How can I feel clean and ungrimy after a workout?
September 15, 2013 2:09 PM   Subscribe

Is there anything I can do to feel less disgusting post-gym?

I am a 30-yr-old woman in pretty decent shape. I've been working out about 5x/week for the past seven years, usually inside at a gym. When I do this I sweat. A lot. My problem is that no matter what I do, I always feel disgusting (as in dirty, greasy, grimy, etc.) after a workout, even after a post-gym shower. If I workout in the morning, which I often do, I can count on my skin feeling oily and grimy all day and my hair being greasy and limp. This is only a problem on my face, neck, and hair.

I've tried a pretty wide range of things to combat this: I wear moisture-wicking clothes, I wipe my face with a towel while working out and drink lots of water. I've tried waiting a bit before showering after a workout and I've tried showering immediately after. I've tried washing my hair twice (which often leaves it dry and lifeless) and washing my face multiple times with both hot and cold water. I've also tried toner on my face, but none of these options have really helped much.

Why am I so exceptionally dirty? Is there anything else that I could try, either during or after my workout, in order to actually feel clean after the gym?
posted by lxs to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Are you showering at the gym or at home? If you're showering at the gym, I wonder if their water is exceptionally soft.
posted by joan_holloway at 2:14 PM on September 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Is it possible that your heart rate is still up during/after the shower, so you're still sweating. I would try a little longer cooldown and then COLD showers to see if that reduces post-workout sweat.
posted by mercredi at 2:14 PM on September 15, 2013 [6 favorites]

Are you hot after your shower? Are you using shower gel? Are you changing into clean clothes?
posted by gorcha at 2:56 PM on September 15, 2013

What mercredi said. Take a longer break after your workout. If you can, go home before you clean up. If not, drink a whole bottle of water, slowly, while walking around the gym (outside, if you can). Really be completely done before you clean up, and get into totally new clothes.
posted by Etrigan at 3:03 PM on September 15, 2013

Hmmm. I always feel super-clean after a good workout and thorough shower, so this is puzzling.

Have you tried using a face and/or body scrub in the shower? A scrub seems to clean up my skin more thoroughly than gel/soap.
posted by Salamander at 3:14 PM on September 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Could it be that you are not actually dirty / grimy / disgusting but that this is a mental thing? Have you asked others you trust to confirm your suspicions?

I used to work out during my lunch break at work, and I didn't have time to shower I would just dust off with this and go back to work. For a while I worried that I was nasty and gross...but then I started getting into backpacking and actually spent days at a time without bathing or showering.

This changed my perspective on what it actually means to be dirty and it allowed me to realize that I wasn't nearly as gross as I thought I was when I would come from the gym. When I started asking for honest opinions, those around me often didn't know I had just come from the gym unshowered...even though I felt kind of nasty.

For me it was more of a mental thing, and changing my perspective fixed the problem...ymmv.
posted by jnnla at 3:18 PM on September 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'm seconding taking a break between finishing your workout and stepping into the shower. Maybe 10 minutes or so to get all the sweat out. I've noticed myself sweating after getting out of a post-workout shower because my heart rate is still elevated.
posted by pravit at 3:19 PM on September 15, 2013

Take the shower as cold as you can stand. Start with lukewarm and see if you can handle cooling it down even further once you're used to the lukewarm water. It won't feel good, but it'll stop the sweating and start you fresh.
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:21 PM on September 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

I felt similarly weird after workout and a shower. Figured out that if I put a little extra effort into drying off I felt way better after the shower. I pay special attention to between my toes and inside my ears, and it helps so much!
posted by carsonb at 4:00 PM on September 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

My gym provides eucalyptus dampened towels; maybe you can put something similar in your gym bag?
posted by brujita at 4:08 PM on September 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Does this only happen when you shower at the gym? Do you find your soap and shampoo don't seem to lather well there? If yes, I suspect it has something to do with the hardness of the water at your gym compared to your home.

I grew up in a place with soft water and always had nice hair and skin. When I first moved somewhere with hard water it did a number on my skin and hair. I never felt clean, because it was impossible to rinse off the soap/shampoo thoroughly. I always felt like there was a sticky residue on me, post-shower. I tried different cleansers and shampoos to no avail. I lived in that hard water community for a year, and it never got better, not once.

I'd travel to places with softer water and be thrilled with my clean, soft hair, then go back home and have dirty feeling, gross limp hair again. Finally I moved to a community with softer water (for school, not because of the water!) and my hair and skin felt much cleaner immediately.

As an experiment, try bringing a bottle of water from home to the gym and washing your face and hair with it. If it feels fine, you know it's the water at your gym.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:17 PM on September 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

What about trying an exfoliating scrub of some sort for your face? I really like using one after a workout. This one is nice because the grains aren't too big or rough.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 7:05 PM on September 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks so much for all the suggestions! Unfortunately I don't think the issue is the water, since I always shower at home afterward and I don't have this problem on days I don't go to the gym. I'm going to give a cold shower a try tomorrow and see if that helps.
posted by lxs at 7:26 PM on September 15, 2013

Have you ever watched the shower scene in Gattaca where Ethan Hawke has to really scrub himself so he doesn't accidentally shed hairs/skin flakes/etc post-shower? And/or had a Korean spa scrub?

I find that when I use these scrubby shower gloves and use a decent amount of pressure, I feel like I'm in a hybrid Gattaca/Korean spa. We're talking dead-grey-skin-removal territory. I feel quite clean afterwards. You can pick the gloves up in most dollar stores (and pharmacies/bath stores, though they're more expensive with no difference in quality at these).
posted by vegartanipla at 8:29 PM on September 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Have you tried showering before you workout?
posted by obviousresistance at 8:43 PM on September 15, 2013

If you're showering in hot water, scrubbing your face, and washing your hair every day, you may well be over-cleansing, which leads to your body producing more oil.
You might want to try an oil-cleansing method for your face. There are lots of recipes available online--I personally just rub a nickel-sized amount of olive oil into my face and neck, wait five minutes, and then wash with warm water and a walnut scrub. It sounds weird, but I've had less oily skin since I started doing this, even though a) I have naturally oily skin and b) I live in a really humid climate.
I also learned an easy trick for frequently-washed hair: Condition first, then add a shampoo while the conditioner is still in there, lather it up, and wash out. Your hair still gets clean, but you're not stripping out the natural oils.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 9:17 AM on September 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Change your diet to change the quality of your sweat?
posted by Feisty at 8:17 AM on September 22, 2013

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