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“I want to exercise but my friend had a bad case of acne after she started a gym routine!”

That line, or a variant of it, has been thrown around consistently by the many ladies I have spoken to regarding workouts. When Kristen asked me to write about this, I couldn’t wait to delve into it to find out how to solve this exercise bugbear.

What’s causing it?

Your skin is the largest organ your body has and is the barrier that prevents everything bad from coming in. Your skin is built to go through the wringer everyday. Exposure to perspiration, dirt and chemicals in the air is all in a day’s work for your skin. It produces sufficient sebum and sheds itself regularly to ensure its own renewal. However, with exercise, you can throw your body into a state of disarray. Here are a few key reasons why you could have an outbreak after working out:

  • Existing pollutants, irritants or makeup clogs up your pores.
  • Workouts trigger excess sebum production, blocking follicles.
  • Acne Mechanica – Acne caused by environmental factors such as heat, friction and constant pressure against the skin.

Countering the damage

There’s good news for all those who fear post-workout breakouts: You can avoid it! No, not by ditching your workouts (I saw that coming from a mile). Instead, here’s a quick guide to dodging that after-gym acne attack:

Solution 1: Work hard, Wash harder

You may feel super tired after the workout, but don’t forget to use facial cleansers to wash your face. Your pores open up wide during your workout session, so there’s a good chance that they’re all clogged up and primed for inflammation. The (wonderful) flip side: They’re also easier to clean out!

Solution 2: #nomakeup


Yes, I know you want to look hot for that workout Instagram shot. My advice is to do it AFTER your workout. Don’t be heavily made up before your work out because all that stuff is definitely going into your pores. Sure, you could wash your face after, but why take the risk of missing a spot and suffering an un-instagrammable face for the next week, right?

Solution 3: Let it breathe

If you’re especially prone to breakouts, ditch the headbands and go for breathable fabrics like cotton and hemp. However, do note that with excessive sweating, these fabrics will start getting weighed down and stick to your skin. If you know you’re going to sweat excessively, then go for super-light fabrics that wick the moisture off your skin.

Solution 4: Hands-off!

This one is simple to do: keep your hands off your face! Your hands would have touched gym equipment, the ground or some contaminated surface. Touching your face after that would transfer all bacteria from those surfaces directly onto your skin. Bring a clean towel just for cleaning your face to prevent bacterial transfer from hands to face!