Dealing with acne can make everyday activities like exercise feel like double the work. Whether it’s panicking about bogus myths about sweat, or obsessively washing your face after workouts, here are the real tips to help you stay in shape without compromising clear skin.
1. Don’t sweat the sweat.
If you are rushing to get that “toxic” sweat washed off of your face post workout, you are not alone. The misconception that acne is caused by dirty skin is a prevalent myth that just won’t seem to die, even though modern science has long disproved this idea. Although it seems logical that sweat on your face would exacerbate acne, we now know that acne is not caused by toxins or dirt but by a condition called retention hyperkeratosis which causes dead skin cells lining the hair follicle to be overproduced, leading to congestion and eventually the formation of acne lesions. Plus, even if acne was caused by toxins on the surface of the skin, sweat is actually not toxic at all. The chemical composition of sweat is little more than water and minerals that are excreted to help maintain your body temperature. “Toxins," on the other hand, are filtered out mainly by your liver and kidneys.
2. Keep exercise gear off of your face.
Most people have never even heard of acne mechanica but if you work out with a hat, headband, helmet, or even sunglasses, you should know about this acne type that is triggered by pressure and friction on the skin. When acne lesions first form, they start off as little tiny white seeds under the skin called microcomedones. At this early stage, acne is barely even visible to the naked eye as it is not yet inflamed. Think of these “seeds” like fragile little mines buried underneath the ground and all it takes is a little pressure and friction to cause it to explode. Once the microcomedone “explodes," it becomes inflamed and turns into the red, swollen, tender, pus-filled lesions often called, zits. This type of acne shows up in the area of use so if you notice increased breakouts along your hairline, between your eyes, or on your jawline where a helmet strap might rub, it might be time to find an alternative so that the area is allowed to rest.
3. Skip the sauna.
Acne sufferers tend to love a sauna session after working out because they think that the sweat induced by the sauna is somehow purging the pores of acne-causing toxins. Well, if you have been following along you know that this is another big bogus myth (albeit seemingly logical). The sauna is not helpful for acne for the same reason that it’s not essential to cleanse right after a workout: toxins do not cause acne and even if they did, sweat does not release toxins. Conversely, the sauna can actually exacerbate inflamed acne types such as cystic acne because heat causes the pores to expand and in a sense, swell shut. If you want to do something that could actually be useful for acne and especially inflamed acne, skip the heat and apply direct ice to your face to help bring down swelling and inflammation.