Does Sweat Cause Acne

(Last Updated On: August 3, 2018)

What do you mean does sweat cause acne? This is an interesting question because when you have sweat running down your face shouldn’t it cause acne? The legend is the sweatier and oilier your face is you will bloom acne. But this may not necessarily be true. There are many causes for acne and sweating is not a cause for acne to show up on your acne.What! You mean to tell me that sweating doesn’t cause acne. This is exactly what I am telling you. We will explore this question on a deeper level in the rest of this article.

The Real Cause Of Acne

The Grand Old Acne Fighter

Acne is real and does happen. There are top layered cells on the surface of the skin. These cells will block the openings of the sebaceous glands. This in turns forces oil to accumulate under the skin. This makes the bacteria that is already inherently in the ski to spread and makes the skin become red, sore and inflamed. If it is right at the top of the skin surface you get what is known as a “papule”. The papule forms a swelling or a pimple above the skin. If the oil breaks through the skin it becomes a white head. If the oil hits the air it becomes oxidized and turns into a blackhead. This is one source that says sat doesn’t cause acne. The deeper the level the inflammation goes than a cyst is born.

The Real Causes of Acne


Genetics: Can play a role in acne but the succeeding generations will not have the same cases of acne as the previous generations. The kids will have a different breakout of acne than the parents had.
Food: There a long-standing fallacy that parents have been telling their children. If they eat pizza, hamburgers, tacos, and fast food or junk food, in general, will give them acne because it is so greasy. This is not true but dairy foods and high glycemic foods may trigger acne according to studies conducted.

Dirt: I never heard my parents say to me to not go play in the dirt because I would get acne. But there is some truth that acne can trigger pimples. Or this to could be a misconception because some people think blackheads are dirt. They are not they are oxidized pimples. If washing your face until it looks like a prune than this will dry your skin and irritate but this doesn’t mean it will activate acne.

Hormonal: Most women, so they say, breakout during their menstrual cycles and there are oral contraceptive pills to take to fight acne.

Makeup: Another legendary rumor is that cosmetics will cause pores to clog and then acne will have a field day. Cosmetics are not the cause of acne but if you can purchase water-based or oil-free will definitely help your skin.

Harsh Helmets: Face guards and eye guards and helmets, in general, can put pressure on the face and trigger acne.

Drugs: Some medications such as iodides, bromides, and oral oral-injected steroids could trigger acne but most medications will not affect acne.

Jobs: Some people in their job may get acne being exposed to certain chemicals. This may be rare but it does happen.

Another party says that a particular type of acne can be caused if you sweat in a hot climate or from an extensive physical activity. It is called pityrosporum folliculitis which sounds like a rare form of acne. And this may not be true that seating can cause acne. It is said that this acne is hard to get rid of because the skin is prone to foster this acne. The normal skin yeast overgrows the pores and this type of acne runs wild on the skin. Some people just don’t have the defenses to fight this type of acne and it may take awhile to get rid of it.Another facet of this is the acne will start to bloom in no time. One dermatologist says they see this kind of ane the most in the summer and when high school athletes are training intensely for their chosen sport.

A professional dermatologist warns that the acne treatment depends on how bad the acne is. The two treat treatments he recommends are an anti-yeast cleanser and pyrithione zinc which are not common treatments for acne bit they work well for this type of specialized acne. The treatments also depend on one’s skin types and skin sensitivities. Skin sensitivities meaning that they may break out in a rash or their skin can become very red and irritated if it is exposed to a treatment they are allergic to. Other treatments advised are benzoyl peroxide, alkyl acid, glycolic acid or physical exfoliation. Getting a specially made brush getting some kind of acne cleansing material and brushing the skin where the acne is. It will cleanse the skin and remove the acne. Two specific brush brands are Sonic brush and Clarisonic Plus. This last method is only advised to use if money’s no object. Where you will find this acne on the body:

  • It will clump up along the hairline and jawline of the face. You cannot miss it because it will manifest in large and long blotches in these areas.
  • It will also run parallel to the sides of the neck and cover the back of the neck.
  • Look for it going on the upper chest and back and it may run all the way down to the waistline. This type of acne appears on unique areas of the body.

