How To Prevent Acne If You Exercise Regularly

Working out regularly is great for your mind and body. Sometimes, there’s nothing better than getting a sweat on and having a good exercise session, but sweat, warmth, and moisture can also be the perfect conditions for skin breakouts.

If your workouts are taking their toll on your skin and causing you to develop spots, here are some top tips to prevent acne while exercising regularly.

How can exercise cause acne?

Exercise can cause acne breakouts in several ways. When we exercise, we tend to sweat more, which can mix with bacteria, dead skin cells, and other impurities on our skin, leading to clogged pores. On top of having already naturally oily skin, this excess sebum can lead to acne.

The friction caused by tight-fitting workout clothes or equipment can also irritate our skin, causing inflammation and breakouts. You shouldn’t stop working out because you’re worried about acne or other skin complaints, but you should maintain good hygiene and a consistent skincare routine to prevent flare-ups.

5 ways to prevent acne caused by exercise

The good news is that there are plenty of practical steps you can take to prevent acne as someone who exercises regularly. You can continue to play sports, do your gym sessions, go running, and maintain clear skin.

Here’s what you can do:

1. Use a face towel to wipe sweat as you workout

You’re bound to get hot and sweaty when you work out, but don’t let the sweat simply sit on your skin. Instead, using a clean face towel to wipe sweat as you work out can be an effective way to prevent acne breakouts. When we exercise we inevitably sweat more, which can mix with bacteria and dead skin cells, clogging our pores and leading to acne. 

Pack a clean face towel in your gym bag so you have one to hand. You can then gently pat away the sweat as you work out — but avoid rubbing too hard, as this can cause skin irritation. Just remember that it’s essential to use a clean towel for each new exercise session, as reusing a dirty towel can transfer bacteria and impurities back onto your skin. 

2. Create a post-workout skincare routine

Cleaning your skin after working out is an essential step in preventing acne breakouts. Getting rid of excess oil, sweat, and bacteria that have accumulated will not only make you feel refreshed after exercising but will keep your skin unclogged — so make sure you have a good post-workout skincare routine.

Use a gentle cleanser that is suitable for your skin type and avoid scrubbing your skin too hard, as this can cause irritation and inflammation. If your acne is a little more severe, antibiotic creams for acne can be prescribed by your doctor or purchased through an online pharmacy. These creams contain active ingredients designed to fight the bacteria growth that contributes to acne.

3. Remove makeup before exercising

During exercise, there’s increased blood flow to the skin, which causes the pores to open — this can mean that makeup can sometimes become trapped in the enlarged pores, which certainly isn’t ideal for preventing acne. The best thing you can do is remove your makeup before working out.

If you prefer to wear a little makeup while you exercise, however, perhaps try wearing a lightweight base instead of a heavier foundation. This will be less likely to run and clog your skin as you work out. You should then clean your face completely once you’ve finished exercising.

4. Wipe down gym equipment before and after use

Trying to be as hygienic as possible in the gym can be very beneficial to your skin. In fact, a study testing the cleanliness of gym equipment found that over 70% of the bacteria found were harmful and known to cause a combination of skin infections and illnesses! With that in mind, always wipe down any equipment, weights, and machines before and after use.

When we exercise, we produce sweat that can transfer onto gym equipment, creating a breeding ground for bacteria — and it’s not just your bacteria either! This can then transfer back onto our skin when we use the equipment, often leading to clogged pores and acne breakouts. 

5. Wear loose and comfortable clothing

There’s nothing worse than feeling uncomfortable while working out. Worse yet, tight-fitting workout clothes or clothing made from synthetic materials can trap sweat and bacteria against the skin, encouraging acne breakouts. Swapping to more breathable materials is a sensible option.

Wearing loose and comfortable clothing allows the sweat to evaporate and keeps the skin cool and dry, which means less moisture will build up. You might also want to avoid headbands or caps, as these can become a hub for bacteria.

Remember to always prioritize your skin’s health by taking simple steps to prevent acne. With good practices in place, you can still enjoy exercising while keeping your skin acne-free!

Halle Jackson
Halle Jackson
My name is Halle Jackson and I am a dermatologist, skincare specialist, and makeup artist. I am also a content writer for Through my writing, I aim to educate and inspire readers to take control of their skin health and beauty. I believe that everyone deserves to feel confident and comfortable in their own skin, and I am committed to sharing my knowledge and expertise to help make that a reality.