Does Working Out Cause Acne?

Does working out cause acne? It’s a common question, and the answer may surprise you.


From the endorphins we experience after a hard workout to the physical changes it can bring to our bodies, exercise is widely accepted as an excellent way to better health. But studies have shown that exercise can also contribute to skin issues. In particular, many people worry that working out and sweating may bring on or worsen acne.

While it’s true that exercise alters our body’s hormones and can affect the skin, it’s not necessarily problematic — and depending on your level of activity, it might even be beneficial! To understand more about how exercise and sweat can impact acne, it’s important to understand what causes acne in the first place. Acne is caused by a complex interplay between a person’s hormones, body chemistry, and genetics — exercise rarely affects any of these elements enough to trigger an outburst or worsening of acne. Further complicating this issue is the fact that different types of exercise produce different results: some activities appear to reduce inflammation in the skin while others could make your breakouts worse.

What is Acne?

Acne is a skin disorder caused by overactive sebaceous glands, resulting in blocked pores and pimples. It’s a common issue that can affect people of all ages, although it’s more common in teenagers and young adults. Acne can cause redness, swelling, and cysts. In extreme cases, acne can lead to permanent scarring. In this article, we’ll explore the relationship between working out and acne.

Types of Acne

Acne is a common skin condition that can occur when oil, dead skin cells and bacteria mix with sweat and clog pores within the skin. It is typically characterized by reds spots, pimples or whiteheads, although occasionally cysts or nodules may also form. Acne is largely considered to be related to hormones and genetics, but lifestyle factors like stress, diet and exercise may also play a part.

There are several different types of acne:

-Whiteheads: A closed comedone (pore) filled with sebum that turns white upon contact with oxygen
-Blackheads: An open comedone (pore) filled with sebum that turns black upon contact with oxygen; not due to dirt
-Papules: Small pink or red bumps caused by inflammatory folliculitis (inflammation of the hair follicles)
-Pustules: Bacterial infection leading to inflamed pus-filled lesions
-Cysts: Deep seated bump filled with fluid. Restricted movement of oil creates blockage and results in larger lesions present in moderate to severe cases as well as other complications
-Nodules: Large hard lumps formed beneath the skin surface; more tenderness than most acne forms; more likely in moderate to severe cases

Causes of Acne

Acne is a common skin condition that affects many people. There are several factors that can contribute to breakouts, including hormones, genetics, lifestyle choices, and environmental factors. In this article, we will be focusing on one particular factor: exercise. Does working out cause acne? Let’s take a look at the evidence.

Hormonal Imbalance

Hormonal imbalance can have a big impact on the development of acne. With hormonal imbalance, the body releases too much sebum, an oily substance that can clog pores, allowing bacteria to form and cause breakouts. Hormones are often triggered by certain foods and life events, such as pregnancy and adolescence. Stress, anxiety or lack of sleep can also trigger a hormone imbalance leading to acne breakouts. Hormonal imbalances can also be caused by using medication or products containing hormones such as birth control pills that contain estrogen or testosterone. If you suffer from hormonal acne, it is important to work with your healthcare provider to develop an appropriate treatment plan that works for you.


Studies have found that stress can be a contributing factor to the development of acne. Stress can lead to an increase in hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which create an inflammatory response in the skin. This response can cause the pores of your skin to become blocked with oil, sweat, and dirt. At the same time, increased sebum production can cause impurities to stay trapped in your pores, leading to outbreaks of blackheads and pimples.

In some cases, stress-induced acne may occur due to an underlying condition like eczema or psoriasis. When these conditions are present on the skin, they make it easier for bacteria and dirt to become trapped inside the pores. As a result, the body is unable to purge these impurities properly which then leads to inflammation and breakouts on the face and other areas of discomfort.

Physical activity such as exercising has been shown to increase cortisol levels in people suffering from anxiety or depression as well as those who are under lots of stress—which could lead to an increase in levels of stress related acne breakouts. Additionally, working out can also make you sweat which may cause additional blockage of pores in those with active acne affecting their skin health overall if not cleaned properly afterwards.


Diet is one potential cause of acne that is worth considering. The types of food you consume and the amount of sugar you eat can influence your risk for developing this skin condition. Eating an unbalanced diet can lead to an increase in free radicals and sebum production in the body, both of which are associated with acne breakouts.