Best Home Remedies for this type of Acne

Avène Antirougeurs Fort Relief Concentrate

  • Facial Application – You can scrub with a Buf Puf facial cleansing sponge but do so very gently especially if you have sensitive skin. Do this every morning. In the evening open up the pores by washing with a pore opening cleanser such as Glytone mild gel ash which contains glycolic acid. Other quality pore opening cleansers include OTB Cleanser number one that contains about 10 percent benzoyl peroxide and OTB Oil Off cleanser which contains both glycolic acid and salicylic acid. If you can afford it the Clarisonic Plus brush is preferred over the Buf Puf brush.
  • Neck, Chest and Back Application – You really need to wash (preferably shower) right after you perspire. If this is impractical then rub these areas down with a powerful rubbing alcohol. Daily in the shower use a brusque shower cleansing sponge or cloth such as the Salux Cloth, a Buf Puf Body sponge or the more expensive Clarisonic Plus Sonic Cleansing brush. Use both a foaming pyrithione zinc cleanser like OTB Cleanser number Two with a pre unclogging cleanser like the three mentioned in the facial application section. Follow these steps and you will be well on your way to getting rid of this sweat acne.

Does Diet Affect this Sweat Acne Proliferation

Does Diet Affect this Sweat Acne Proliferation

It could or could not because there is no clinical evidence to support that it really does. There really has been no extensive studies done in this area. The proof seems to be more experientially as far as diet affecting the acne. One dermatologist who specializes in the sweat acne said that when her patients changed their eating habits the acne receded.She reported that the patients who swayed away from junk food and ate more fruits the acne disappeared and they had healthier looking skin.

There seems to be so much that we really don’t know about acne. A Lot of the legends that were ingrained in our thoughts turned out to be false. There needs to be a lot more research done on scene how it develops and what causes it. New treatments may come out of futures studies.

Extensive Treatments for Sweat Acne

Extensive Treatments for Sweat Acne

If long-term home remedies don’t seem to suppress the yeast in this type of acne then there are more extensive and expensive treatments to consider. These types of treatments really need a doctor’s treatment and guidance. They will cost more money and they seem to be for more severe cases. Pulsed therapy with oral antifungals is a reality but there are side effects. You will want to consider these options before you jump into them.

Back to the sweating causing acne breakouts. In acne mechanica kind of acne supposedly it does not directly cause the breakout but it can contribute to help the breakout appear. This happens when the sweat secreted from apocrine sweat glands mix in with sebum which is an oil secreted from sebaceous glands found within hair follicles. The two mix together block the pores and acne forms at the hair follicles. This acne mechanica is a red, bumpy type of acne that congregates around the hair follicles. This is how sweat can contribute to acne.

Wearing heavy clothes that generate a lot of sweat and rub against the skin will block pores and cause acne mechanica. To avoid these kinds of breakouts wear clothes that absorb sweat from the skin or wear loose fitting clothes. The loose fitting clothes allow the skin sweat but won’t clog the pores because the seat and oil have places to go and will not clog the pores. Another thing to consider is, don’t wear tight-fitting clothes because where the clothes are tight you may find acne in this areas.

Make sure after a good sweat or a heavy workout you thoroughly clean your body by showering. Also scrub your face thoroughly but gently to remove all excess dirt and sweat to clean out pores so they can breathe.

Do not scrub your skin too harshly because this can cause skin irritation that will promote acne breakouts.

How to Avoid Acne Breakouts

More Acne Fighters

Mass Makeup

If you wear makeup or even makeup that is oil-free on during a workout you will be in trouble. The makeup will cause a thick film to cover the pores and they will clog if they clog bacteria will form in huge numbers quickly. This will lead to acne breakouts. So, do the obvious thoroughly remove all makeup or sunscreen of the body and face before engaging in any heavy physical activities that you know will cause perspiration. You can do this by wiping the face with a cleansing pad to remove makeup. Or you can avoid wearing any makeup at all if you are heading to the gym.

