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How to Prevent Post-Workout Facial Skin Breakouts

Amber Kennedy December 06, 2016

Having breakouts is something everybody wishes would never happen. Yet it tends to come up at one point or another in our lives. If you find yourself in such a situation frequently then you will probably find this article interesting because it presents ways to treat and prevent breakouts.

But before we get to that, let us understand what breakouts are and how they affect the skin.

What are Breakouts?

Breakouts are skin irritations which come out in different forms. There are breakouts which hide under the skin pores and form bumps; these are usually called whiteheads. The opposite of whiteheads are the ones that come up to the top of the skin and form black bumps which are called blackheads.

In the situation whereby these blackheads or whiteheads get inflamed probably due to touching, they form reddish bumps which are another kind of breakout called papule.

Aside from the kind of breakouts mentioned above, there are some other kinds which form deeper inside the skin. They are the most serious types.

Most of the time, these breakouts come in clusters and affect one particular part of the body. They vary in the effect they have from mild to serious.

When sweat from your workout mixes with oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria, that can overwhelm pores and lead to clogging. Dermatologists know what causes sweat-induced breakouts and they also know how they can be prevented.

There are very simple preventative ways to keep your skin as aerated and oil-free as possible while you work out. First, Dr. Reich says to prep your skin before a workout by removing any makeup, moisturizer and sunscreen you may have had on that day. Those products when combined with sweat are what contribute to breakouts.

If you’re prone to bacne or other body breakouts, make sure you exercise in silky, moisture-wicking fabrics. For additional defense against acne-causing bacteria, Dr. Reich advises washing your chest and back daily with a mild antibacterial soap.

"Towels can be essential during a tough workout, but the key is proper use. Gently pat the skin to remove excess sweat. Vigorous rubbing can irritate pores, causing inflammation and breakouts," Dr. Reich says.

Don’t worry if your schedule doesn’t allow you to hop in the shower immediately after your workout. This does not, however, mean that you should go anywhere before changing out of your sweaty clothing. "The sooner you remove excess sweat and oil after exercise, the less likely blemishes will appear. Acne-prone skin types should use an anti-blemish cleanser."

Follow these simple pre- and post-workout skin care tips, and you’ll find sweat-induced pimples clearing up in no time. If they don’t, Dr. Reich offers this additional info: "Eating well is key to having a healthy body and glowing complexion. For clearer skin, avoid sugars (especially high fructose corn syrup) and consume hormone-free, organic dairy products. A fish oil supplement a day helps keep blemishes away."

Ways to Prevent Breakouts


    "Cleansing the skin immediately after working out is the most crucial step to preventing workout-related breakouts," says Beverly Hills-based dermatologist Haleh Bakshandeh, M.D. If you don’t, pores can get clogged with a sticky cocktail of sweat, makeup, oil, and debris. "Moisture combined with junk trapped in pores creates the perfect breeding ground for the proliferation of acne-causing bacteria and inflammation," she says.

    If you aren’t able to immediately clean your skin after working out, Dr. Haleh Bakshandeh suggests using a salicylic acid-based toner or facial wipes. "Use them right after finishing the workout to clean away dirt and prevent breakouts and inflammation," she says. Salicylic acid has proven to be highly effective in breaking down the material deep inside pores that can lead to pimples, according to Bakshandeh.


    "Once you’ve cleansed the skin, apply an oil-free, anti-acne moisturizer that is non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores)," says facialist Lili Menini, who has worked with celebrity clients like Kate Walsh and Katy Perry. "Look for ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide to kill bacteria and aloe vera to reduce inflammation," she says. "Definitely don’t choose a thick, heavy moisturizer. And try to steer clear of any products with synthetic color additives and fragrances. They can aggravate acne." Just make sure you don’t apply the moisturizer until you’ve stopped sweating.


    "If you can avoid wearing heavy, oil-based face makeup while exercising, that's a bonus for the skin," facialist Lili Menini says. Without makeup, sweat can exit the pores more easily and help to flush out the stuff inside your pores that leads to blackheads, whiteheads, irritation and redness, she says. If your pores are blocked, it not only traps dirt, oils, and bacteria, but also other toxins the body is trying to remove. If you must wear makeup, Dr. Haleh Bakshandeh suggests breathable, mineral-based loose powders.


    "The type of workout clothes you choose makes a big difference for people who suffer from body breakouts," says facialist Lili Menini. She recommends breathable activewear made of natural fabrics like cotton or hemp. If you get really sweaty and cotton won’t cut it, Menini suggests moisture-wicking fabrics that help absorb moisture but don’t hold onto it. Finally, she says to avoid tight-fitting clothing wherever you have body breakouts.


    Celebrity trainer Andrea Orbeck advises her clients to exfoliate the body and face two to three times a week. Why does it work? Exfoliators remove dead skin cells that would otherwise trap bacteria that cause acne. "[Exfoliation] smoothes out the skin, can brighten a dull complexion and lighten pigmentation," says facialist Lili Menini. Look for gentle exfoliators, such as those with enzymes or alpha-hydroxy acids, that won’t irritate or inflame the breakouts. "And absolutely never scrub hard with a washcloth, loofah or nut-based scrub on body-acne," Menini says. "That can further irritate your skin, and lead to infection."


    One of the most effective ways to avoid breakouts is also one of the most simple (and most often overlooked). "Keep your hands away from your face during a workout," trainer Andrea Orbeck says. "When you think of how dirty and bacteria-laden all the gym equipment is, touching your face is like giving yourself an acne-facial." She tells her clients to bring a towel and use it to wipe the sweat off their face and chest. Even better: Bring two small towels. Use one to protect your skin from the equipment and the other to wipe off your face and chest. Orbeck also recommends washing your hands occasionally during a workout -- and always wash them just before leaving the gym.


    When it comes to skin care and safety, head gear trumps sunscreen, according to trainer Andrea Orbeck. Sweat-resistant, water-resistant sunscreens sometimes have very occlusive ingredients that can clog pores. Orbeck says that wearing a cotton hat or visor is the best choice for outdoor exercise. And when it comes to sunscreen, aim for something lighter. "There are great toners/sprays you can use on the face and body after exercising that will help prevent the nasties from forming," she says.


    If the breakout is minor -- just a pimple here or there -- facialist Lili Menini recommends spot treating the blemish with a tea tree oil stick or dabbing the oil directly with a cotton swab both pre- and post-workout. "A lot of my clients break out in the same spots," she says. "This is a really effective way of controlling that." Tea tree oil has anti-microbial properties and has been shown to kill acne-causing bacteria. For those with sensitive skin or who can’t use benzoyl peroxide, the oil is a great choice because it’s anti-inflammatory and won’t cause peeling.

Now that we have gone through some steps to take in order to avoid skin breakouts, you should ensure that it is done with caution. Breakouts usually occur in the T-zone (The central part of a person's face, including the forehead, nose, and chin) so be sure to concentrate on those areas.

Combining all of this with your regular workouts will give you a healthy and natural glow. Enjoy!

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