Moderate exercise is actually good for your skin. It helps you maintain a healthy body and manage your stress levels, too. If you find your acne is aggravated by regular exercise, then you may want to examine your routine. What do you wear? Where do you go? How hard do you work? Exercise-related acne is usually caused by something you put on your body rather something you do with it. Remove these outside factors, and you may put an end to your workout breakouts. Here are just a few things to watch for.
When exercising, wear as little make-up as possible. Even oil-free and non-comedogenic (non-pore-clogging) cosmetics can clog pores if worn during heavy exercise. When you’re done working out, wash as soon as possible.
If your regimen takes you outdoors, always wear sunscreen. While acne may improve slightly after brief periods in the sun, studies show that prolonged exposure actually promotes comedones (clogged pores) and, of course, sun damage. Some kinds of acne medication make skin more sensitive to the sun, so sunscreen is even more important. When choosing a sunscreen, look for products that are oil-free and have a protection factor of at least SPF 15 for both UVA and UVB rays. Like make-up, sunscreen can travel across the skin’s surface and lodge in the pores — so wash immediately after working out.
If you’re prone to body acne, avoid garments made exclusively with lycra or nylon. Why? Some synthetic fabrics can trap the heat and moisture against your skin, creating a fertile breeding ground for the bacteria that contribute to acne. For moderate exercise, your best bet is lightweight, loose-fitting cotton, or a lycra-cotton blend. Natural fabrics allow the skin to breathe, and loose garments are less likely to cause friction. If you’re exercising vigorously and working up a good sweat, however, you may want to try some of the new fabrics designed to wick moisture away from your skin.
Some people are more likely to get acne or have their lesions aggravated in the areas affected by sports equipment. The best defense against friction-related breakouts is a good fit — make sure your helmet doesn’t slide around on your forehead, or your wetsuit isn’t too tight under the arms. You can also curb equipment-triggered breakouts by lining your helmet with a layer of soft, washable cotton fabric; it's a great use for those old t-shirts, too. And no matter what the sport, it’s always a good idea to keep your equipment clean and dry when not in use.
Mom was right: You should get out of those wet clothes! No matter how you get your exercise — treadmill, trail, tennis court, or whatever — don’t sit around in your sweaty clothes or wet bathing suit when you’re done. If you can, shower off immediately and change into dry clothes before driving home. If this isn’t possible, change into dry clothes and wipe down as well as you can. When toweling sweat off your face, always use a clean towel, and blot gently rather than wipe. Vigorous wiping can irritate your skin, driving make-up and sunscreen deeper into the pores.
Again, it’s best to shower immediately after working out. You may want to use a medicated exfoliant cleanser, but always be gentle with your skin. Scrubbing harder isn’t going to make you any cleaner, or make your acne go away — and it may actually irritate existing lesions or promote the development of new ones. If you can't shower right away, you can still curb breakouts by wiping down with medicated pads; keep a few in your gym bag just in case.
So keep up the good work! A healthy exercise program is an integral part of your overall health; and a healthy body is more likely to have healthy skin. Just keep an eye on the various factors that accompany your regimen, and try to remove the acne triggers — you’ll be on your way to breakout-free workouts.