Is Your Workout Causing an Acne Break Out?

June is Acne Awareness Month and is an opportunity to raise awareness of this common skin condition, affecting over 645 million people globally. 

The great news for many people is that according to the next phase of the roadmap for Ireland’s easing of the COVID-19 restrictions, the gyms are going to open!

Benefits of exercise

Exercise can help to reduce stress and anxiety, which is important after the fear and worry experienced by many in relation to the unknown COVID-19, and the upsetting restrictions of lockdown.

Regular exercise also promotes better sleep and healthier more radiant skin! Exercise increases the blood flow to the skin which raises the amount of oxygen and nutrients transported to the skin, and removes waste products from the skin.

To decrease the risk of an acne break out, these tips may help:

  1. Remove make-up prior to working out. The pores dilate during strenuous exercise and the make-up may clog these dilated pores trapping oil and bacteria, leading to spots.
  2. Tie your hair back. Oils from the hair can transfer to the skin
  3. Wipe down equipment. Anything that touches the face like headphones or helmets should be cleaned regularly to remove make up, sweat, oil, bacteria and dirt.
  4. Avoid touching your face with your hands, to prevent transfer of bacteria, oils and dirt.
  5. Wear loose fitting breathable clothing for your workout. Tight fitting clothing traps sweat next to the skin, and the rubbing of fabric can irritate the hair follicles. Malassezia is a yeast commonly found on the skin and warm, tight garments and moisture create the perfect environment for the yeast to thrive. The over-production of this yeast contributes to inflammation of the hair follicles, and causes pimples or spots (folliculitis). This type of acne is different to bacterial acne.
  6. Remove sweaty clothes as soon as possible after workout!
  7. Shower after exercise. When you have a good heart-racing workout the pores on the skin dilate, and sweat and oil is expelled from the pores. It is important to wash the face and body as soon as possible, to remove the sweat and oil from the surface of the skin, and decrease the risk of these contributing to a break out of spots.
  8. Wash workout clothes after exercise to remove sweat, oil and bacteria from the fabric. Re-wearing garments without washing them can create a welcome environment for fungi to grow!

Exercising outdoors

On days when you decide to give the gym a miss and workout outdoors instead, remember to protect your skin and avoid sunburn and suntan!

Many of the medicines used to treat acne can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. A sunburn that reddens the skin, or suntan that darkens the skin may make the acne less visible and make the skin feel drier.

However, these ‘perceived benefits’ are temporary, and there are known risks of excessive sun exposure, such as premature skin aging and the risk of developing skin cancer.

Use ‘high protection’ broad spectrum sunscreens, with an SPF of at least 30 + for adults, and a UVA circle logo and/or 4 or 5 UVA stars.

Use sunscreens that do not block pores – these products may be labelled “non-comedogenic” or “oil free”. Stay safe by limiting time in the midday sun when UV is strongest, typically between the hours of 11:00am-3:00pm.

For more on being protecting your skin visit our SunSmart 2020 page.

Talk to your GP

Even mild cases of acne can sometimes cause distress and unhappiness. If you develop an acne break out that persists, go and speak with your GP.

Visit our acne information page to learn more or if you need support, information and guidance for your skin condition ask our Dermatology Nurses.