Some types of foods may be linked to increased risk for acne, such as foods with a high glycemic index such as white bread, cookies, cake and other refined carbohydrates. Foods high in saturated fat such as fast food, fried snacks, creamy sauces and processed meats should also be avoided when possible as they may contribute to acne formation.

At the same time, there are many nutrient-rich foods that have been linked with reduced inflammation and improved skin health. Eating antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables can help protect against oxidative damage, while foods high in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon and chia seeds have been linked with reduced inflammation. Eating probiotic foods like yogurt or kombucha may also help reduce inflammatory responses in the body, leading to fewer breakouts overall.


Acne is a skin condition that can be caused by a mix of genetic and lifestyle factors. Genetics plays a role in determining the type of acne experienced, as well as the severity and rate of occurrence. People who have a family history of acne are more likely to experience it themselves. Certain hormones, such as testosterone, are known to trigger increased levels of oils (sebum) production which can lead to decreased or blocked pores and an outbreak of acne. This is why teenagers typically experience higher levels than adults, since they tend to produce more hormones. Additionally, some people are genetically predisposed to having sensitive skin that is easily irritated by outside agents such as dirt or sweat and will feel the effects more severely than those without this trait.

Does Working Out Cause Acne?

With the increasing popularity of physical fitness, it is no surprise that people are wondering if working out could lead to acne breakouts. From unfiltered tap water to equipment and clothing, there are a variety of factors that could contribute to breakouts when we workout. The question remains: Does working out really cause acne? Let’s take a closer look at the facts.

Sweat and Acne

Though exercise is beneficial for overall health, it can be hard to feel confident when your skin breaks out after an intense workout session. Many people are unaware that sweating, a common by-product of exercising, can contribute to an increase in acne breakouts. When sweat mixes with dirt and oil on the skin’s surface, pores become clogged leading to acne. Following basic cleansing guidelines and incorporating sweat-fighting techniques into workouts can minimize acne flare-ups after exercising.

Sweat and Acne
During a workout, the body produces natural oils which are deposited onto the skin’s surface along with sweat and bacteria. This combination of matter creates a warm and moist environment for bacteria to multiply, resulting in blocked pores which lead to acne breakouts in various parts of the body. Furthermore, physical contact from holding dumbbells or doing certain exercises can cause further irritation and friction on the skin surface. Specific areas where more bacteria accumulates include the chest, shoulders, face and back due to constant contact with tight-fitting clothing or too much fabric against perspiring skin. Although you should not avoid exercise altogether if you suffer from acne breakouts, keeping these tips in mind will help reduce their occurrence:
-Keep your hair off your face while working out; if necessary use products formulated for sensitive skin that secure hair away from your face during sweating activities
-Shower immediately following a workout (using lukewarm water)
-Wear breathable fabrics such as natural fabrics that quickly evaporate moisture
-Carry facial wipes or a soft towel during workouts so you can wipe away excess oil and sweat build up

Friction and Acne

When skin rubs together during exercise, it can cause friction and heat. This increases the temperature of the skin, which can prompt oil glands to produce more oil. Acne-causing bacteria then multiplies in these oily, warm conditions – creating an ideal situation in which acne lesions may form. To avoid this, focus on loose-fitting clothing with breathable fabrics such as cotton and wool. If you’re working out at home, try wearing clothes that fit loosely instead of tight spandex and Lycra materials that have a greater risk of trapping sweat and bacteria on the skin’s surface. Also keep in mind that touching your face or scratching itchy areas should be avoided since your hands can transmit excess dirt, oils or other irritants to your skin.

Friction from a warm environment itself can also cause acne issues – but thankfully there are some simple steps you can take to protect your skin from sweat-induced breakouts. Keeping the affected areas clean is essential; try to shower up shortly after exercising so dirt, sweat and bacteria don’t remain on your skin for too long. It’s also important to use gentle cleansers on the face rather than harsh soaps or exfoliants which could worsen breakouts by irritating already sensitive skin. Lastly make sure you use an oil-free moisturizer after washing up as dryness often leads to increased oil production – defeat the effects of excessive sweating by hydrating!

Tight Clothing and Acne

Exercise clothing that fits tightly around the head, chest, and back may cause acne on the face, neck and body. Tight clothing can rub against the skin, trapping sweat and bacteria and causing friction that can lead to inflammation. Areas of the face, neck, chest and back are especially susceptible to this kind of irritation where sweat glands and follicles are most numerous.

