Does Working Out Really Help with Acne?

If you’re struggling with acne, you might be wondering if working out can help. After all, exercise is good for your skin in so many other ways. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t so simple. While exercise can indeed help with acne in some ways, it can also make it worse.


The notion that working out can help with acne is a popular belief among many individuals suffering from this skin condition. Acne is a common skin condition which has symptoms such as redness, swelling, whiteheads, and blackheads. It affects millions of people across the world and in some cases, can lead to significant scarring and even depression. While it’s true that for some people exercise can improve the severity of their acne breakouts, there is still much to be understood about how and why working out helps or hinders the healing process. In this article we will explore if working out really does have an impact on acne and provide evidence-based strategies for those interested in utilizing exercise as part of their acne control plan.

Causes of Acne

Acne is a common skin condition that can have a negative impact on self-esteem. It is caused by a combination of factors, including genetics, hormones, bacteria, and inflammation. Knowing what causes acne can help you form a plan for tackling the problem. In this article, we will explore the causes of acne and what you can do to prevent it.

Hormonal Imbalances

Hormones play a big role in the development of acne, and abnormal hormone production can lead to an imbalance in your body. Hormonal imbalances are often caused by a variety of factors such as stress, poor nutrition, certain prescription medications and underlying diseases. The body produces more sebum and sweat during times of hormonal imbalance, which can clog the pores and increase the risk for acne breakouts. To counter this problem, it is important to try and keep hormones balanced with regular but moderate exercise, healthy eating habits, adequate sleep and relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation. Acne-safe skincare products can also help control the oil production that comes with hormonal imbalances.


Genetics plays an important role in determining an individual’s chances of developing acne. A person may have a genetic predisposition to certain hormones, sex hormones and the body’s response to these hormones. Many times, inheriting certain genes from one’s parents or grandparents can lead to acne.

Other factors such as gender and family history can also contribute to a person’s risk for developing acne. For example, women are more likely than men to develop adult acne because of the effects of hormonal fluctuations during puberty, pregnancy, menstruation and menopause on their skin. Family history can also be a factor since children can inherit their parents’ skin problems such as eczema or psoriasis.

Certain lifestyle choices can also make someone more prone to breakouts such as eating greasy foods, smoking cigarettes and not exercising regularly. Stress is another trigger for acne flare-ups and people who lead busy lifestyles with little time for relaxation may be more vulnerable. Since genetics plays a major role in determining how quickly your skin will respond to these external factors, it’s important to consult with a dermatologist if you’re concerned about your risk for breakouts due to your genetic makeup or lifestyle choices.


Stress is one of the leading causes of acne. When we stress out, our body produces corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH) which stimulates cortisol production. Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands that can cause increased oil production on the skin, leading to clogged pores and breakouts. It can also lower levels of vitamin E and selenium in our bodies which are both essential for healthy skin. Furthermore, when you’re stressed, you’re more likely to practice unhealthy habits like not drinking enough water or eating high sugar foods that may contribute to acne breakouts.

It’s important to take care of your mental health and actively manage your stress levels in order to reduce your risk for developing acne. Exercise has been found to be an effective way to relieve stress, as it helps reduce cortisol levels and boosts endorphins. However, there is insufficient evidence at this time to suggest that working out directly impacts acne development so it should not be assumed as a surefire cure for breakouts caused by stress alone.

How Exercise Can Help

It has long been accepted that exercise is beneficial for overall health and well-being. But can exercise also help with acne? The answer is yes! Exercise can help to reduce inflammation, boost your immune system, and even help to clear clogged pores. In this article, we’ll look at how exactly exercise can help with acne and how you can use it as part of your acne treatment plan.

Improved Circulation

Exercise can have a significant impact on your skin’s health and the severity of your acne. In particular, improved circulation resulting from regular exercise can aid in clearing the skin by helping to flush out toxins from the body more quickly. Exercise increases blood flow to all parts of the body, including to skin cells, which helps to deliver oxygen and other key nutrients necessary for healthy skin. Improved circulation also helps reduce inflammation, which is often associated with acne flare-ups. Additionally, an increase in sweat production during exercise removes excess dirt and oils that may contribute to blocked pores or oily complexions. To maximize this benefit of working out, be sure to shower or gently wash off any sweat as soon as possible afterwards.

Reduced Stress

Exercise can reduce stress levels and, as a result, improve the condition of your skin. This is due to the production of endorphins that are released during physical activity. Endorphins are hormones which act as natural painkillers in the body and help to reduce stress and anxiety. Reports have found that those who exercise regularly often experience a tighter facial complexion, fewer wrinkles and blemishes, and an overall improved ability to fight skin disorders such as acne due to their reduced stress levels. Additionally, exercise causes the body to sweat which helps clear out dirt, bacteria, and other pollutants that may be clogging skin pores or causing breakouts.

