Peak performance requires physical and mental preparations adapted to meet this level, but the skin - a large part of the body - also requires specialist care. What are the most critical factors that can harm the skin in high-level sports?
Elite athletes exercise intensively, which causes them to perspire a lot. All sorts of microorganisms thrive in a moist atmosphere, so the more someone sweats, the bigger the chances are of developing an infection in a fold of skin. Athletes also shower several times a day. Each time they shower, they not only remove dirt, but the good bacteria and skin lipids as well. This results in dry, itchy, and irritated skin. That dry skin also facilitates the penetration of external substances and provides less protection from friction. This means the skin is already weakened from the normal routine and frequent washing. It is crucial to have a good barrier against external ravages, especially for athletes who already suffer more barrier damage.
How can an athlete prepare / strengthen the skin?
When athletes are heading to a different climate, it is important that they take some time to adjust to this. The body can then acclimate, which reduces sweating. Another possibility is to use products that reduce sweating, but those can only effectively be applied to armpits and feet, since sweating is part of the process of regulating body temperature.
They also have to use mild products to cleanse the skin and always apply a nourishing protective product to replenish the skin afterwards. This neutralizes any possible irritations and maintains a healthy skin barrier. This routine is not only important during peak performance periods. An athlete must start beforehand to avoid any deficiencies. Good skin care is important all year long, and can be intensified during peak performance periods. The skin cells are constantly rebuilding themselves - in a process of cellular division - so they’re constantly in action. It is a very dynamic process that needs to run smoothly and optimally. It takes a long time to repair any damage.
Can a physiotherapist contribute to maintaining a healthy skin?
Certainly. By using as few irritating products as possible to keep the skin in good condition and by avoiding known allergens as much as possible. The key is to avoid irritating the skin, and if this is already the case, not to aggravate it further.
What are the possible results of bad skin care for an athlete?
Bad skin care must be avoided at all times. The athlete will not get sick, but itchy, irritated skin can make him or her lose sleep, which results in fatigue, stress, and irritation, which is vexing for an athlete and can impact performance. Friction can cause blisters or calluses, which can divert an athlete’s attention from his or her performance or even directly influence the performance. This can make a big difference for elite athletes.
During the Olympic games in Rio, pathologist Paula Saldiva stated that more people die from air pollution than from water pollution. What effect does air pollution have on the skin?
Air pollution causes damage that is similar to smoking and UV radiation. It releases free radicals that will aggravate the oxidation process. This causes the skin to age faster, and some pollutants can even cause cancer. Therefore, it is crucial to thoroughly cleanse the skin.
Exhaust fumes and air conditioning can clog pores and can lead to acne. The same rule applies here: good hydration creates a solid barrier, resulting in better protection of the skin. Any negative influences will have less effect on the skin. The negative effects from air pollution can be lessened by antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. A healthy diet is a perfect start. By applying skin care products that contain lots of antioxidants, you can neutralise and reduce the negative effects of air pollution.