Can Sweat Cause Acne? (And What Can You Do About It?)

Can Sweat Cause Acne? (And What Can You Do About It?)

Are you really into fitness and working out? Do you also happen to have acne-prone skin? If that is the case, then surely you must've asked yourself, "can sweat cause acne breakouts?"

Sweating is great for us - we've all heard that at some point. It's good for our physical bodies and our mental health. Everyone likes the feeling of pushing hard at the gym and achieving the goals you set for yourself, but does it compromise your clear skin and cause sweat pimples?

There are already so many fitness myths, and there's no need to complicate the problem by adding myths about acne into the mix. We'll answer the question of whether sweating causes acne and how to stop it from forming during gym hours.

We'll look at both face acne and body acne since they're quite different in their own right and have different treatments.

So, let's get started.

What’s the Connection Between Sweating and Acne?

Here's a simple truth – sweating itself doesn't cause acne. Acne is caused by excess sebum getting clogged in your pores. That means you don't have to stop exercising to make your acne go away.

In fact, sweating is good for our skin. Working out helps us manage stress better and improves our sleeping patterns.

But is sweating good for acne? Yes! Working out releases a protein called dermcidin, which has been shown to help kill acne-causing bacteria.

When you sweat, your pores open up. This will naturally unclog pores, leaving you with fresh and clean skin and preventing acne breakouts.

Why is Sweating so Demonized, Then?

When you're in the middle of an intense workout, sweat (along with bacteria, dirt, and other debris) is building up on your skin. The problems arise when you don't wash your face and body afterward, leaving it to marinate on your skin. This will clog pores and cause sweat pimples. You need to remove dead skin cells, dirt, and bacteria from the skin's surface.

Clogged pores occur when the natural oil produced by your sebaceous glands to moisturize your skin is trapped by dirt, causing a large amount of oil to accumulate.


Now you can see why it's so easy to perpetuate this myth of sweat-causing acne.

But you don't have anything to worry about. Whether you exercise two times a day or two times a week, you can prevent sweat acne (or prevent sweat pimples) from forming, regardless of your routine. It's all about keeping your pores clear.

Is Wearing Makeup While Working Out Bad or my Skin?

For all you makeup lovers out there, this dilemma must've popped into your mind.

Not all of us have the luxury of having clear skin. And the truth is, the more problematic our skin is, the more we try to hide it from the world. But does that mean that people with skin problems should give up their exercise routine altogether? Quite the opposite.

As we've mentioned before, working out is beneficial for our skin. If you wear makeup while working out, here are some tips you can follow to prevent breakouts.

Generally speaking, it's never a good idea to work out with heavy makeup on your face, as it's an almost guaranteed way of suffocating your sweat ducts and pores. After all, your skin needs to breathe at all times. But is the answer always all black and white? No.

Not all skincare products are created equal. Some products have a higher chance of clogging up your pores and causing sweat pimples, while others are deemed non-comedogenic.

If a product is considered noncomedogenic, it scores low on the comedogenic scale, meaning it's not likely to cause any breakouts or sweat pimples. But if a product scores high on the comedogenic scale, it'll likely cause clogged pores, so you should stay away from it. This is important if you have sensitive skin or are planning on working out with the product on your face.

If you want to use makeup while working out, go for it. We generally want to cover up redness, acne, and hyperpigmentation when we go to the gym or take a class. The important thing to remember is always to use a noncomedogenic foundation, or, better yet, a hydrating and light BB cream that will protect your pores and your skin.

It's generally a good idea to avoid any heavy bronzers, highlighters, blushes, primers, and setting sprays in your gym workout routine, as these might contribute to sweat pimples.

What to Do Before Your Workout

Here are some general tips to keep in mind before you step into the gym or your workout class.

If you don't like wearing makeup during your workout, remove it completely before you start to sweat. This is best achieved using makeup wipes or some micellar water and a cotton pad. Keep them in your gym bag at all times.

