Does Working Out Promote Acne? | Is Sweat the Cause

Is Acne Caused By Working Out?

The reason a lot of us work out apart from improving our health is to actually look better and more attractive. Although exercising and lifting weights is going to improve your body composition and make your body look better, what about your face? What if working out is causing you to break out and promoting acne!

What is Acne?

Acne is a skin condition characterised by red pimples on the skin and is common in teenagers. Acne is formed when your pores (hair follicles) become clogged up with dirt, dead skin cells and bacteria. Instead of the pores being able to secret hair-lubricating oil (sebum), it becomes trapped and begins to build up inside the pore.

This trapped sebum inside the pore acts as a breeding ground for bacteria, which survive off the sebum, multiply and lead to infection. With most infections, the area swells and becomes inflamed leading to the painful red pimple.

So How Does Exercise Lead To Acne?

Exercise, mainly weight lifting results in an increased production of the hormone testosterone. Testosterone has multiple roles in the body,  but one of the minor roles is the production of sebum. Therefore more testosterone, more sebum and more clogged pores.

The majority of studies agree that weightlifting does promote testosterone production, however, the majority of them have found that production is only increased by about 20 – 30 %. On top of this, the increased production only last for about 45 minutes.

This means that the increased testosterone and sebum really shouldn’t increase acne and will only do so if you are particularly prone to breakouts or have oily skin.


This is probably the big one that you were expecting… sweating during your workouts. Now if you are working out properly then you will be producing sweat which most believe clogs your pores and leads to acne. However, there is very little evidence to support this and is probably not the vase. [See here]

A common form of acne found in athletes called Acne Mechanica has been linked to sweating during exercise but not due to the actual sweat itself. The constant friction between equipment and clothing, combined with sweat, heat and pressure results in irritated pores, inflammation and thus acne.


There is another form of acne which is caused by a type of yeast called mallessezia. This yeast has increased growth rates under hot and sweaty conditions such as those experienced in a gym. The yeast leads to clogged pores.

The solution

If you tend to have acne or breakouts ensure that during your workouts that you are hydrated and regularly dry your face. Wearing breathable clothing will also help. Taking a shower immediately after exercise will also help to reduce breakouts.

If you are still concerned or worried then go seek a medical professional as some forms of acne can be difficult to clear up.

So at the end of the day, it isn’t actually the sweat that causes acne but other factors.

Change is the end result of all true learning – Leo Buscaglia

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