Is your workout causing your acne?
How to prevent acne caused by workouts
Working out can cause excessive sweating, as well as a buildup of oil, dirt, and bacteria on your skin — all of which can lead to acne. However, you don’t have to quit exercising in order to see clearer skin. The key is to maintain proper hygiene before, during, and after your workouts.
Do you suspect that your workout is causing (or worsening) your acne? You could be right.
If your workout is the culprit, you don’t have to stop exercising. You can continue to play sports, take your favorite exercise class, or hit the gym and still see clearer skin. Here’s what dermatologists recommend.
Before your workout
1. Remove your makeup. No need to wash your face. A oil-free makeup remover towelette works fine.
2. Put on clean workout clothes (washed since you last wore them). Dead skin cells, bacteria, and oils on unwashed clothes can clog your pores, leading to acne.
3. Apply oil-free sunscreen before you head outside. If you’re going to exercise outdoors during the day, you can prevent breakouts by protecting your skin from the sun.
Yes, the sun can cause breakouts because it dries your skin. When this happens, your body produces more oil, which can clog pores and cause acne.
To get the protection you need, you’ll want to apply a sunscreen that offers:
SPF 30 or higher
Broad spectrum (protects you from UVA and UVB rays)
Oil-free formulation (Label may say “non-comedogenic” or “won’t clog pores”)
During your workout
4. Use a clean towel to wipe off sweat. You want a towel that has been washed since you (or someone else) last used it.
When you remove sweat from your skin, gently pat it off. Rubbing your skin can cause acne to flare.
5. Avoid sharing protective equipment like helmets and shoulder pads whenever possible. These can be full of acne-causing bacteria and oil, which may cause you to breakout.
6. Wipe off shared equipment before you use it. Shared equipment can be full of acne-causing bacteria and oil. If you use the equipment and then wipe your forehead or other acne-prone skin, you can spread acne-causing bacteria and oil from the equipment to your skin
After your workout
7. Consider showering immediately after your work out. This may rinse away bacteria that can cause acne.
When you wash your face and other skin with acne, you’ll want to use a cleanser that is:
Oil free (label may say “non-comedogenic” or “won’t clog pores” instead)
A mild, oil-free cleanser can remove bacteria that can lead to acne and prevent clogged pores without irritating your skin.
When washing skin with acne, be very gentle. Apply the cleanser with your fingertips and gently rinse it off with warm water. Rubbing, hot water, or anything else that irritates your skin can cause acne to flare.
If you aren’t able to shower, consider changing out of your workout clothes and wiping skin that tends to break out with pads that contain salicylic acid. This can prevent clogged pores.
If you have acne or acne-prone skin, following these recommendations from dermatologists can allow you to work out and see clearer skin. You’ll also want to continue treating your acne.
If you still have breakouts after trying these tips, your sports equipment or clothing might be to blame. Everything from football helmets to synthetic dance clothes can cause acne.
You’ll find out what dermatologists recommend for clearing acne caused by sports equipment or clothing at, Is your sports equipment causing your acne?
Fulton JE, Acne Rx: What acne really is and how to eliminate its devastating effects! Self-published; 2001.