There are two types of acne that might result from improper care after sweating: face acne and body acne. If you want to avoid the latter, wear clean clothes for your workout. Nasty things get trapped in sweaty clothes that almost certainly can cause you to break out in sweat acne, or red bumps all over your body. To avoid this, ensure your clothes are washed before you leave your house.

Whether you wear tight clothing or loose clothes is entirely up to you, but remember, if you create friction, this won't just lead to a heat rash - it can cause acne mechanica.

Are you an outdoorsy person that likes working out in the sun? Adjusting these tips to your routine won't be a problem for you.

There are a few additional tips to keep in mind when avoiding sweat pimples, though.

All of us should wear SPF regularly. But this is especially true if you work out outdoors in warm weather. Ensure you protect your skin from harmful UVA and UV rays by applying noncomedogenic sunscreen around 20 minutes before you begin your outdoor workout. The sun's harmful UV rays can cause sunburn, irritation, premature aging, and even skin cancer, so this tip is crucial for preserving clear skin. If you're unsure which sunscreen to use, consult a board-certified dermatologist.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind when searching for the perfect sunscreen. First, make sure you buy one that's at least SPF 30 or higher. Ideally, it should protect against UVA and UVB rays since that will ensure your skin is perfectly protected from the sun.

Since you'll be sweating a lot, choose a water-resistant option that's easy to carry around. If you have sensitive skin, picking an oil-free sunscreen specifically designed for people with skin sensitivity is a must!

How to Take Care of your Skin While Working Out

We discussed how to prepare your skin for the next sweat session. Now let's delve into all the steps you need to take to protect your skin from excessive sweating.

There are a couple of things you need to remember in this regard. Firstly, if you're the type to sweat excessively on your face, use a clean towel to wipe off any excess sweat regularly. If you remove sweat, you're less likely to break out.

Remember that you need to be gentle with the towel, especially if it has a rough texture. The same goes for washing your face – don't rub the towel harshly on your skin, but gently wash and then pat it dry.

Acne caused by sweat is easy to avoid if you only use your own towel. However, if someone asks for you to lend them your towel, politely refuse. Sharing a towel is one of the worst things you can do, no matter how clean and hygienic the other person is.

When you're at the gym and you're using sports equipment that has direct contact with your skin, make sure you wipe the equipment off with an antibacterial wipe. Shared equipment is probably full of germs and dirt, not something your skin wants to be in contact with. So, avoid body acne by simply wiping the equipment you use before using it. This will help you avoid sweat acne.

While you're out there breaking records and hitting new PRs, it can be tempting to touch your face with your hands. However, this is the last thing you'd want to do. Our hands are dirty enough, but gym equipment, or any other equipment shared among members or teammates, contains more bacteria than the toilet.

Yes, you read that correctly. This increases your chances of getting a cold and makes your skin more prone to breakouts, especially if you touch your face. But sometimes, we're so caught up in a workout that we subconsciously touch our faces with our bare hands. Wash your face every half an hour or so, to ensure you're more protected.

Things to Do After You Are Done Sweating

Now that you've finished the workout and are full of endorphins, don't get so caught up in those good feelings that you forget to shower. Showering after a workout is crucial to prevent sweat pimples and sweat acne breakouts.

When it comes to the face, wash it in the shower. That way, you can take care of any dirt, acne-causing bacteria, and oil trapped in your pores during your workout.

Pay attention to the cleanser and body wash you use. Make sure they're suitable for people with acne-prone skin and contain useful ingredients to fight off bacteria without causing long-term harm. 

Why not try Misumi's Clear Skin Salicylic Cleanser? Salicylic acid is one of the best acne-beating ingredients you can use.

Another thing you'll want to keep in mind is your shampoo. While rinsing off your shampoo, some might get on your back and shoulders, cause clogged pores, and lead to an acne breakout.

