Fact or Fiction: Does Sweat From Working Out Cause Acne?

sweat acne

Hitting the gym is, without a doubt, healthy for our body and mind, but what about our skin? With a high level of endorphins, a lower level of stress, and the overall happy mood working out tends to leave us with, is it also possible that an intense workout will leave a trail of acne behind? With all the sweat that goes on during a workout, it seems likely that our skin turns into a breeding ground for acne. Sweat, however, might not be the problem behind an acne flare-up. Before we consider the negative effects working out has on our skin, let’s find out exactly what it is about a long run or an intense game of soccer that causes extra pimples.

According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, “exercise increases blood flow to the surface of your skin and brings oxygen and nutrients to your whole body—skin included,” as stated on the fitness website Spark People. While working out may cause our cheeks to look rosy, it would make sense that all the extra sweat would cause breakouts as well, right? Well, lucky for us, that might not be the case!

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sweat acne face wash

Spark People states that “sweat in itself neither fights acne nor causes it, but the increased blood flow, unclogging of pores from sweating, and stress reduction that results from exercise may all benefit the acne sufferer,” explains experts from the Children’s Hospital of Colorado. When we sweat, particles like dust get caught on our skin and clog our pores. In order to prevent acne, it is important to wash right after working out and to make sure to change out of damp clothing. Spark People explains the importance of not touching your face while working out, or at all for that matter, in order to avoid breakouts. “Touching your face can transfer oil and bacteria (which thrive in moist, humid environments like the gym) to the skin, leading the possible acne flare-ups,” according to Spark People. Use a towel to blot away sweat from your face instead of your hand. Also, pull back hair off your face and back to avoid breaking out in those areas.

The informational website How Stuff Works states, “combine sweat with friction and you have what’s known as acne mechanica.” Acne mechanica is a type of acne that forms when tight-fitting clothing or equipment rub repeatedly against skin. It occurs from heat, tight clothing or equipment, and the constant friction against your skin while you work out. Acne mechanica is most likely the culprit behind acne on chest, back, or legs after working out. Helmets, sunglasses, and other sport’s equipment can also be the source of acne, so be sure to clean this equipment frequently as it will get just as sweaty as you get!

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Verdict: Fiction. Sweat alone does not cause acne; however, our clothing, habits, and equipment might contribute to breakouts!  Spark People recommends wearing clothing that is designed to keep sweat off the skin, shower after a workout, keep hair and hands off your skin, and clean any equipment you use. If you follow these steps, you will find that acne will be less likely to appear on your skin. Remember that keeping your hands off your face, even when not working out, will do wonders for your skin. Our hands carry a lot of bacteria, and it’s best to keep it off our faces. Bearing this in mind, don’t skip your workout for fear of acne flare-ups. We can now say working out is good for our mind and body, and safe for our skin!

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