure to the sun or cold weather. Herpes type 1 is transmitted via saliva and other bodily fluids, often through breaks in the skin near or in the mouth. Don’t confuse this virus with herpes type 2, which causes genital lesions and is transmitted through sexual intercourse; the viruses are related, but they aren’t the same.
The good news is that most cold sores will heal on their own in a week to 10 days. You can speed up the healing time slightly with over-the-counter or prescription creams and ointments, such as Abreva. To avoid recurrences, learn and manage your triggers. For instance, if you get cold sores following sun exposure, always apply sunscreen and lip balm before going out.
The bad news: “Once you have the virus, you can never get rid of it. It just goes dormant,” says Dr. Brad Moser, founder and director of the Minnesota Dance Medicine Foundation in Minneapolis. Because the virus can stay dormant for long stretches, you may not know who in your class or studio has it. As a general rule, avoid sharing water bottles, straws, utensils, face towels and makeup with other dancers.
Stretch marks are striped lines on your skin that are lighter or darker than your skin tone. They’re a form of scarring that sometimes occurs when rapid growth leads to sudden stretching of the skin. Having them doesn’t mean you’re overweight. You may see them crop up after a growth spurt, if your skin couldn’t quite keep up with your increase in height. Moser points out that you might also see stretch marks following weight loss, as the skin that was stretched has less mass to cover.
If the marks show in a costume, apply concealer. While there are creams on
the market that say they’ll diminish or eliminate stretch marks, Baxter, Moser and Carignan all stress that these methods aren’t proven to work.
Cellulite consists of bumps and lumps in the layer of fat right beneath the skin. Like stretch marks, cellulite occurs even in thin, athletic people; having cellulite does not mean you need to lose weight. Whether you develop this dimpled-looking skin on your thighs and stomach will primarily be dictated by genetics. However, Moser notes that other factors, such as poor diet and dehydration, can contribute to the appearance and severity of cellulite. Hormonal changes, such as those that occur during puberty or when you have your period, can also increase the appearance of cellulite.
As of now, there is no proven “cure” for cellulite. “Even liposuction goes for the deep fat, rather than this surface fat,” Moser says. “Liposuction can actually make cellulite worse!”
In each of these situations, the biggest key is to remember that you aren’t alone. Your classmates are probably experiencing some of the same insecurities—and your teachers and choreographers have been through it, too. “Dancers are insecure in general,” says Carignan, “given that we grow up in front of mirrors. But you have to work toward accepting your body the way it is. Learn to minimize the things that embarrass you, and know that most of those things are normal.” And they have nothing to do with your dancing.
(The secret to combating many of these issues? Hydration. If you drink plenty of fluids, your body will flush out toxins, your skin will be more elastic (fewer stretch marks!) and you may be able to minimize the appearance of cellulite. Drink up!)