If you’re prone to the type of acne that comes from sweating and exercise then you probably get tender bright red pimples and clogged pores along your hairline, jawline, neck back and chest. All the parts of your face can be affected, but these are usually the worst areas. The pimples heal leaving scars and brown marks. It’s important to try to treat and prevent these breakouts to help prevent the scars.
This type of acne is caused by a skin yeast germ called pityrosporum. The yeast grows excessively on sweaty and oily skin for some people and exercise makes it worse. Controlling your exercise acne means controlling this yeast.
The good news is that there are steps you can take that can help you control and treat these break outs. Here’s what I tell my patients with this type of acne:
1. Wash your skin immediately after your work out with medicated ingredients that kill the skin yeast pityrosporum. Prolonged contact with sweat and skin oils allows the yeast to grow and makes exercise acne worse. Controlling the yeast is the most important way to prevent break outs. I recommend using soaps or shampoos (yes shampoos can be used as skin cleansers) that contain 2% pyrithione zinc. My favorite product is OTB SKIN Body Wash #2, Noble Zinc Soap or ZNP soap. Other options include medicated shampoos with ketaconazole (Nizoril Shampoo) or selenium sulfide (Selsun Blue). I tell my patients to apply the soaps or shampoos to their skin and leave them on for several minutes (5 minutes is ideal) before rinsing. I like the products applied with an exfoliating cloth or sponge like the Salux Cloth or the Body Buf Puf Sponge.
2. Use an exfoliating cleanser on the affected skin at least 3 times a week if your break out includes clogged pores along with the pustules. Options that I recommend for my patients include benzoyl peroxide cleansers like in the OTB SKIN Body Acne Kit, glycolic acid like in Glytone Body Wash and salicylic acid as in OTB SKIN Oil-Off Cleanser or Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash.
3. If you aren’t able to wash your skin immediately after working out at least wipe it clean with rubbing alcohol or oil removing acne pads. Good options for acne pads include OTB SKIN Pore Cleaning Pads and Neutrogena Rapid Clear Daily Treatment Acne Pads. Shower and use your medicated yeast killing cleanser as soon as possible.
4. Change into clean, dry cloths as soon as possible after your work out. This allows your skin can dry out too.
5. Natural acne treatment options that may work include products with Tea Tree Oil. This natural antimicrobial has the potential to decrease the growth of the pityrosporum yeast, but the oils may clog pores.
6. Eating a diet with less sugars, carbs and greasy fats may help your acne too. There’s a lot of new scientific evidence that diet plays a role in acne, and in my experience that’s really true for the pityrosporum folliculitis type of exercise acne.
Disclaimer: The information presented Dr. Cynthia Bailey on this web site, and any related links, are provided for general information and educational purposes only and are the opinions of Dr. Cynthia Bailey. This information is not intended to diagnose or treat your specific skin conditions. Consult with your physician or health care provider for any specific medical conditions or concerns that you have. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read here. Use the information and products at your own risk. Use of this site indicates your agreement with these statements.
Photo attribution: Deane Thomas Rimerman