prevent acne breakouts during workout

How to prevent acne breakouts during your next workout

I don’t mean to sound like a Proactiv infomercial but … are you as sick and tired of breaking out after a workout as I am? My friends can judge the level of activity I did by the size of the red bumps forming on my forehead. And let’s just say I am no teenager.

So, WTF? I poked around and got in touch with licensed esthetician and acne specialist Alissa Chasen, B.A., L.E. at SkinFit Austin, and found some great tips from the American Academy of Dermatology to help acne-prone people like myself avoid breakouts whenever they exercise.  Hopefully you won’t have to worry about using raw honey for acne as a solution.

Don’t wear makeup

Every facility has one: the glamazon. Their face all done up to exercise. Don’t be this person, especially if you’re prone to breakouts. Makeup clogs pores, and that’s when pimples form. If you’re trying to impress the towel boy, Chasen recommends loose mineral powder.

“Loose mineral powder is the only makeup on the market that doesn’t contain comedogenic ingredients. Wearing loose mineral powder while working out does no harm to your skin; in fact, I even recommend wearing it for clients who work around french fry grease or chemicals as a way to shield their skin from their environment.”

Wash up

Right after a sweaty, cardio-intense workout, gently wash your face (especially if you are wearing makeup) and take a shower. Do not scrub the skin because that can cause more acne problems.

“Always carry your own towel and yoga mat, and clean them after each and every workout. Wash your caps and headbands after every workout, and NEVER wear them twice, Chasen said.  “Wash your face last, after you’ve rinsed out your shampoo and conditioner, so there are no acne-causing sulfates left on your face from your hair products.”


When sweat is dripping off your face or body, be sure to blot with a clean towel. Wiping off sweat irritates the skin and can cause a breakout.

Avoid friction

I spend most of my life sweating underneath a skate helmet playing roller derby. Turns out, sweating, especially under a hat or helmet, can aggravate acne-prone skin due to friction. If you wear any time type of gear when you work up a sweat, make sure it fits snug to avoid friction. Also, consider wearing cotton fabric between your gear and your skin.

“‘Acne mechanica’ are pimples caused by friction from rubbing bacteria-laden materials like sweaty workout clothes, towels, hats and helmets against your skin,” Chasen explained . “This is especially common in people who play sports requiring helmets because they are impossible to clean, or for those who like to wear caps when they run. I call those little bumps on the forehead “hat acne,” most commonly caused by wearing a dirty, sweaty hat. I always tell my clients to wear a clean hat every day!”

Wear the right material

Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing made of cotton or other natural fabrics so that your skin can breathe; this kind of clothing is less likely to cause friction. Synthetic fabrics lock in moisture, which is not good for your skin. However, you can find great moisture-wicking synthetic clothing out there these days. Check out Zobha’s moisture-wicking, quick-drying activewear. Also, if you’re an exceptionally sweaty person, like yours truly, bring an extra shirt with you in order to stay dry. Moisture and sweat lead to acne.

Want to keep the sweat out of your face? Sweat-resistant headbands like BondiBands and Halo Headbands do the trick. Ladies, check out Sparkly Soul for glittery versions.

Treatment for existing breakouts

Chasen recommends getting clear with a using gentle cleanser like EltaMD Foaming Facial Cleanser and a non-comedogenic sunscreen like EltaMD UV Clear, combined with a mandelic serum and low-percentage benzoyl peroxide gel formulated without pore-clogging ingredients. She also loves Face Reality products.