Is Your Workout Making Acne Worse? 4 Tips to Clear Things Up

Don’t let breakouts stop you from a good sweat sesh.

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If you’re always looking for an excuse to skip your workout and have to dig deep just to get your sneakers on, the last thing you need to deal with is sweat-triggered acne. It’s pretty unfair for your skin to punish you for trying to take care of your health, but luckily, derms have figured out how to reduce those breakouts.

First, it’s helpful to know how acne works: Your skin contains little openings called pores. When oil and bacteria get in the pore and clog it, your immune system attacks the foreign bacteria, which causes the pore to become inflamed. That’s the red bump you see, which usually takes the form of either a whitehead or blackhead.

All that sweat from workouts can trigger acne breakouts, especially on the back or chest. Here are four skin care habits that dermatologists recommend for keeping sweat from clogging your pores.

  1. Wear clean workout clothes—every time. Sweat on your clothes breed bacteria. Even if your tank from yesterday’s workout doesn’t smell today, bacteria is hanging out on there and could clog the pores before you even start your warmup routine.

  2. Choose breezy fabrics. Wear loose-fitting clothes in sweat-wicking fabrics like cotton. That keeps the bacteria away from the skin.

  3. Shower and change clothes ASAP. Athleisure clothing makes it acceptable to spend all of Saturday brunching and running errands in your yoga pants, but, the longer you stay in those sweaty threads, the more exposure your pores have to the ever-growing bacteria. If you can’t shower right away, at least try to change clothes (especially your top to keep the dirty clothes away from your back) and freshen up your face and back with an oil-free cleansing wipe.

  4. Use sunscreen. If you’re working out in the sun, you’ll want to protect yourself from UV rays and lotion up. Ignore the myth that sunlight reduces acne or makes it less visible; in reality, UV rays can make acne darker and last longer, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. (Learn more sunscreen myths here.) For the best, healthiest coverage, choose an oil-free sunscreen with a SPF 30 or higher. FYI, here’s how to choose the best sunscreen for your skin type.

These tips will help prevent breakouts, but once a pimple appears, it’s best to keep your hands off. Here’s why popping pimples makes skin worse.