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Sweat spots & sweat-induced acne. Does exercise affect acne?


Pretty Athletic

Sweat-induced acne. Yes it’s a thing. Spots and breakouts caused by sweat mixed with oils, dead skin cells and bacteria. It seems unfair. You exercise regularly which you know is amazing for your skin as increases circulation, delivering oxygen and nutrients to the skin giving you that immediate post-workout glow. It goes without saying that exercise is incredible for your physical and mental health in more ways than we can list here. And yet. You are left with spots, perhaps on your body (bacne anyone?) as well as your face that don’t seem to go away. Perhaps you’ve tired ‘acne’ treatments, often containing harsh ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide, but they’ve just left your skin red and irritated.

We should say at this point that sweat-induced acne is different to hormonal acne, which is something that exercise can help with.

Pretty Athletic

Practical tips

In our experience - having experienced it personally - as well as having spoken to a number of active, sporty women who struggle with acne and breakouts, the best tips for blemish-free skin are:

Exercise with clean skin wherever possible. If you wear foundation (in particular oil based foundation), remove it before heading out for a run or workout. Makeup can form a barrier on your skin covering your pores. You want to avoid the situation where you have blocked pores thanks to your makeup mixing with sweat and oil, and accumulating in the pores. Even if you don’t wear makeup, if you’re exercising at the end of the day we still recommend cleansing your skin pre-workout, to remove excess oils, dirt and pollution (or “the day’s grime” as one of our customers described it!)

Cleanse immediately after you exercise. Yes immediately. Not 30 minutes later when you’ve driven home after your track run, had a cup of tea and finally had a chance to jump into the shower. As amazing as sweat is, letting it sit on the skin post-workout is usually problematic. The salt in sweat can dehydrate and irritate the skin. As already mentioned, sweat can mix with oils, the impurities it has just pushed out of pores, and you don’t want that to settle back into pores and lead to breakouts. Plus, if you’ve used any gym equipment (treadmill, gym mat) and absentmindedly touched your face then you’ve likely transferred bacteria from all those other sweaty people to your skin. Always cleanse post-sweat.

pre post exercise workout sweat breakouts acne skincare

Be super gentle. Remember that your aim is to gently remove sweat, surface dirt, and excess oils without irritating or drying the skin. You want your skin to feel comfortable and hydrated post cleanse. You’ll know it's right because your skin will feel good before you apply moisturiser. Look for soap free / SLS free products, hydrating ingredients such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid, as well as products which are ‘pH balanced’. Also remember to BE gentle, apply your cleanser with your fingertips and massage it in carefully, use lukewarm water to rinse it, and then pat gently dry with a towel rather than vigorously rubbing.

Our own Cool Down: Purifying Gel Cleanser which is loved by professional and everyday athletes alike, has been carefully formulated by our team of top British cosmetic scientists. It gently cleanses the skin, whilst also calming, soothing and balancing thanks to a targeted mix of aloe, chamomile, prebiotics and lightweight hyaluronic acid.

cool down purifying gel cleanser pre post sweat breakouts acne

It’s not recommended to use a facial exfoliator immediately post-workout, when your skin is red and sensitive. However, gentle exfoliators do have an important place in preventing blocked pores and keeping the skin blemish free. We love ingredients like salicylic acid and AHAs. Use twice a week as part of your general skincare regime.

Do you think exercise has caused or worsened your acne? Share your thoughts - we'd love to hear from you.


If you would like to try our Cool Down: Purifying Gel Cleanser (or any of our skincare), just use discount code "CLEARSKIN" for 20% off.


"The only facial wash to ever calm down my spots/mild acne and protect from the pollution. It actually feels cool for hours after"

"Definitely noticed a big difference after I started using this product on my skin after being on a run"

"I tend to feel a bit icky after training - even if I splash my face with water, that dried sweat feeling lingers. It's so good when I can finally get to a bathroom and slather this stuff on. When washed off, it leaves my skin feeling amazing. It seems to last well, too."

"Lovely product, cleanses skin without drying and seems to calm it so not as beetroot red after a work out"

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