Exercise and acne as noted by Dr. Doris Day, one of the most well-respected dermatologists in the United States, “Acne is a skin condition that usually occurs on the face, chest or back. It is caused by a combination of factors: overactive sebaceous glands increase oil production and then pores become plugged by the oil and finally, bacteria become trapped. Hormones and heredity and stress are the main factors.” (Source).
Acne impacts 50 million Americans a year, and countless others around the world. In addition to the primary drivers of stress, heredity, and hormones, diet and exercise may have a correlation to outbreaks. Diet, in particular, is generally thought of by many people to play a role. According to Medical News Today, “A 2016 survey showed that 71 percent of participants thought that fried or greasy foods cause acne. Others thought that chocolate, dairy, and soda drinks were responsible.” (Source). However, there is not a consensus among the medical community on this, and there are recent studies that indicate that diet may not have as large an impact as popular thinking would believe.
Diet and Acne
There are studies that indicate that the hormone-insulin-like growth factor 1(IGF-1) can increase sebum production and thereby increase acne. This might mean that foods that raise IGF-1 levels could contribute to acne in some people. Thus, avoiding those foods could help to prevent it. These foods include dairy products and foods that have a high glycemic index (GI), which is related to how fast a food raises blood sugar, and a high glycemic load (GL), which measures how much blood sugar a food causes and in what amounts. (Source).
The American Academy of Dermatology is in agreement that there might be a good reason to avoid foods with high GI to avoid acne, but they do not agree about avoiding dairy products, according to Medical News Today’s 2018 article on the subject, Can Dietary Changes Help Acne. That article also points out that chocolate might have an impact on acne, potentially due to the sugar content, but also that the actual substance unsweetened might make acne worse in some populations. Surprisingly, the article points out, there are no studies that support a correlation between grease and acne.
Thus, when thinking about whether it is worth those sugary treats, or indulging in chocolate, it is also worth weighing out the risks of sending your sebaceous glands into overdrive.
Acne and Exercise
The links between exercise and acne are interesting and complex. On the one hand, exercise can reduce your stress, thereby lowering the prevalence (or risk) of acne. On the other hand, exercise can also contribute to acne outbreaks. What follows is a summary of each causation.
The easiest summary to absorb is published by WebMD: “Exercise helps cut stress, which may contribute to acne outbreaks. Physical activity also helps your skin by increasing your blood circulation, which sends more oxygen to your skin cells and carries cell waste away.”
On the other hand, The American Academy of Dermatology points out that your workout can actually instigate the problem and they have some tips to prevent that.
Before your workout
- Remove your makeup. No need to wash your face. An oil-free makeup remover towelette works fine.
- Put on clean workout clothes (washed since you last wore them). Dead skin cells, bacteria, and oils on unwashed clothes can clog your pores, leading to acne.
- Apply oil-free sunscreen before you head outside. If you’re going to exercise outdoors during the day, you can prevent breakouts by protecting your skin from the sun. Yes, the sun can cause breakouts because it dries your skin. When this happens, your body produces more oil, which can clog pores and cause acne.
During your workout
- Use a clean towel to wipe off sweat. You want a towel that has been washed since you (or someone else) last used it. When you remove sweat from your skin, gently pat it off. Rubbing your skin can cause acne to flare.
- Avoid sharing protective equipment like helmets and shoulder pads whenever possible. These can be full of acne-causing bacteria and oil, which may cause you to breakout.
- Wipe off shared equipment before you use it. Shared equipment can be full of acne-causing bacteria and oil. If you use the equipment and then wipe your forehead or other acne-prone skin, you can spread acne-causing bacteria and oil from the equipment to your skin.
After your workout
Consider showering immediately after your workout. This may rinse away bacteria that can cause acne. When washing skin with acne, be very gentle. Apply the cleanser with your fingertips and gently rinse it off with warm water. Rubbing, hot water, or anything else that irritates your skin can cause acne to flare. If you aren’t able to shower, consider changing out of your workout clothes and wiping skin that tends to break out with pads that contain salicylic acid. This can prevent clogged pores.
Cures for Acne
Dr. Doris Day, recommends a number of potential treatments for acne that anyone can seek through their doctor. Key among these are:
- Acne Surgery: Liquid nitrogen spray or cortisone injections are sufficient acne treatments for many patients.
- Acne Medication: Topical retinoids, Benzoyl Peroxide and antibiotics. Some individuals require the use of oral antibiotics or accutane to effectively eliminate acne.
- Pore Clearing Acne Treatment: AESTHERA Isolaz, PAINLESS PPx Pore-Cleansing Acne Treatmentâ.
- Actinage Peel: New Actinage Peel is extremely effective in clearing the pores and providing fresh new skin.
- Microdermabrasion: Deep cleans the pores, improves acne scarring and leaves the skin feeling and looking smooth.
- Laser treatments: If acne scarring has appeared, laser resurfacing and collagen injections can help smooth and refine the texture of your skin.
Dr. Day will be speaking on this topic at SCALE 2019 Music City. Register now to ensure your spot and get the latest information on this important topic.