Your Beloved Yoga Pants May Be Wreaking Havoc on Your Body

woman in yoga gear

Yoga capris, running tights, your fave CrossFit pants -- they're not just for exercise anymore. This accidental trend is probably due to our hectic schedules -- who has time to shower and change in between the gym and school pickup? But no matter how comfy you are in your tight-fitting, dry-wicking pants, your skin is probably screaming, "No!"


"Activewear in general isn't bad," clarifies Dhaval G. Bhanusali, MD, a dermatologist in private practice in New York City. "It's more worrisome when people don't change after working out."

Here's what you have to look forward to (not!) when you sit around in your sweaty gear:

Contact dermatitis: "People can have allergies to various materials in workout clothes, including elastic in the waistband," Dr. Bhanusali says. "Over time, with repeated friction and moisture, the elastic can become more exposed and lead to an itchy rash."

Grover's disease: This skin condition -- characterized by itchy red spots on your torso that can last for MONTHS  -- is typically known as "'itchy, old guy disease,'" says dermatologist David Soleymani, MD, the founder of Dermio, an app that allows virtual consultations with certified dermatologists. Middle-aged men are most likely to have Grover's, "but women get it as well," says Dr. Soleymani. "Heat and perspiration are known aggravating factors."

Bacterial and fungal infections: Of course you've worked your butt off to have that, uh, butt. So, hell yeah, you want clothes that'll show it off. But when your skin can't breathe, "there's a higher likelihood of pores being clogged and the potential for both bacterial and fungal infections," says Dr. Bhanusali. "They tend to love warm, moist environments."

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Eczema: Prone to dry, itchy skin? Workout clothes may make it worse. "Eczema patients are often very sensitive to anything but cotton," says Dr. Soleymani. "A lot of athletic wear is impregnanted with chemicals that promote dryness and minimize body odor." Chemicals that your sensitive skin might really NOT like.

How are you supposed to work out AND protect your skin? We're glad you asked.

If you can find 'em in the store and you don't mind how they look, try for loose-fitting clothes. True, you'll feel exposed when it comes time to do headstands in vinyasa class, but "it's best to let skin breathe," says Dr. Bhanusali.

If you're unwilling to give up your skinny pants and do NOT have super-sensitive skin, choose activewear that has polypropylene. Is it natural? No. But it "helps transport sweat and moisture away from the skin," Dr. Bhanusali says.

You'll also want to minimize the amount of time you spend in your activewear, advises Dr. Soleymani. "Take them off and shower as soon as possible after a workout, and be sure to wash them thoroughly before re-wearing."

And it goes without saying, if you thought "OMG, that's what I have!" when you scanned through the list of icky skin issues above, talk to a dermatologist.

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