Ways to prevent breakouts after working out


We’ve all been there. You’re
enjoying the post-workout glow that leaves your skin looking dewy and fresh —
only to wake up the next morning, with a zit the size of Mt. Everest.
Coincidence? Maybe. But there’s a good chance that blemish is related to your
“Gym-related breakouts
are a huge complaint I hear from my clients.” says Liz Donat, a New York
State-licensed esthetician and consultant. “Sweat, spiked with haircare
product residues, along with bacteria, oil, and cross-contamination from gym
equipment, all play a part.” The good news is, most of these issues are
preventable, as long as you take the time to give your skin a little love. Use
these tips to prevent a future post-workout breakout.
Wash your face before you

You may not want to take the
time to wash off your makeup before your workout (especially if it means
re-applying afterward), but this one step is your first line of defense against
post-exercise pimples. Dr. Neal Schultz, NYC dermatologist, host of DermTV.com,
and creator of BeautyRx by Dr. Schultz says, “Most people wash their face
after they work out, but it’s much more important to wash your face before you
exercise. When you wipe off your sweat during exercise, you unintentionally
grind any makeup, oil, dirt, excess dead cells, debris, and so forth, into the
pores on your face, which can cause the breakouts and clogs of exercise
Of course, if you don’t have
access to a sink and your favorite face wash, this can pose a challenge. Dr.
Shultz suggests toning and exfoliating before your workout by keeping
pre-soaked makeup remover and exfoliation pads in your gym bag so you can quickly
and easily wipe away makeup and oil with a toner pad. Then, follow with the
exfoliant pad to remove dead skin cells. “These two easy swipes will leave
your skin squeaky clean and ready for a workout that won’t break you out,”
he says. No water required!
Wear a headband during

Even if you always wash your
face before you exercise, chances are you don’t give a second thought to your
hair (aside from throwing it in a ponytail). Unfortunately when you sweat, any
product you use on your hair is just going to drip down your face.
According to Donat, this isn’t
going to do your complexion any favors. “Hair conditioners, sprays, gels
and dry shampoos are unsuitable for the face,” she says,”And can
alter the pH of the skin and clog pores — leading to breakouts.” It’s
highly unlikely you’re going to take the time to wash your hair before you hit
the treadmill, so Donat says the easiest solution is to simply wear a headband
to prevent sweat from creeping past your hairline.
Wear lighter, loose-fitting

If you’re prone to breakouts
on your body, in areas such as your chest, back, or butt, Dr. Schultz explains
this is often due to rubbing. “Anything that rubs against the acne-prone
area of the body will induce breakouts in the affected areas. Sweat may or may
not contribute to the breakout, but it’s the rubbing that drives the
And when you combine a sweaty
body with tight-fitting clothing, you only make the rubbing worse. Of course,
there’s no way to get around wearing a tight-fitting sports bra, but switching
to looser, lighter-weight tops, pants, and shorts may reduce the
skin-to-clothing friction that contributes to breakouts.
Wipe down equipment prior to

In news that might make you
rethink your gym habit altogether, a 2016 study performed by FitRated.com found
that free weights at the gym carry 362 times more bacteria than public toilets.
Disgusting, right? Just think of all those gym-goers who sweat all over the
benches without wiping them down, go to the bathroom without washing their
hands, and then just smear their germy hands all over the shared equipment.
Eww. Then if you sit, touch, or lie on the equipment — bam! — those germs
transfer to you.
Dr. Alan J. Park,
board-certified dermatologist and the founder of DermWarehouse, says the
solution is simple, “Wipe down your equipment before you use it.” If
possible, use the pre-moistened wipes or sprays the gym provides, rather than
your own sweat towel. It’s not doing you any good to wipe down the equipment
with the same towel you use to wipe down your face.
Avoid cross-contamination

Germ transference is just
going to happen to some degree. You really can’t avoid it completely, but you
can be aware of your surroundings — and the possible cross-contamination that
can take place between yourself, and the items around you. For instance, Donat
points out that draping your towel on a cardio machine that hasn’t been cleaned
is a great way to transfer germs to your face whenever you wipe away your
sweat. As an alternative, she suggests draping your towel around your neck.
Likewise, lying on an
un-sanitized yoga mat (even if it’s your own) or touching your face after using
a set of dumbbells are surefire ways to transfer germs to your skin. Avoid
touching your face at all during your workout, and really think about how you
sanitize your equipment before you get to work, to help reduce opportunities
for cross-contamination.
Get out of your sweaty
clothes, stat

The longer you sit around in
your sweaty clothing after your workout, the more likely you’ll be to
experience a body breakout. This is for two reasons: the chaffing, rubbing, and
friction that takes place between your skin and your wet clothes, and, the
possible build-up of germs and bacteria in the fabric.
Dr. Parks says, “Try to
shower as soon as possible after you work out, or at the very minimum, get out
of your sweaty clothes so your skin can breathe.”
Wash your hands before washing
your face

Of course it’s a good idea to
wash your face after you exercise, but make sure you wash your hands first!
Donat points out that if you don’t thoroughly wash your hands with soap before
washing your face, you’re just transferring those gross gym germs to your visage.
Wash your personal gear
between uses

It’s really tempting to just
roll up your yoga mat after a practice and forget about it until the your next
class. Likewise, it’s easy to use your gym towel, throw it in your bag, and
leave it there. The problem? Without a wash, germs and bacteria are able to
fester and grow — later, transferring back to your body the next time you use
those items.
Billy Lowe, a national beauty
expert and the founder of Gloss & Toss says, “The biggest problem we
see is that people don’t clean up after themselves. They throw the same gross
towel in their bag with the promise of washing it when they get home, but they
forget all about it, and use it the next day to wipe yesterday’s grime all over
their faces.” Take one or two minutes to wipe down your mat immediately
after class, and put your gym towels on rotation. Have a stack of them at home
so you can easily change out the old towel for a new one, then do laundry once
a week to keep your options fresh.
The clear solution

Really, it doesn’t take much
to prevent post-workout breakouts. The most important things to remember, are
to keep your skin as clean as possible, and to avoid as much
cross-contamination as you can by wiping down equipment. And don’t forget to
quickly shed those sweaty clothes after your workout — and keep facial
cleansers on-hand for easy pre- and post-workout refreshment.
Simply being aware of your
surroundings, and limiting unnecessary contact with germ-y surfaces, will go a
long way to keeping your skin clean and clear. With a spic and span fitness
routine, you’ll be glowing flawlessly any day of the week!

Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.