Is the gym to blame for spots and other breakouts?

-Dec 10, Caroline Blight , Beauty -

Breakouts can come in many different forms and can be exacerbated by a number of different factors from foods to toiletries, but acne can also be caused by excessive exercise.
Acne is one of the most common skin conditions worldwide, with 28% of the UK population suffering from this at some stage in their lives. But while most of us look at our diets and the products we put on our faces, most of us assume that exercising most be making us look healthy. We speak to a leading dermatologist who reveals why the gym could be causing unwanted breakouts. 


Breakouts can come in many different forms and can be exacerbated by a number of different factors from foods to toiletries, but acne can also be caused by excessive exercise.

Whilst working out is important for our body and mind, we need to take care of our skin too when exercising as leading Dermatologist Dr Daniel Glass, from The Dermatology Clinic London on Harley Street, explains. How does working out cause acne and how can we prevent it?


Remove your make-up before working out to avoid spots


Although you may not feel as confident without your make-up on or be dashing to the gym or on a run in the middle of the working day, exercising without make-up is a must for your skin. “Make-up forms a barrier on your skin and can block your pores,” explains Daniel.

“As you exercise your body temperature rises and your heart rate increases, causing your pores and sweat glands to open up, helping to cool your body down. If make-up is left on during exercise it may prevent those pores from being able to release sweat.” This in turn can block your pores and glands, hindering your skin’s ability to breathe, which means your chance of breakouts and blackheads developing is massively increased.

Tight gym clothing can cause acne


Do you love your activewear so much you wear it even when you are not being active? This might be causing problems for your skin. “Tight clothing that occludes the pores and prevents sebum and sweat from escaping can also contribute to nasty outbreaks,” says Daniel.

Exercise induced acne is more prevalent on areas of skin that are obstructed by constricting clothing, such as bra straps, waistbands, rucksacks or under headbands or devices such as watches or heart rate monitors so if this is where you are noticing break outs, it is time to take action.

“The most effective form of treatment consists of removing the cause of the issue. As such, devices or objects in contact with the affected skin should be removed as soon as you have finished using them and should be cleaned after use. Where possible, avoid wearing clothing which rubs against your skin during exercise and ensure you shower or bath straight after exercising and change into clean clothing,” Daniel explains.

Also think smart when chosing your work out gear. For example, wearing breathable fabrics, such as cotton and linen will help to keep you cooler by absorbing the excess moisture, which in turn will reduce sweating. Clothing with modern fabric technology such as sweat wicking, is also a good option as they have been designed to help people keep cool and draw moisture away from the body to allow it to evaporate quickly and easily, ensuring that it doesn’t linger on the skin and block the pores.

Just make sure after a sweaty session you shower and change as soon as possible.

Shared equipment can ruin your skin!


Gym equipment from exercise mats, to dumbbells and running machines, can be a source of countless skin infections. Studies show that gym equipment which have the most contact with the skin, such as mats and exercise machines have the most bacteria, which makes sense. “With so many people using the same machines on a regular basis and not paying enough attention to disinfecting or wiping down after use, these germs and bacteria are easily spread,” says Daniel. “People with compromised immune systems have also been shown to have more risk of developing skin infections if they attend the gym.” Make sure you use a mat cover or even just a large towel for classes involving mats. Think about wearing Pilates socks if you need to be barefoot in a communal class and wipe down any equipment with the antibacterial spray most gyms provide before using them. Avoid touching your face at all if you can and wash your hands well after working out in the gym or yoga studio.

How to take care of your skin when you are exercising outside


Getting outside to exercise is a great idea with the benefit of being in nature and working out. But remember you still need to take care of your skin. “There are also large number of other skin conditions which can be aggravated by sun exposure, including eczema, psoriasis, acne and some auto immune conditions,” adds Daniel. “These may be induced with extensive exercise, for example after prolonged periods of walking, usually in hot weather. Symptoms are often found in golfers, marathon runners or long‐distance walkers.”

Also remember you are outside in the sun’s rays and so a comprehensive sun cream which protects you against both UVA and UVB rays is needed.

“If possible, also try and opt for an oil-free non comedogenic sunscreen that’s formulated for the face and apply your chosen, broad spectrum sunscreen at least 30 minutes before you go outside and reapply every 2 or 3 hours throughout the day, and after excessive sweating or swimming,” recommends Daniel.

Even if you don’t normally burn easily applying the correct sunscreen in sunny weather is important in preventing serious sun damage, which can occur over a lifetime, due to over exposure and lack of sun protection.


If you found this useful, why not take a look at what Nichola Joss says we should be doing to get our skin party season ready. And, top make-up artist Candice Meggan reveals how to look like you had a good night’s sleep even when you didn’t. 

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