To prevent acne, make sure you're done with the hair products before you wash your whole body. That way, you won't have to worry about silicones, parabens, and other chemicals found in shampoos that might get trapped in your pores.  

Another important tip to include in this list is changing your underwear frequently, especially after a rigorous workout. Think about it – your underwear touches delicate parts of your body. If it's full of sweat, bacteria, and other gross stuff, then surely it's bound to cause some trouble, right? If you suffer from butt acne, this might be the reason why. In addition, you'll also want to choose soft and suitable materials for underwear.

Bras, as well as any other undergarments, also fall under this category. Make sure you're washing all of those often, and you won't have to worry about that aspect of working out. Moisture-wicking clothing is a must.

After you've worked out, wear loose-fitting clothing to give your pores a chance to breathe.

General Skincare Tips for Athletes

Now you know everything you need to do before, after, and during your workout. But is that enough to prevent acne?

The truth is skincare doesn't stop when you're done working out. Athletes need to develop a proper skincare routine for both morning and night time to get the best results skin-wise. And this goes for everyone - not just athletes. A proper skincare routine suitable for your particular skin type, needs, and lifestyle is one of the most important things in your journey to clear skin.

What general habits regarding skincare do athletes need to acquire? Well, for starters, regular exfoliation goes a long way. Exfoliating regularly removes dead skin cells, leaving you with fresh, rejuvenated, and soft skin. This will do wonders for how your skin looks after you're done applying makeup.

Pick up a conventional exfoliator from the store that's suitable for your skin type, or you could also make your own using ingredients from your kitchen, such as baking soda, sugar, oatmeal, or coffee grounds.

You're already familiar with the importance of cleaning your face after you shower, but what about your cleanser? Cleansers range from ones that contain natural ingredients like tea tree oil to others that are entirely made of chemicals. And chemicals aren't always bad, as long as they're non-comedogenic. Choosing an oil-free cleanser specifically designed for people with skin sensitivity is probably your best course of action - like the AHA 10% Skin Perfecting Cleanser.

The next step is moisturizing the skin. Choosing the type of moisturizer you should use is never easy since there are so many to choose from! But don't despair; this article will greatly help next time you shop for a moisturizer. Just like cleansers, good moisturizers should ideally be oil-free.


The next step will depend on your skin type and your goals regarding skincare. Ask yourself what you want with the products you're using for your skin. If you have a serious case of acne, try something like benzoyl peroxide or a Retin-A cream. If you have visible signs of aging, Retin-A should also help with that. On the other hand, benzoyl peroxide is used in most acne treatments.

However, if you don't suffer from severe acne but get the occasional pimple here and there, you can try using OTC spot treatments on the affected area. You could also make one using ingredients you probably already have in your house.

Masks are a luxury if you're short on time, but they make an ideal addition to your pamper night. Again, they're available OTC, but it's much more fun to make your own. Whether you choose a sheet mask or a DIY mask, you won't regret it. Your skin will thank you in the morning.

In Conclusion

So can sweat cause acne?

Not if you follow our tips! Sweating is one of the best things you can do for your skin and your body in general. Regarding the skin, it's especially beneficial if you suffer from acne or any other kind of skin issue.

You're pushing yourself really hard, the blood flow is increasing on your face, which helps postpone aging, and your lungs are heavily supplied with oxygen. And its effects don't last during your workout only. Your sleeping patterns will also improve, your stress levels will go down, and you'll be much happier and more positive in general - all of which are beneficial for healthy and glowing skin.

Just remember to pay special attention to proper hygiene and the products you use, and you'll be ready for any endorphin flush and adrenaline rush.

If you have severe inflammatory acne or acne that won't go away, see a board-certified dermatologist for treatment. They'll help you find the best acne medication for you.

This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances, and its goal is to offer a general view of the subject. In case you are suffering from a severe case of acne, you should consult with a dermatologist or a certified medical professional.

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