By Maggie Staszcuk
Estheticians often use the analogy that compares skin care and exfoliation to lifting weights. In the same way we break down muscles so that they grow bigger, we exfoliate and break down the skin so that growth factors, collagen, and elastin, etc. grow and build up the epidermis and dermis to be thicker.
In addition to this fitting analogy, it’s also been shown that actually working out creates a post-workout glow. Increased blood flow at the surface of the skin delivers nutrients to our cells.
Now, there is even more reason to hit the gym. In June 2023, a Japanese study published through Ritsumeikan University suggested resistance training as an effective anti-aging strategy for skin health. In this study, a group of 61 healthy, middle-aged women who lived primarily sedentary lives were randomly selected and divided into two groups. Each group was tasked with exercise twice a week for sixteen weeks—group one performed aerobic training and group two performed resistance training.
Aerobic training consisted of 30 minutes on a stationary bike. Resistance training consisted of three sets of 10 repetitions of progressively heavier loads on six weight-stack machines—leg curl, leg extension, arm curl, row, shoulder press, and chest press. Participants were asked not to perform any additional exercise, take any supplement or hormone therapy, or change their skin care routines.
At the end of the study, both groups had improved skin elasticity and upper dermal structure, but the group who did resistance training also had improved dermal thickness. Skin tone was also measured and melanin index was calculated to evaluate the participants’ sun exposure during the study.
The impact of exercise on the body is more than physical, as it produces cytokines, hormones, metabolites, and other protein factors often found in the skin. To understand why the skin was impacted, blood was sampled before and after the study. The results showed an increased production in elements that reduce inflammation and gene expression that influences collagen. The resistance training group showed the same blood results as the aerobic training group plus an increase in the production of skin proteins called biglycans.
Biglycans are found widely in the extracellular matrix—the connection between the epidermis and the dermis. As we age, this matrix depletes and is one of the factors that contributes to aging skin. It is suggested by this study that an increase in biglycan levels via exercise could lead to an increase in dermal thickness.
ASCP's Esty Talk episode 215, Resistance Training for Skin Rejuvenation, discusses incorporating body health into the esthetics practice.
1. Nishikori, S., J. Yasuda, K. Murata et al. "Resistance Training Rejuvenates Aging Skin by Reducing Circulating Inflammatory Factors and Enhancing Dermal Extracellular Matrices." Scientific Reports 13 (2023): 10214. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-37207-9
2. Nelson, Cathy. "Yet Another Reason To Hit the Weight Room: It’s Linked to Skin Rejuvenation." Well + Good, September 17, 2023. Accessed October 11, 2023. https://www.wellandgood.com/skin-benefits-exercising/