It’s important to remember that working out itself doesn’t directly cause acne. Poor hygiene related indirectly to working out is really what’s responsible for breakouts on the skin. Wearing tight or dirty gym clothes as well as inadequate cleaning before and after workouts can all contribute to acne breakouts in certain individuals.

If you wear a lot of workout clothes or just tend to get sweaty during exercise, investing in washable athletic gear made with breathable material is a good idea. Antimicrobial treatments on fabrics may also reduce levels of bacteria on the skin. Avoiding personal care products that contain oil before exercise is also key to maintaining healthy skin while being active with minimal risk of breakouts occurring from sweat or friction related issues.

How to Prevent Acne from Working Out

If you’ve ever had to deal with acne after hitting the gym, you’re not alone. Working out can cause your skin to produce excess oils, which can clog pores and cause breakouts. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up the gym altogether – there are ways to prevent acne from developing after a workout. In this article, we’ll go over the steps you should take to protect your skin and keep breakouts at bay.

Wear Loose-Fitting Clothing

One of the most important steps to preventing acne caused by working out is wearing loose-fitting clothing when exercising. Tight-fitting clothes can trap sweat and oil against your skin making it easier for dirt, bacteria, and other irritants to clog pores and lead to breakouts. Opt for natural fabrics like cotton and breathable synthetics like polyester which will allow air to circulate freely around your body. Avoid tight elastic bands that may trap sweat and irritate already inflamed areas of your skin. Additionally, make sure the fabric you select doesn’t feel abrasive against your skin as this too could lead to irritation or further inflammation. Change out of sweaty workout clothes shortly after finishing a strenuous exercise regimen as this will help prevent related breakouts from occurring in the coming days.

Shower Immediately After Working Out

Working out can cause acne if the sweat, oils and bacteria on the skin are not managed properly. To prevent this from happening, it is important to shower immediately after finishing your workout. A quick rinse with lukewarm water is not enough when it comes to skin care. Use a gentle cleanser specifically designed for acne-prone skin to remove sweat, oils and bacteria that can cause breakouts. To further protect your skin from irritation and moisture loss, follow with a moisturizer designed for oily or combination skin that has been non-comedogenic tested (won’t clog pores). Doing this will help keep your pores clean and clear while still allowing the body to cool down post-workout.

Change Your Workout Routine

Working out can increase the risk of acne, as sweat and friction generated by physical activity can irritate and clog pores. To minimize this risk, it’s important to change up your workout routine. Switching from tight clothing to loose-fitting apparel is an easy way to reduce the amount of pressure on skin in sensitive areas like the face and chest. It’s also a good idea to avoid workouts that cause excessive sweating or require performing exercises on hard surfaces like concrete or stone, as this can further irritate skin.

Another good way to prevent acne from working out is by cooling off and drying off as soon as you’re finished with your routine. As sweat can contain residue from products used in exercise, it’s important to use products with non-comedogenic or ‘water-based’ properties that are oil free and will not contribute residue to skin cells. Additionally, showering right after a workout is beneficial for removing any sweat or oil that may be clogging pores.

Finally, taking steps during workouts such as keeping your hands off your face and investing in antibacterial fabrics designed for wicking away sweat can help keep pores clean throughout exercise sessions. With these simple tips in mind, you can successfully prevent acne while still reaping the benefits of an active lifestyle!


Although exercise can increase sebum production, causing skin to appear oilier, research has shown that active individuals who work out regularly do not have a significantly increased risk of developing acne. This is likely due to the fact that exercise stimulates circulation and helps promote oxygenation within the skin, which are both beneficial factors in decreasing acne-causing bacteria. Additionally, rigorous exercise often leads to sweating and an improved immune system, both of which can help prevent and reduce the symptoms of acne.

However it’s important to be aware of certain factors that may increase the risk for post-gym breakouts. For instance, wearing restrictive or synthetic clothing during workouts can create added friction on your skin or block sweat from evaporating properly, which can contribute to clogged pores and irritation. Thus individuals should ensure they wear breathable clothing while exercising as well as showering immediately post-workout in order to get rid of sweat and dirt that may be trapped on the skin. In addition, using synthetic towels after washing off also causes blockage due to its fibers blocking pores further contributing towards skin irritation – meaning only soft exfoliating cotton towels should be used when drying after a shower.

In conclusion, moderate physical activity is considered beneficial for your overall health and wellbeing including skin health; however it should be done with proper care so as not aggravate any existing acne conditions or cause any new breakouts.

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