by Megan Sheckells
Working out and exercising is good for our physical health overall, but can working out cause hormonal acne? What about acne in general? First, what is hormonal acne? According to The Skin Institute (theskininstitute.org), “Hormonal acne is a type of acne that occurs in response to hormones. It is often a result of an excessive buildup of testosterone, which can be caused by hormone fluctuations. Hormonal acne is particularly common in the 20s, but it may also occur later on in life. Women have a higher chance of experiencing hormonal acne.”
The skin institute article went on to say, a lot of hormonal acne can be somewhat “inevitable” such as hormonal acne caused by menstruation or stress. They elaborated, “High-stress levels often exacerbate existing acne. They can even cause acne to develop.”
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So, all in all, hormones play a role in our skincare game. Henry Harrison, who is a VPO at bluebiology.com, offered some insight “Researchers have also recognized hormones to play a role in acne. This is known as hormonal acne which stems from direct uptake in androgen levels, which increase the production of sebum.”
Harrison continues to elaborate on why sebum matters, “Higher sebum levels have been shown to affect the skin's microbiome by impacting cell activity, inflammation, and colonization of the hair follicles by bacteria known as Propionibacterium acnes, the main cause of acne.” Therefore, the increased production of sebum can be a cause of acne.
Hormonal acne is brought on for a lot of people for a lot of different reasons. No one is immune to the potential of hormonal acne. Who in this world hasn’t experienced stress? I have found that it’s easy to get stressed in today’s world. However, to get back to our initial question, it seems quite the contrary. Harrison states, “Working out with hormonal acne has been shown to reduce acne by evening blood sugar levels in the body. This prevents a spike in blood pressure which would cause insulin to fluctuate which leads to a direct increase in androgen—the hormone that acts on skin oil glands.”
So essentially, working out can help reduce or alleviate hormonal stress, not cause it. Furthermore, working out helps us to reduce our stress levels, which can assist in dealing with hormonal acne that is stemming from excessive stress in our daily lives.
This doesn’t make exercise completely innocent when it comes to acne in general though. Sweat can cause some nasty breakouts. In an article titled, “Is Your Workout Causing Your Acne” on the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AADA) website, they offer some tips for avoiding breakouts from your workout session.
Largely, they recommend making sure you’re starting your workout in clean clothes and clean workout equipment. If you feel like showering from all the sweat and grime after a good workout, think about your clothes and equipment! Some of these things seem pretty obvious when we think about them. However, it can be easy to forget to sanitize certain equipment as often as we should.
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AADA suggests that you, “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.”
While most of us do our part, the gym isn’t always the easiest place to avoid a breakout. Be sure to take your risk into your own hands by ensuring the equipment you’re using is clean, to begin with.
If you’re still struggling with a lot of acne (hormonal or otherwise) consider talking to a dermatologist about what could be occurring and what solutions might be best for you. The trick with hormonal acne is it’s not a one size fits all issue. Everyone has different hormones impacting them and their body in different ways. So what works for others in keeping acne at bay might not be the best solution for you.
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Harrison, Henry. Personal Interview, 30 Aug. 2021.
“Is your workout causing your acne?” American Academy of Dermatology Association,
https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/acne/causes/workouts. Accessed 31 Aug. 2021.
“Understanding Hormonal Acne.” The Skin Institute, https://www.theskininstitute.org/understanding-hormonal-acne/. Accessed 31 Aug. 2021.