Can Working Out Cause Breakouts?

Can working out cause breakouts? We asked an expert to find out.


Exercise is beneficial for both physical and mental health, but can it also cause breakouts? Many people wonder if working out increases their risk of breakouts. While it is true that sweat itself may trigger breakouts, this effect can be minimized with some simple strategies. In this article, we will discuss how exercise affects our skin, common causes of breakouts after a workout and effective ways to prevent them.

How Exercise Affects Your Skin

Exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, but did you know that it can also affect your skin? Working out can have both positive and negative effects on your skin, depending on how you manage it. In this article, we will explore how exercise affects your skin, including how it can cause breakouts and what you can do to prevent them.


The activity of exercise causes your body to sweat, as you’re no doubt aware. However, sweat is more than just water; it also contains oils and other substances from the skin’s glands that help lubricate and protect from infection. This makes it naturally moisturizing and can even help in regulating your skin’s temperature.

However, when your pores are clogged with sweat, dirt or other debris, this prevents the natural oils from being released and can lead to breakouts. To prevent this situation, try to clean up right away after you finish working out; use gentle cleansers that are tailored specifically for acne-prone skin that won’t strip your face of its natural oils too aggressively. Change into clean clothes as soon as possible; synthetic fabrics in particular like spandex tend to retain more moisture and can be more prone to triggering breakouts if left on the skin for too long. Additionally, try using absorbent wipes or cleansing towels made specifically for swiping down sweaty faces after a workout.


Sweating during physical activity usually serves a beneficial purpose for your body, but it can cause skin-related issues due to increased bacteria on the skin’s surface. When sweat combines with bacteria and dirt, it leads to blockages in the pores of your skin, which can cause breakouts.

To prevent breakouts caused by exercise, you will want to avoid leaving sweat on your skin too long and make sure you wash your face or any exposed areas of the body immediately after you finish working out. Additionally, avoiding tight-fitting clothing while you exercise can help reduce friction on your skin that may contribute to inflammation or further blockage of the pores.

You may also want to think about what type of wipes or cleansing products are used when wiping down equipment at the gym as this can bring additional contact with dirt and bacteria particles that end up back on your own skin. Keeping a good bar soap in your gym bag and using it regularly can reduce additional bacteria present from wiping equipment like weights and benches.

Clogged Pores

Exercise causes perspiration, which is a natural reaction of the body to help cool down when you work out. This sweat can lead to problems with clogged pores, especially if you are wearing heavy gym clothing such as tracksuits or long-sleeved shirts and leggings. Sweat can combine with dirt, bacteria, and oils that have built up on the skin forming a plug of gunk in the pores. This can lead to breakouts in areas that are prone to acne such as on the face, chest, back and shoulders. To help reduce the risk of breakouts due to clogged pores, it is important to keep your skin clean before and after your workout by washing with a mild cleanser that won’t strip your skin of its protective oils or irritate the area. It is also best practice to wear breathable fabrics that allow sweat to evaporate away from the skin more quickly.

Preventing Exercise-Induced Breakouts

It’s a common misconception that working out causes breakouts. While it is true that sweat and bacteria can play a role in causing breakouts, these risks can be minimized with the correct preventive measures. In this article, we will explore how to prevent exercise-induced breakouts so that you can reap the full benefits of your workout without any skin problems.

Cleanse Before and After

Breakouts caused by exercise are typically due to sweat, bacteria and breathing dry, dusty air. To prevent exercise-induced breakouts, it is important to regularly cleanse your skin before and after workouts. Before getting started with your workout, use a gentle face cleanser like Cetaphil to remove any dirt or makeup from the surface of your skin. After the workout is over, take a cool shower and use a cleanser that contains acne-fighting ingredients such as salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide.

In addition to cleansing your skin regularly, choose fabrics that draw sweat away from the body when you exercise so that it doesn’t remain in contact with the skin. When you wear clothing during workouts, make sure it’s made of synthetic materials instead of natural fibers like cotton which absorb sweat and make it difficult for it to evaporate quickly. Also look for clothes marked with designations such as “moisture-wicking” or “sweat-resistant.” These fabrics will help keep your skin drier during long periods of physical activity.

Wear Breathable Clothing

It is essential to select the right type of clothing when engaging in physical activity. Wear loose-fitting and light clothes made of natural fabrics, such as cotton or linen, so your skin can properly breathe. Synthetic fabrics trap moisture and heat against your skin and make it more likely that dirt, bacteria and sweat accumulate in areas such as the armpits, face and neck, causing exercise breakout. Additionally, it’s important to make sure that your clothing is clean before each workout to prevent dirt and bacteria from accumulating on your skin.

Change Out of Workout Clothes

It is important to change out of your workout clothes and shower soon after exercise. Sweat increases the levels of sweat and sebum secretions, which can lead to breakouts if it is not washed off your skin. It is best to avoid wearing tight-fitting clothing for long periods after exercising, as it will also keep sweat and bacteria on the surface of the skin, leading to increased breakouts. Additionally, ensure you are changing out of your sweaty clothes as soon as possible and taking a shower in lukewarm water before wiping off excess sweat from the surface of your skin with a clean towel. Applying a light moisturizing lotion afterwards will help prevent further breakouts by helping restore natural hydration levels in the skin.


Overall, there is no definitive answer to the question of whether working out can cause breakouts. There are both potential positive and negative effects of sweating during exercise which may lead to breakouts. However, the prevalence of breakouts resulting from exercise likely varies from person to person, and is dependent on many factors such as heat, sweat levels and skin type.

While it may not be possible to completely prevent outbreaks due to exercise, it is possible to reduce their occurrence. Hygiene tips such as showering soon after exercise, using a clean towel daily, washing your face twice daily with mild cleanser, avoiding face-touching and wearing sweat-wicking clothes can all help minimize the occurrence of exercise-related breakouts. Additionally, an effective skincare routine tailored for your skin type may be necessary for some individuals in order to regulate oil production and reduce irritation caused by workout clothes or equipment.

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