My Acne Gets Worse After Working Out

Portrait of a young woman on exercise bike in gym.
You can keep your skin clear without ditching your workout. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Working out keeps your heart, lungs and muscles healthy and helps prevent excess body fat. Regular exercise gives your body a toned appearance and increases your energy level. However, your desire to exercise can dissipate quickly if your acne gets worse after working out. When sweat from working out dries, it becomes a food source for bacteria that causes acne, according to the Bellevue Acne Clinic. Do not let this discourage you from staying active; proper acne prevention methods should keep it under control.

How Acne Forms

Acne is caused primarily by three contributing factors including dead skin cells, bacteria and an overproduction of sebum. When a hair follicle becomes blocked with dead skin or oil, it traps sebum, a natural lubricant produced to keep your skin and hair soft. Within this blocked environment, bacteria will thrive and cause infection. When you sweat from working out, your body naturally cleanses its pores. However, any sweat that dries on your skin allows bacteria to thrive and can result in breakouts.

Washing Your Skin

Take a shower in warm or hot water immediately following a workout to rid your skin of sweat. Showering also removes any dust or dead skin cells that might adhere to sweat, decreasing the risk of blocked pores. Washing with a gentle cleanser helps remove dead skin without causing irritation or dryness that can worsen acne. If you cannot shower after your workout, use a soft towel with warm water to wipe down and remove most of the sweat. Shower as soon as you can to minimize the chance of acne developing after working out.

Treating Acne

After washing your skin, apply acne medication that helps break down sebum and prevents dead-skin buildup. Salicylic acid is an example of a common acne medication that might help reduce breakouts following exercise. Skin toners help tighten pores and reduce the risk of blockages. There are several over-the-counter acne medications to select from. If they do not work, consult your dermatologist; he might be able to prescribe acne medication to help clear your skin.

Preventing Acne

In addition to showering after a workout, rinsing your skin prior to exercising helps prevent breakouts that develop after working out. Rinsing removes any existing oils and dead skin, reducing the amount of buildup during and after the workout. Ask a dermatologist to recommend a regular skin-care routine to keep your acne under control. Regular treatment in the morning, midday and before bed keeps your acne to a minimum and helps prevent increased breakouts from working out.

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