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Are Your Workouts Breaking You Out?

close up portrait of female boxer over white

Austin’s parks and lakes make it an amazing city for outdoor activity, but the Texas heat and sun can put you at an increased risk for acne, folliculitis, and sunburns. Did you know that athletes have some of the worst complexions around?

Just like getting into shape, keeping your skin clear means arming yourself with some acne education.

Protein Supplements

Products like protein bars, supplements, and shakes can be serious acne triggers, since many of them contain whey, soy, peanuts, algae, and iodide. Choose egg white, hemp, or pea protein to build muscle and recover from exercise without aggravating your acne. Check out our approved supplements so you can be a top-performing athlete, without the bad skin.

Body Acne

Athletes get body acne, which seems to flare up on the chest, shoulders, and back when starting a new exercise routine. Wash off the sweat as soon as possible after exercising and use a benzoyl peroxide scrub in the shower, which is very effective for body acne. It helps if you leave the wash on the chest and back for several minutes before rinsing, and be aware that BPO will bleach towels and clothing, so choose white!

How to treat body acne:

  • Benzoyl peroxide washes and scrubs, left on for a few minutes before rinsing
  • Toners that contain glycolic acid and lactic acid
  • Wear cotton clothing, use cotton sheets and pillowcases, and avoid using fabric softener on anything that comes into contact with body acne.
  • Take a probiotic supplement, especially for those who have been on antibiotics for a long time. Take the probiotic for several months, remove from the diet for a week or two, then re-start it again.

Rosacea

Rosacea tends to flare up with heat and sun, and is a common concern for athletes who exercise outdoors. In addition to gentle over-the-counter products, rinsing the skin with cold water or rolling an ice cube over the face can temporarily alleviate rosacea symptoms.

How to treat rosacea:

Fungus and Folliculitis

Folliculitis is an inflammation of the hair follicle caused by yeast (fungus), and can be mistaken for acne if a practitioner isn’t familiar with it. One way to tell if you have folliculitis is by the way it extracts differently than acne. Folliculitis looks like small, non-inflamed bumps and frequently shows up on the forehead, hairline, jaw and chest, although it can show up anywhere on the face or body. Folliculitis can remain dormant for long periods of time, then flare up in humid weather, so if it “comes and goes,”  it’s a clue that it’s folliculitis and not acne. Some people, however, can have a combination of both acne and folliculitis.

Folliculitis loves moist environments and can be caused by extended use of antibiotics, any use of steroids, oily skin, humidity, occlusive/sweaty clothing, heavy moisturizers, and hot tubs.

How to treat folliculitis:

  • Over-the-counter ketoconazole cleansers and mandelic acid serums are great anti-fungals (mandelic also works on acne and bacterial folliculitis).
  • Avoid eating sugar or yeast, such as bread, alcohol, processed foods, sandwich meat, and dairy.
  • Wear cotton clothing, use cotton sheets and pillowcases, and avoid using fabric softener on anything that comes into contact with folliculitis.
  • Cook with an anti-fungal supplement like coconut oil (but don’t drip it on your chin–it can break you out).
  • Take a probiotic supplement, especially for those who have been on antibiotics for a long time. Take the probiotic for several months, remove from the diet for a week or two, then re-start it again.

Sun Protection

Although sun exposure causes desirable scaling and drying, ongoing daily exposure that causes the skin to tan also damages the follicle, exacerbates hyperpigmentation (red spots from old acne lesions), causes premature aging, and skin cancer. Warm climates with heat and humidity, like here in Austin, will make existing acne worse.

Athletes aren’t usually trying to get a tan, but they often participate in multiple outdoor activities (hiking, swimming, running), which add up to a lifetime of sun exposure. The time of day you work out outside makes a big difference. We all know that UV rays are most intense between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so time your workouts for the early morning or late evening.

Experiment with a bunch of approved waterproof sunscreens until you find one you like, then use it religiously. Apply it once before you leave the house, and remember to reapply it every two hours after sweating or getting wet.

A hat should be a standard part of your outdoor exercise gear. Invest in a Dri-Fit hat that you wash after each use, plus sunglasses that you love, and keep them with your sunscreen and shoes to remind you to use them all, every time you workout outdoors. Keep in mind that a standard white cotton T-shirt provides very little sun protection (even less once it’s wet), so a better choice is athletic clothing with SPF or UPF built-in. My favorite swim shirt is from a line of SPF 50+ clothing by Athleta, which you can order online or by visiting their store in The Domain.

And remember: No sunscreen is “waterproof.” The FDA recently eliminated that term and now only allows sunscreens to be marketed as “water resistant.” Check out our approved sunscreen page for acne-safe water resistant sunscreens so you can be a top-performing athlete while keeping your skin protected.

Benefits of Exercise for Your Skin

Don’t let your fear of acne, folliculitis, and sunburns keep you on the couch! Most of these concerns can be easily addressed with great acne products or a counseling session with our lead acne expert.

Check out our entire line of acne products
and get clear, once and for all!