How to Stop Workout Acne

Working out can cause excessive sweating, as well as a buildup of oil, dirt, and bacteria on your skin — all of which can lead to acne.

However, you don’t have to quit exercising in order to see clearer skin. The key is to maintain proper hygiene before, during, and after your workouts. Here’s what dermatologists from the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommend.



  1. Remove your makeup. No need to wash your face. A oil-free makeup remover towelette works fine.
  2. Put on clean workout clothes (washed since you last wore them). Dead skin cells, bacteria, and oils on unwashed clothes can clog your pores, leading to acne.
  3. Apply oil-free sunscreen before you head outside. If you’re going to exercise outdoors during the day, you can prevent breakouts by protecting your skin from the sun.

Yes, the sun can cause breakouts because it dries your skin. When this happens, your body produces more oil, which can clog pores and cause acne. To get the protection you need, you’ll want to apply a sunscreen that offers:

SPF 30 or higher

Broad spectrum (protects you from UVA and UVB rays)

Water resistance

Oil-free formulation (The label may say “non-comedogenic” or “won’t clog pores”.)

Never rub skin while cleansing it; pat gently instead.


To remove sweat during a workout, use a clean towel and gently pat the sweat from your skin.

  1. Use a clean towel to wipe off sweat. You want a towel that has been washed since you (or someone else) last used it.

When you remove sweat from your skin, gently pat it off. Rubbing your skin can cause acne to flare.

  1. Avoid sharing protective equipment like helmets and shoulder pads whenever possible. These can be full of acne-causing bacteria and oil, which may cause you to break out.
  2. Wipe off shared equipment before you use it. Shared equipment can be full of acne-causing bacteria and oil.


  1. Consider showering immediately after your workout. This may rinse away bacteria that can cause acne.

When you wash your face and other skin with acne, you’ll want to use a cleanser that is:


Oil free (The label may say “non-comedogenic” or “won’t clog pores” instead.)

A mild, oil-free cleanser can remove bacteria that can lead to acne and prevent clogged pores without irritating your skin.

When washing skin that has acne, be very gentle. Apply the cleanser with your fingertips and gently rinse it off with warm water. Rubbing, hot water, or anything else that irritates your skin can cause acne to flare.

If you aren’t able to shower, consider changing out of your workout clothes and wiping skin that tends to break out with pads that contain salicylic acid. This can prevent clogged pores.

If you have acne or acne-prone skin, following these recommendations from dermatologists can allow you to work out and see clearer skin. You’ll also want to continue treating your acne.

For more about skin issues, click here to visit the American Academy of Dermatology’s website.


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