Preventing Post-Exercise Breakouts

So you work out to be healthier, feel better and well – look better. But what happens when the physical activity starts making you break out? Workout-induced acne is extremely common and can have a direct impact on one’s confidence and self esteem. Exercise may lead to breakouts for many reasons, the most common being the following:

- Working out with makeup on

- Touching any form of equipment and then touching your face

- Wearing tight-fitting clothing without breathability

- Using dirty towels to clean your face

- Not washing up immediately after working out

Believe it or not, studies have shown that it’s not your sweat that causes you to break out, but the other factors. Refinery 29 quotes Dr. Neal Schultz, MD, an NYC dermatologist and creator of BeautyRx by Dr. Schultz, stating that sweat can actually be good for your skin. "It works as a moisturizer, it helps cleanse the pores, helps cool the skin, and even helps to kill bad bacteria on the skin — like staph — with its peptide called dermcidin." It seems like an easy fix, but with the hustle and bustle of every-day life, certain steps are often overlooked leading to acne.

We’ve identified a few steps to add to your daily workout regimen in order to help prevent future breakouts and help tame existing ones.


- Clean before you sweat: If you are working out first thing in the morning, this should not be an issue for you. As long as you do not apply any additional makeup to your face, then your face should already be relatively clean. A quick rinse with some water to wake up and feel refreshed should do the trick. If you are an afternoon gym-goer, wiping your face clean of all makeup should be a vital part of your “gym ready” routine. Remember to use an oil-free makeup remover or gentle facial cleanser to remove makeup, as some people may be more sensitive to oil based products. When you work out, your pores open up. Any makeup on your face may directly clog those pores, leading to breakouts.

During Workout

- Avoid touching your face: Although your hands may seem to be clean, they carry much more bacteria than you can imagine, especially when handling gym equipment. You should strive to wipe your face with a clean towel, kept in a place where it does not come in contact with equipment. Avoid using your shirt or other fabrics that are dirty or may have come in contact with bacteria.

- Wear breathable clothing: Tight clothing may increase friction causing irritation and trapping moisture. Wear either very breathable fabrics or loose-fitting clothing to ensure that do not trap sweat and/or cause you to chafe.


- Rinse immediately: The number one rule after working out is cleaning your face/body immediately after to remove any bacteria that may have been transferred while working out. This also cools you down and allows your pores to close up.

- Tea tree oil spot treatment: If you haven’t already heard, tea tree oil is almost a magic substance with anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties that kill acne-causing bacteria. Although it may cause irritation on some skin types, it will work wonders for spot treatment purposes. Apply with a cotton swab post workout, or dilute in some water and wipe on with a towel before moisturizing.

- Exfoliate and moisturize regularly: Exfoliating your skin 2-3 times a week (dependent on sensitivity) can help you get rid of excess dead skin that may accumulate and trap oil and bacteria further causing breakouts. Getting a gentle, natural exfoliator is key, as harsh products, or over-exfoliating can cause irritation. Moisturizing regularly is generally a rule for proper skin care. Finding a daily moisturizer that is lighter or less oily can reduce the risk for breakouts.

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