Those hitting the gym on account of their New Year's resolutions are likely reaping the benefits, including improved overall health and mood. However, gymgoers may also find that their skin is breaking out more than usual, putting a damper on that post-workout glow. According to dermatologists from the American Academy of Dermatology, working out can cause excessive sweating, as well as a buildup of oil, dirt and bacteria on your skin -; all of which can lead to acne. Despite this, people don't have to quit exercising in order to see clearer skin. The key, say dermatologists, is to maintain proper hygiene before, during and after your workouts.
While exercise itself doesn't cause acne, the skin care habits you maintain around your workouts can significantly impact your skin. Since germs thrive at the gym, it's important to maintain good hygiene while working out to prevent clogged pores and the spread of harmful bacteria."
Elizabeth Bahar Houshmand, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist
To help prevent acne caused by working out, Dr. Houshmand recommends the following tips:
- Dress in clean, loose-fitting, moisture-wicking clothes that won't rub your skin. Clothing and accessories that are too tight, such as headbands, bra straps or spandex garments, can cause a type of acne that occurs at the spot of repeated friction.
- Remove any makeup before working out, as makeup can clog your pores. Use an oil-free makeup remover, towelette or micellar water to take makeup off your face.
- Before exercising outdoors, generously apply sunscreen on any skin not covered by clothing. Not only do the sun's harmful UV rays cause skin cancer and premature skin aging, unprotected exposure can also cause breakouts. This is because the sun dries out your skin, leading to more oil production. To help, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Look for formulas that are water resistant and labeled "oil free", "noncomedogenic" or "won't clog pores."
- During your workout, keep your skin dry. Use a clean towel to gently pat sweat off of your body, since rubbing your skin can cause acne to flare.
- Wipe off shared equipment. Shared workout equipment can be full of acne-causing bacteria and dirt. Most gyms supply a cleaning spray or towelettes to wipe off the equipment. Clean off the equipment before and after your workout as a courtesy to others.
- After your workout, shower immediately. Use warm -; not hot -; water to remove sweat, dirt and oil from your skin. Wash acne-prone skin with a mild cleanser that is labeled "oil free", "non-comedogenic" or "won't clog pores." However, if your skin tends to be oily and not dry, consider using a cleanser with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide instead. If you can't shower immediately, wash your hands, and wipe off your face using a pad that contains salicylic acid. In addition, take a spare t-shirt and change out of your sweaty clothing.
- After showering, change into clean clothes and wash the dirty clothes, which is full of sweat and pore-clogging culprits. Always wash your gym clothes between workouts.
"Keep in mind that acne can have many causes, including genetics, hormones, stress and medications," says Dr. Houshmand. "If you still have acne after following these tips, talk to a board-certified dermatologist, as there may be a different cause."
These tips are demonstrated in "How to Prevent Acne Caused By Your Workout," a video posted to the AAD website and YouTube channel. This video is part of the AAD's "Video of the Month" series, which offers tips people can use to properly care for their skin, hair and nails.