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5 Ways Your Workout Might Be Messing With Your Skin

23 Apr 2022 - By Hanna Wee

The benefits of exercise and an active lifestyle on our health and well being, and even our skin are well known. But active lifestyles can also have some downsides where our skin is concerned. Here are 5 ways your workouts might be causing your skin problems and what to do about it.

Yes, that post-workout glow is real. Physical activity has numerous benefits to our health and unsurprisingly, also to how our skin looks and feels. As our heart rate increases during physical activity, our blood vessels expand to facilitate blood flow improving the circulation of oxygen and nutrients throughout the body including our skin, and that’s what leads to that post-workout glow.

But most of us are already well versed in the benefits that an active lifestyle can have on our health, skin and general well being. What’s less known is how our active lifestyles and choices might actually be impacting our skin? Read on as we look at a few ways our workout routines may be causing our skin problems.


facial acne

Problem 01: Facial Acne

Acne is something all of us, save a lucky few, are already quite familiar with. Caused by clogged pores that get infected and inflamed, acne can be an embarrassing and even a painful problem that can eventually lead to scarring and blemishes if not properly treated and cared for.

While it can happen to anyone, an active lifestyle can be one of the risk factors that you might not yet have considered, especially if you struggle with acne prone skin. Increased perspiration and sebum production is one contributing factor but your pre-workout routine is probably even more so.

If you use hair products or makeup and are not in the habit of cleaning it off before a workout, you are at an increased risk of getting acne. The combination of perspiration and sebum mixed in with makeup and hair product creates a cocktail that’s going to clog your pores.

The forehead in particular can be a problem area for those in certain sports that require helmets or other headgear. The rubbing between the headgear stimulates excessive sebum secretion. Combine that with any makeup or hair products and perspiration and you’ve got a recipe for skin disaster.


Solution 01: Don’t use makeup or hair products when working out and cleanse as soon as possible.

Now you probably don’t want to forgo the helmet if you’re a cyclist or a canoeist but you can avoid wearing makeup or hair products when you are working out. And even if the activity you’re engaging in doens’t require any kind of headgear, it’s still advisable to remove any beauty products before you start working out… save for sunscreen of course but more on that later.

Cleansing immediately after your workout is a good preventative habit as the longer you leave the muck on your skin, the likelier it’s going to dry, harden and cause you all kinds of problems. Choose a good cleanser like the Selenus Artemisia Calming Us Cleansing Foam, which contains mugwort that purifies your pores and helps rebalance your skin after a workout.


body acne

Problem 02: Body Acne or Bacne

It’s bad enough when you have to deal with facial acne but when a cluster pops up on your chest or on your shoulders too? That’s just down right gnarly! Body acne or “Bacne” as it’s commonly referred to, affects a lot more people than you think and has the same common causes as facial acne.

Bacne tends to concentrate around the chest, shoulders and upper arms as those areas of the skin tend to have a higher concentration of pores and sebaceous glands. The pores tend to also be larger making them more prone to clogging and increasing the chances of getting a zit there much higher. 

The combination of perspiration, repetitive rubbing between the skin or with tight fitting clothing when we workout can irritate the skin and help create the perfect conditions for clogged pores and the infections that cause body acne.


Solution 02: Wear loose clothing and cleanse as soon as possible

The best way to combat body acne is to always take a shower immediately after a workout. Choose one with ingredients like retinoids or salicylic acid which is anti-inflammatory and unclogs pores. One good option is the Heartleaf Acne Body Wash from Anua that combines salicylic acid and other exfoliating acids with natural botanicals that help prevent and heal body acne.

But taking a shower immediately after a workout isn’t always a reality. Try wearing loose fitting clothing so that your skin can dry and breathe and try to wipe down with a cleansing cloth  and a mister like the Time Out Refresh Forest Bathing Mist. This mister contains natural antimicrobials that in combination with loose clothing helps prevent bacteria growth that leads to Bacne.


Dry Skin

Problem 03: Dry Skin

The next skin problem that can come from exercise sits at the other end of the spectrum from oily skin. Perspiration caused by strenuous activity can dehydrate your body, including skin, causing your skin to become dry and easily damaged. Couple that with environmental factors such as sun exposure or chlorine water from the pool, and exercise and other physical activities might be causing your dry skin.


Solution 03: Good shower habits and a good moisturiser

Hot showers might feel nice but hot water can worsen dry skin conditions by further dehydrating the skin. Use cool or warm water instead and keep your showers down to 10 minutes using a gentle body wash that won’t strip your skin.

You should also apply a body moisturiser a couple of minutes after a shower and before your skin becomes bone dry to help keep barrier function optimal and reduce transepidermal water loss. Try Aromatica’s Tea Tree Calming Gel, which combines the moisturising effects of aloe vera with the purifying effects of tea tree to moisturise your skin and prevent acne breakouts.



Problem 04: Chafing

Exercise can cause all kinds of irritation and there are a few kinds that you should be aware of but if you are an avid runner, cyclist or into any sports that requires a high number of repeated motions, then you might be familiar with those red angry spots that develop when your skin’s rubbed the wrong way. Whether it’s skin to skin chafing or cloth to skin, those angry spots can be unsightly, itchy and even painful. 


Solution 04: Loose and dry clothing

Thankfully, the fix is rather simple. Try to wear loose clothing as it reduces cloth to skin chafing, and avoid physical activity in wet or moist clothing for prolonged periods as this increases friction during movements. Opt for breathable materials like lycra or dri-fit as they tend to be lighter and wick away moisture better.

Friction through motion is virtually unavoidable in certain activities like running a marathon and if that’s the case, there are anti-chafing lubricants and other types of skin lubricants that can help reduce the skin to skin friction that causes that irritation.



Problem 05: Sun Damage and Hyperpigmentation

If your workout or physical activity involves being outdoors and under the sun, then sun damage is a real concern. Prolonged exposure to the sun not only dehydrates the skin but also causes free radical damage and breaks down collagen and elastin fibers causing your skin to lose its elasticity and firmness. 

Prolonged sun exposure also increases melanin production that can lead to irregular or hyper pigmentation. This often manifests itself in “age spots” or freckles. What all this means is that excessive sun exposure can cause loss of elasticity, wrinkles, age spots, freckles and other premature signs of ageing.

Solution 05: Sunscreen and after sun care

Wearing sunscreen is non-negotiable but choosing the right sunscreen can be challenging and the best sunscreen is really the one that you actually use. Make sure that you choose a broad spectrum sunscreen that’s at least SPF 30 and above and make sure that you reapply it regularly, about every 2-3 hours. One good sweat and water resistant option is the Face The Wild Sunscreen SPF 50+ PA+++, $49, a broad spectrum physical sunscreen that’s been designed specifically for active lifestyles.

About the writer
Hanna Wee

Hanna is a writer, dog-lover, and beauty connoisseur. Outside of writing, she spends most of her time snuggling her cocker spaniel pup, trying all kinds of fitness classes, and attempting to learn to cook.

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