Oh no Dirty Towels

This means that if you are using the same dirty towel to wipe your face off every time you will invite acne bigtime. Dirty towels are breeding grounds for bacteria. They absolutely love dirty towels. The bacteria accumulate on the dirty towels and then you go and wipe your face with a bacteria-infested towel and you are wiping bacteria, dirt, and grime all over your face. You will be covered in acne after that.

After every workout is a clean towel to wipe your face off and you won’t have any acne breakouts because there will be no dirt, grime or bacteria on a clean towel. Keep the towel in a separate bag so it will not touch any other items in your gym bag. Pure towel means pure environment and results in a pure face. Also, avoid rubbing your face with the towel just pat it dry with the towel this will avoid the sweat from spreading on your face to mix with oil that can clog pores. Also, it won’t irritate your skin and make it breakout that way.

Dirty Gym Clothes

What do you mean wear clean gym clothes everytime I go to workout? Yes, you should wash your clothes every time you go to the gym. Dirty clothes are like that dirty towel. The clothes are a natural magnet for bacteria and they will cling to sweaty skin and multiply like nobody’s business. You will have breakout dynasty, especially on your back or chest if you are prone to getting acne in those areas. Wash your clothes after every workout and you will prevent acne breakouts from occurring. Bacteria do not like clean clothes.

Another precaution you can take is periodically wash out your gym bag with wipes. This will keep it clean and smell fresh. It will also keep the dirt and sweat and bacteria from taking residence in the gym bag. Keep your clothes in separate bags so they don’t come in contact with other things you will carry in the gym bag. If you have a gym bag that is machine washable you might try washing it once a week to keep it clean and fresh smelling. Leave some dirty clothes in your gym bag and it will smell really bad and needless to say it will create a haven for bacteria.

Face Touching

The last thing you want to do is touch your face while you are working out. Your hands have touched your gym bag, gym clothes, gym equipment, other people’s hair, hands or gym clothes. Then you touch your face you will guarantee an acne breakout in no time. Do not touch your face while you are working out. Keep your hands away from your face. If you do touch your face go and wash it off with soap and water or use a moist wipe on wipe it clean.

Other practical things you can do are never let your hair touch your face and if you do need to wipe your face use the back of the hand, a clean towel, or a moist wipe. Be sure you wear a headband so it will catch all the sweat, bacteria and dirt that might roll down into the face. Be sure you wash that headband after every workout or wear a new one at each workout. Wearing a brand new headband at every workout can get expensive. Washing the headband after every workout is a better option.

Wash your Face

You have sweat running off your face like a waterfall and you don’t wash it off. You might as well put a sign on your face to invite bacteria to come and party with you. A dirty, sweaty face is prime breeding grounds for major acne breakouts. Always wash your face after your workout to clear the pores of dirt and sweat. If you can or would be advisable to shower after each workout as well.

These are some common sense tips to keep your face and body acne free. If you will take the time to follow these steps you can greatly reduce your chances of having those unpleasant acne breakouts.


The only time sweat can really cause acne is when the result is the sweat type of acne appearing. For all other types of acne, sweat cannot directly cause these types of acne, But it can contribute to acne. Sweat is only one of many contributing factors to cause acne breakouts. There is no single cause for acne production but there are multiple causes for this skin condition.

You can take some practical steps to prevent acne from appearing on your skin or at least you can reduce the amount of acne that breakouts on your skin especially if you are prone to acne breakouts.

Written by Irina Radosevic MD
Irina graduated from the University of Belgrade, School of Medicine as a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and spent over 3 years working in the Clinical Hospital Center Zvezdara, in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She also undertook a postgraduate in Cardiology from the same University and had previously worked for over a year as a Physician and Nutritionist Dietitian for the Fitness club Green Zone. She eventually left her chaotic but fulfilling job in the ER to pursue her passion of writing, travelling and mountain climbing which has included writing a first aid course for the alpine club of Belgrade. Irina currently works as a VA for PintMedia focusing on medical and travel writing. Feel free to connect with Irina on LinkedIn and FaceBook. Her CV can be seen here.