What You Need to Know About Summertime Workout-Induced Acne—And How to Prevent It

Victoria Moorhouse
Workout Acne

Sam Edwards / Getty Images

Experiencing a breakout soon after the sweat of a workout can make you want to scream. We’re always trying to keep our pores under control, especially in the summer when heat and humidity rule and outdoor athletic activities reign along with it. Turns out, there can be a connection between working out and exercise acne popping up. Because no one should say no to an afternoon jog because of a fear of zits, we chatted with an expert to get to the bottom of what causes acne from working out, and how to fix it once and for all.

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What Causes It?
It’s not like just stepping on the treadmill makes your skin rebel, so what’s the cause of this acne? “Workout-induced acne is caused by the bacteria and clogged pores usually caused by a hat, sweatband, or sunscreens. Bacteria then accumulates in the pores causing acne,” says dermatologist and Vice President of the Skin Cancer Foundation, Dr. Ronald Moy.

It’s also a matter of what you’re putting on your skin before you hit the gym, as Dr. Moy says that products that clog your pores are more likely to contribute to breakouts after working out. “Products that are greasy and moisturize the skin are more likely to cause acne and inflammation,” he explains.

Obviously you’ve heard that sweat can contribute to pores being clogged, too, but when it comes to acne and breakouts, many other factors are likely to come into play, including stress, clothing, and the oils on your skin.

If You Already Have Acne, You Could Experience More Workout Blemishes
“People who have acne already are more likely to experience breakouts due to workouts because of a propensity to have clogged pores and an increase in bacteria,” explains Dr. Moy. That means if you’re already trying to keep your skin clear, you need to be especially mindful of the aftermath of your workout.

Summer’s Heat Could Play a Part
Ever experience blemishes after days upon days of humidity? If you’re exercising outside, the weather and your skin may be something to be conscious of. “Humidity can increase the surface oils on the skin causing blockage of pores and an increase in acne-causing bacteria. Breakouts can be more common in summer thanks to increased humidity, hats, sweatbands, and some sunscreens all contributing to blocked pores, which cause acne,” says Dr. Moy.

Watch the Products You Use
By now, you’ve heard about using non-comedogenic products to avoid clogged pores. This is a big factor in moisturizers. “For the summer its best to use a light lotion that can moisturize the skin without risk of clogging like our DNA Intensive Renewal. This can decrease inflammation and repair sun damage when an acne patients needs a night time moisturizer,” he explains.

Sensitive skin types need to be especially careful when it comes to SPF, as there are sunscreens with chemicals that can cause irritation and clogged pores. It’s been said to try a physical sunscreen instead of a chemical one to avoid breakouts.

So, how can we prevent these workout-induced zits? Invest in a solid cleanser that clears bacteria without irritation. “The best way to prevent these is using a cleanser like our DNA Foaming Gel Cleanser, which is great at cleaning pores after a workout . It has a non-irritating formula with a gentile amino acid glycolic complex to stimulate cell turnover,” says Dr. Moy. He also points to over-the-counter products with benzoyl peroxide that can decrease acne lesions over six to eight weeks.