Improved Immune System

Regular exercise contributes to improved health in many ways, and one of those is boosting the body’s immune system. When your immune system is functioning better, it can help ward off the skin infections associated with acne, such as Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes). Exercise can reduce inflammation caused by hormones that trigger oils secreted by the sebaceous glands, which may help to protect your skin from breakout. Moreover, exercising helps you de-stress, which is also beneficial for keeping your skin clear and healthy.

The rise in body temperature that comes with exercise may offer temporary relief from acne flare-ups; however, this relatively mild effect should not be confused with actual improvement or treatment of existing acne breakouts. It’s important to keep sweat under control if you’re prone to oily skin because too much sweat can impede all types of skincare efforts. Wash up as soon as possible after a workout so that all oils and other debris don’t cling to your skin and make matters worse.

Exercise Tips for Acne Sufferers

One of the best ways to help with problem skin is by getting regular exercise. Not only can exercise reduce stress and improve your physical health, but it can improve your overall complexion. This section will discuss how exercise can help reduce acne, as well as provide tips on how to exercise safely while avoiding acne flare-ups. So let’s dive in.

Choose Low-Intensity Exercises

When it comes to exercise and acne, it’s important to choose low-intensity exercises that won’t cause your skin to overheat. Exercise that increases your internal body temperature, such as high-intensity interval training, spinning or running, can aggravate acne by creating sweat and friction. Sweat is an especially important factor in relation to acne as it can clog pores if left on the skin for too long.

If you’re looking for exercise options that won’t exacerbate acne, aim for low-intensity moderate activity instead. Examples include gentle walking, yoga and swimming. When exercising with acne, opt for loose clothing like workout pants or shorts made of natural fabrics such as cotton which helps absorb sweat whereas synthetic fabrics are more likely to keep moisture close to the skin and cause flare-ups. Be sure also to wash your face afterwards with a gentle cleanser before taking a shower. Taking these steps after every workout can help reduce any potential of further breakouts due to exercise or sweat activities.

Avoid Touching the Face

Exercise can be beneficial for keeping the skin healthy, but if you’re a frequent sufferer of acne, there are some extra precautions you should take. One of the most important things to keep in mind is to avoid touching your face during or after physical activity. Sweat, oils and bacteria from hands and equipment can worsen breakouts, particularly when trapped on the surface of your skin by tightly fitting exercise gear.

If you must touch your face at any time, it’s best to make sure that your hands are clean first with an everyday antibacterial soap or hand sanitizer. Towels used during exercise should also be washed regularly to prevent bacteria buildup; this is especially true if multiple people are using the same towel or it comes into contact with gym mats or equipment.

For workouts that involve a lot of body-to-body contact, such as martial arts or contact sports like basketball and football, protective gear such as gloves and face masks should also be worn to minimize skin irritation caused by friction against clothing and other people’s sweat.

Wear Loose-Fitting Clothing

When it comes to exercise and acne, the clothing you wear while working out can have a big impact on your complexion. That’s because tight-fitting clothes like vests, tank tops and leggings can rub your skin and cause irritation. Sweating in these clothes also makes acne worse. To reduce inflammation and protect delicate skin, make sure to wear light, breathable fabrics that won’t trap sweaty heat against your body. Clothes made of fabrics such as lycra, nylon or polyester should be avoided due to their sweat-trapping properties. In addition to loose-fitting clothing, wearing a headband or sweatband is a great way to keep sweat from dripping into your face where it can make existing breakouts worse.


Ultimately, the most important factor to consider when asking if working out can help with acne is your individual lifestyle and needs. If your body is dealing with major stressors, increasing physical activity may be beneficial as it can help eliminate toxins from your system. Similarly, exercise allows you to participate in self-care activities and reduce stress levels, which helps keep skin healthy.

On the other hand, if your acne is mainly caused by diet or genetics, working out may not make much of a difference. Additionally, those who workout too much or focus on high-intensity exercises such as running or spin classes may see a temporary spike in breakouts after exercise due to sweat and pressure on the face. Regardless of what activity or exercise you choose to pursue, always replenish lost electrolytes immediately after a workout session and make sure to shower quickly afterwards in order to contain any bacteria produced by sweating.

The bottom line is that while there’s no guarantee that exercising will reduce acne symptoms outwardly or holistically, it cannot hurt to take up physical activity or incorporate more mindful practices into your routine — both of which are great for overall mental and physical health.

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