Fitness Articles

An Exerciser's Guide to Skin Care

Can Workouts Cause Breakouts?

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There’s no disputing the fact that exercise is good for the human body. So it stands to reason that exercise would also benefit the body's largest organ: its skin. But does working up a sweat actually do anything good for your skin—or make you more prone to breakouts?
Exercise and Acne: Is There a Connection?
While your heart, lungs, muscles and bones arguably gain the most benefit from exercise, the positives of leading an active life aren’t a stranger to your skin. In fact, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), exercise increases blood flow to the surface of your skin and brings oxygen and nutrients to your whole body—skin included.
Then there's the other benefit of exercise: sweating. Sweat is made mostly of water, with small amounts of ammonia, urea, salts and sugar. When you sweat, these impurities are flushed from your skin. But what does that mean for people who are prone to acne? It might help, but it doesn't necessarily hurt, say the experts at the Children’s Hospital of Colorado (CHC). Sweat in itself neither fights acne nor causes it; but the increased blood flow, unclogging of pores from sweating, and stress reduction that result from exercise may all benefit the acne sufferer, says the CHC.
While working out can be beneficial to your overall skin health, you’ll want to avoid doing anything to exacerbate existing skin problems or cause irritation. Avoid wearing clothing that rubs against your skin during exercise, and if you wear a helmet, hat, sunglasses or other protective equipment while you move, clean it often as these sweaty surfaces can collect dirt and oil that can be transferred to your skin.
Exercising or not, you should always avoid touching your face to prevent blemishes and clogged pores. Be especially aware of this when you’re working out. Touching your face can transfer oil and bacteria (which thrive in moist, humid environments like the gym) to the skin, leading to possible acne flare-ups. If you need to wipe excess sweat, blot your skin with a clean, dry towel and avoid rubbing or wiping the skin with your hands, shirt or towel.
For those with longer hair, wearing hair back and keeping your hair or bangs off of your face can prevent additional dirt and oil from clogging your pores. Plus, a ponytail can keep you from touching your face and hairline if your hair frequently gets in the way. When it comes to makeup, most makeup on the market is noncomedogenic—so it shouldn’t clog pores even if you wear it while working out. Keep in mind, too, that over-washing your face can lead to irritation, so a pre- and post-workout wash may be too much for your skin. Your best bet may be to go to the gym sans makeup and wait until after your workout to apply it. Get more post-workout beauty tips.
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About The Author

Erin Whitehead Erin Whitehead
is a health and fitness enthusiast who co-founded the popular website and co-wrote The Fit Bottomed Girls Anti-Diet book (available May 2014). Now busier than ever with two kids, she writes about healthy pregnancy and parenting at

Member Comments

  • If you wash your face multiple times a day in addition to showering it will help a lot. It does not mean other areas of your life do not be up to your bodily standards like bed sheets, pillow cases as well as your general environment. If you make these things a priority bad, and or worsening skin issues will be almost non existent. - 1/16/2016 9:12:51 PM
  • This is a good article. Let me add an issue to it. I have a very deep belly button. While average cleaning of the belly button might be good enough, sometimes this area can get "funky". My deep belly button is due to a surgery going through the belly button and excessive weight gain and loss through the years.
    I also had a problem with rashes in the underarm area, this was quite frustrating. Redness, itchiness and swelling.
    I found a remedy for both of these problems even though my PCP gave me antifungal creams for both the issues....Dandruf
    f shampoo! Yes, everyday dandruff shampoo. I used this every other day. Rinse thoroughly! and keep areas dry. Use deodorant once any redness goes away. This will help keep you dry and assist the issue coming back.
    Hope this helps you. - 5/26/2015 7:01:30 PM
    Sweating during excercise doesnt cause acne unless you already have acne. In that case, acne bacteria comes out and finds new areas to infect.
    I am acne prone. To control and get rid of acne, I periodically use "Niapads" - niacinamide pads for acne relief. - 11/29/2014 8:08:32 AM
  • So, does sweating excessively from heat have the same good skin benefits? - 7/26/2014 1:22:03 PM
  • I sometimes read these articles again. There is always something you forget about. - 7/26/2014 9:05:07 AM
    Diet and beauty are co related more healthy food you intake which gives natural source of vitamins and proteins make your skin supple and glowing.
    - 6/16/2014 3:00:52 AM
  • I've had horrible acne, and I've used a lot of things to get rid/prevent it (topical gels, pills, you name it). A combo that gave me the best results (in my late teens) was proactiv and birth control, but even then I had moderate acne and would break out. After exercising regulary however, I barely have any acne, and my outbreaks are minimal. I thought sweat would clog pores, but reading and learning that it actually unclogs them is pretty cool! - 4/15/2014 10:27:47 AM
  • My skin has improved as a result of healthier habits.
    Thanks Sparkpeople!

    ~Sonya - 1/1/2013 11:45:14 PM
  • Cystic acne seems to get enflamed worse when working out. - 9/4/2012 8:53:39 AM
  • The flaky skin is probably a result of the shower being too hot or being in it for too long or too often. Is it possible to get the temp down a bit? Have you tried moisturisers?
    I used to wash or take wipes to control the worst of the sweat and change into clean/dry clothing at the gym, but come home to shower so I could control the temp and not be exposed to other people's bugs. - 9/2/2012 9:35:42 AM
  • What about the flaky skin caused by all the hot showers? Surely I am not the only one with this particular problem...??? - 8/5/2012 11:08:13 AM
    Hey workout is really necessary and during workout hydrating body is really necessary, as during workout we sweat, all the toxics in body come out through sweat, so it is really good to drink water and sweat more... - 5/31/2012 4:27:44 AM
  • JOHNTB29
    The problem can be sweating whilst wearing gym clothing. Even after showering if you haven't cooled off completely you can still be sweating, especially if your in a dash to go somewhere quickly after a workout. I carry a product from oxederm that helps keep my skin clear from breakouts after going to the gym.

    - 5/29/2012 10:03:05 AM
    In my experience, exercise has been my greatest tool in fighting acne. My skin has been the clearest when I have been involved in sports or more recently when I made going to the gym a part of my daily routine.

    As the article mentioned, it is important to develop some hygienic habits such as not wearing make up, not touching your face, and taking a shower as soon as possible after a workout. As much as its good to be informed, I really think that if you use common sense, you really don't need to worry about the "risks" to your skin if you exercise regularly.

    - 2/18/2012 5:07:12 PM

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