Breaking Out Like Crazy? Why Your Workouts May Be Causing Acne

October 14, 2016

We know that exercise is a serious boon for skin. From increased circulation to literal detoxification, regularly working out–and sweating–keep your skin more youthful in mind-blowing ways. There’s a right and a wrong way to go about getting sweaty, however, especially when it comes to skincare.

Sweat plays an important role in the body’s natural detoxification process, expelling unwanted substances while “washing” the pores from the inside out. This is all good until we let sweat hang out on our skin. Not only does that sweat no smell too lovely, all of that pH-altering saltiness and bacteria spell inflammation and irritation, which can take the form of redness, dryness/tightness, increased risk of premature aging, clogged pores (acne and blackheads), and temporary splotchy-ness. What’s the point of busting your tail for that post-workout glow if lingering sweat is just going to crash the party?

How can you tell if your acne might be caused by workout-induced sweat, and not some other culprits like PMS, sugar, pollution, the wrong kind of makeup or skincare, or perhaps ingredients like silicone? Look for breakouts along the hairline, the sides of your foreheads, and cheeks where your hair can glue to your face when dripping with sweat during a SoulCycle sesh. (As opposed to say, chin, which is almost always related to hormones).

Don't Let Sweat Ruin Your Post-Workout Glow

Here’s how to maintain your glow–and support healthy skin for the long term–without letting the negative side of sweat spoil your fun:

1. Wash your hands before and after working out. Before you even take off your makeup, wash your hands thoroughly with soap–if you’re coming straight from work (or anywhere, really), your hands could be like a luxury jet on which bacteria ride comfortably to your face. Also, wash your hands right after you’re done, so that you don’t cleanse your face with dirty hands. (Those weights haven’t been washed, remember!)

2. Next, take off your makeup thoroughly before working out. Even “breathable,” minimal makeup can get in the way of your skin properly expelling sweat and all of its attendant nasties. Think of makeup as an accidental trap for the things we don’t want sticking to our skin. Begin your workout with a clean face (and a non-comedogenic sunscreen if you’ll be outside), and you’ll likely reduce your risk of experiencing clogged pores and inflamed skin.

3. If mid-workout your sweat isn’t evaporating off of your skin as it’s designed (remember sweat’s main purpose is to serve as our personal air conditioner), blot away excess sweat with a small (clean!) towel. Whether you’re in a humid yoga room or going for a run on a humid day, a lightweight hand towel can help absorb those buckets of sweat, so it isn’t left sitting on your skin. Plus, it helps you avoid wiping your sweat off with your hands, which (again) touch everything from the gym floor to weights to the yoga mat during your sesh. Don't Let Sweat Ruin Your Post-Workout Glow


Small, microfiber yoga towels are great at absorbing sweat.

Shandali GoSweat Hot Yoga Towel

4. Wash your face after working out (ASAP!). Hop in the shower, or simply wash your face at the sink. Using lukewarm water and a gentle cleanser, lightly massage your skin in circles. Pat–don’t rub–dry, and apply a soothing toner and moisturizer to lock in hydration. For next level skincare, spritz your face with a topical probiotic (which helps right pH levels and protect the skin’s essential acid mantle) and an inflammation-fighting serum like Pestle & Mortar Pure Hyaluronic Serum. If fully washing your face isn’t an option, pack facial cleansing cloths like Josie Maran Argan Bear Naked Cleansing Wipes. They may not clean skin as effectively as soap and water, but they’re great to have in a pinch!

Don't Let Sweat Ruin Your Post-Workout Glow

Use a soothing serum after washing your face. 

Don't Let Sweat Ruin Your Post-Workout Glow

Pack facial wipes just in case! 

These tips take minimal effort, but they really go the distance to keep your skin in its best condition. And think of it this way–the better your skin looks after a workout, maybe you’ll be more likely to stick to your desired workout regimen 😉

Now, go enjoy your glow! 

What are your favorite post-workout skincare tips?

Related: Anti-Aging Benefits of Yoga

My Clear Skin Regimen

Yoga for Acne

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Photo: PicJumbo, Respective brands

Peaceful Dumpling Beauty Editor and creator of Bisou du Jour, Mary Hood Luttrell lives with her husband in Corpus Christi, Texas. Mary is a freelance writer and writing and blogging consultant. A lover of whole foods, Mary delights in learning new ways to prepare vegan dishes. Mary also enjoys reading and writing poetry, art journaling, running, and practicing yoga and ballet. Follow Mary on her blog Bisou du Jour, Instagram and Pinterest.


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