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 workout.
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 exercise

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, 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 acne.”

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 exercise

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.

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 clothing

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 breakouts.”

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 use

news that might make you rethink your gym habit altogether, a 2016 study
performed by 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.

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

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.

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

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.

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
Wash your hands before washing your face

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

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.

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

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.

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.