Treating Acne: How to Avoid Workout-Related Breakouts

Don’t let the fear of a breakout be one of the reasons you skip your workout. While treating acne can be a pain for anyone who puts in time at the gym, it isn’t impossible. If you follow these dermatologist-approved tips, you can keep your skin free of clogged oil, dirt, and keratin debris during and after your workout.

1. Wash your face before AND after

A man washing his face to avoid breakouts

A man washing his face to avoid breakouts | iStock.com

“Wash your face immediately before and after working out to decrease bacteria,” said dermatologist and founder of DNAEGF Renewal Dr. Ron Moy. It isn’t sweat that causes breakouts, it’s the mix of sweat, dirt, oil, and debris that gets pushed into your skin when you, for example, wipe your face with a towel that will cause flare up.

After a workout, wash your face thoroughly with a cleanser with glycolic acid. “The acid will help prevent buildup as it naturally exfoliates the skin by removing the dead skin cells and then accelerates cell turnover stimulating new ones in their place. Gel Cleansers are also great after a workout because they offer hydration without the extra weight of oils,” explained Moy. Use cool water when washing your face to close your pores.

2. Wear the right clothes

young woman stands in front of a weight rack holding dumbbells

Woman wearing workout gear at the gym | iStock.com

Avoid synthetic materials and opt instead for moisture-wicking fabrics, which will absorb moisture thereby preventing sweat from sitting on your skin. Synthetic materials, on the other hand, hold on to moisture making it more likely that your pores will get clogged.

3. Clean!

Hip abduction woman exercise at gym

Be sure to wipe down the equipment you use | iStock.com/LUNAMARINA

“Be sure to use clean equipment and mats,” MacGregor said. “If you attend yoga regularly — get your own yoga mat and clean it yourself immediately after the workout or use a washable towel over the mat. If you’re at a gym, wipe off any equipment, especially cardio machines, with antibacterial wipes before you use them.”

4. Sunscreen

man rubbing sunscreen onto his shoulder

SPF is a must | iStock.com

If you’re working out outside wearing sunscreen is imperative — 365 days a year. The aging and skincare-causing UVA rays are just as strong in the dead of winter as they are in the height of summer. It’s important however to make sure you choose the right sunscreen for your face.

“First off, make sure your sunscreen is broad spectrum to protect yourself from UVA and UVB Rays (SPF only measures UVB rays) to get maximum sun protection,” says Dr. Moy. “Secondly, you should avoid oily sunscreens which can clog pores. Stick with lightweight, broad spectrum sunscreens.”

5. Sweatband

Man struggling to do crunches

A sweatband can help | iStock.com

“Sometimes people use conditioners and other products that are very oily and when they travel down to your face or back from sweat they can clog the pores. This is why you often see acne on your forehead,” explained Moy. “One of the ways to avoid this issue is to try to refrain from using these heavy products on intense workouts or, if you prefer to stick with your hair products, use a sweatband to keep sweat (and therefore the product) from reaching your face.”

6. Hydration

Woman applying moisturizer cream in front of mirror

Woman applying cream | iStock.com

After your post-workout face wash, it’s best to add hydration back to your skin to calm any irritation and prevent breakouts. Dr. Moy suggests using a lightweight formula as they’ll help keep the post-workout glow going, which in turn makes skin dewy and refreshed looking without adding any potential buildup.

7. Shower right

Man taking a hot shower

Taking a hot shower | iStock.com

“If you breakout on your chest or back, buy a benzoyl peroxide wash and use it in the shower immediately after a workout,” MacGregor suggested. “Be sure to rise off completely since benzoyl peroxide can bleach towels and clothing.

[Editor’s Note: This story was originally published October 15, 2015]

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