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Does sweating cause acne? 5 skin tips when breaking a sweat

How to get that no-breakout workout

Stephanie Papanikolas Avatar
by Stephanie Papanikolas
Updated on Jul 6, 2023 • 4 min read
Woman doing exercise in a red top
Stephanie Papanikolas Avatar
by Stephanie Papanikolas
Updated on Jul 6, 2023 • 4 min read
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

Hi, Fergalicious. I know you’ve been up in the gym, working on your fitness. Oh, me? I’ve just been rolling around on my living room floor, doing “yoga” these days. It’s good for my hips, but whenever I break a sweat, any active pimples I have seem to thrive — and I know I’m not alone with this problem. Thankfully, making your fitness routine work with your skin routine doesn’t require a blackbelt to understand, so here are 5 quick tips on managing your acne for a no-breakout workout:

1. Fear no sweat.

You don’t have to choose between an acne-free lifestyle and an active one — sweating doesn’t cause acne (on its own, at least). Sweat and sebaceous oil aren’t produced by the same glands, so getting sweaty doesn’t mean your pores are getting clogged. But that doesn’t mean we’re off the hook. When it comes to acne, moisture from sweat can combine with other factors to encourage breakouts. And while sweat doesn’t clog pores, the moisture of sweat does create a nurturing environment for acne-causing bacteria. Also, skin conditions like eczema can worsen with excess sweating; some people also experience heat rash after sweating (especially in a hot, humid environment).

2. Rinse and dry off.

Since sweat doesn’t clog pores, there’s no need to vigorously wash post-workout. While I always shower normally to banish any threat of B.O., the most important thing is that your skin doesn’t stay wet for too long. So, the best thing to do is to take a lukewarm shower — or splash lukewarm water on your face — and pat dry. I wouldn’t recommend substituting cleansing wipes for a rinse, since these often contain alcohol, which can further irritate the skin.

3. Keep a clean change of clothes.

First off, you deserve as many comfy pairs of sweatpants as you want. Secondly, the friction of sweaty clothes makes breakouts more likely. Work out in loose-fitting clothing made from breathable fabric (like cotton). If you’re breaking out on your chest or back, a sweaty sports bra might be the culprit. So, no matter what clothes you prefer to work out in, changing into a clean outfit is a good idea.

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4. Treat your bacne right.

If you’re still breaking out after following the three tips above, it might be time to invest in a body cleanser formulated to treat body acne. Two ingredients that may be effective at fighting breakouts on the body are zinc pyrithione and salicylic acid. Look for bar soaps with zinc pyrithione; salicylic acid can be found in body washes like the acne body wash by Curology.

Before using a new product for acne, it’s always worth it to do the CosDNA test to make sure your product is free of pore-clogging ingredients.

5. Fall back on your routine.

Can an active lifestyle help improve your skin? The answer is “yes” — indirectly. Exercising helps with stress reduction — less stress, less release of stress hormones, which can drive your skin’s oil production. So, yes, you’re probably doing your face a favor when you work out for the soul as much as the body. But if you haven’t broken the bad habits mentioned above? Well, that’s a different story.

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When it comes to acne, the best offense is a good defense, which is why you should be fortifying yourself with a twice-daily skin routine. But just because I’m vigilant about my glow doesn’t mean it’s complicated. Curology makes it easy with their custom creams prescribed with ingredients for your unique skin concerns. You can get your first bottle free when you sign up for Curology. New members can also try our 2% salicylic acid acne body wash for free — you’ll just pay $4.95 to cover the cost of shipping and handling.

Stephanie Papanikolas Avatar

Stephanie Papanikolas

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