Acne: 8 Ways Lifting Weights Can Cause It

Many people all over the world experience acne, whether or not they’re lifters. This being said, I’ve heard many people say they had more acne after they started lifting. So, I wondered, does lifting weights cause acne?

Put simply, there are many ways that lifting weights can cause acne. These ways include:

  • Increased Testosterone
  • You’re Sweating More
  • Protein Powder and Dairy
  • Sugary Pre-Workout
  • Dirty Equipment
  • Dehydration From Lifting
  • Poor Recovery/Sleep Habits
  • Coincidental

This list is far too simple to 100% explain why you might have acne. Below, I’ll go over how each one actually causes acne and some caveats that you should know about.

If you’re looking to get rid of your lifting-caused acne, check out Proactive, which I’ve been using since I was 14 (link to Amazon). It’s not guaranteed to help your acne, but it’s worked for me for years.

Increased Testosterone from Lifting

Without going too deep into the science, lifting weights increases testosterone.

This happens because testosterone is key in protein synthesis, which is how your muscles grow, and what happens when you tear your muscle fibers in the gym. This might sound bad, but it’s essential for progress.

The more muscle fibers that you tear, the more progress that you’ll make, and the more testosterone that will be produced.

Testosterone is usually a good thing, but it can cause some problems. Testosterone tends to overstimulate the glands in your body that produce oil. It also changes some of your skin cells, making them more prone to clogging. The combination of pores that are more easily clogged and more oil on your skin can often cause you to experience acne.

To combat this, there’s a few things you can do. In this scenario, it’s more important than ever that you wash your face, keep a good diet, and make good lifestyle habits in general.

This being said, you want to avoid over-washing your face. If you wash your face too much, your body might produce even more oil, causing even more acne. Just wash your face once or twice a day, don’t exfoliate too often, and you should be able to avoid most acne-related trouble.

SourceOpens in a new tab.

Sweating During Workouts

Man sweating while running through a forest.

Most people know that a lot of people sweat in the gym. Some people don’t sweat as much, and some people seem to sweat buckets.

Whichever one you are, this can lead to acne if you aren’t proactive about keeping your skin clean. Like the oil from testosterone, sweat can become clogged in your pores.

You need to take a shower, or at the very least wash your face, as soon as you can after going to the gym. This will help to keep your skin clean and avoid developing acne.

This doesn’t just apply to your face either. You can sweat, as well as develop acne, anywhere on your body. The most important thing to remember is to wash your face and body as soon as you can.

Protein Powder and Dairy

Like I said before, many people change their diets after they start lifting weights. This is a good thing if you do it right, but the fact is that many people are doing it wrong.

Lifters eat a lot of food in general, and this includes protein and carbohydrates. These things alone won’t cause acne, but the lack of other food types will.

If you want to know the best foods to eat for lifters check out this article I wrote a while back.Opens in a new tab.

Lots of people seem to neglect important foods like fruits and vegetables, which are both vital to keeping your skin clear and healthy.

Many lifters also drink a whole lot of milk, and some people seem to thinkOpens in a new tab. this aids in the development of acne.

Sugary Pre-Workout

If you’re into lifting at all, you’ve probably heard of pre-workout and creatine. For pre-workout, there aren’t any studies that directly correlate it with acne, but this might not be the whole story.

Many of these pre-workout drinks contain large amounts of sugar, which can without a doubt increase your acne if you eat too much of it.

Creatine, on the other hand, is hands down the most researched lifting/sports supplement. In fact, I took part in some of this research myself. Creatine itself is a great supplement for building muscle and strength, but it’s not without its side effects.

Creatine has been shown in some studies to increase acne, but these studies were sketchy. Don’t over-do it on the supplements, and it shouldn’t cause you acne.

Dirty Lifting Equipment

If your gym is typical, their equipment isn’t always very clean. This might not seem like a problem because you’re only touching the weights with your hands, but this might not be the case.

Even though you only touch the weights with your hands, you’ll often touch your face. This brings sweat, oil, and dirt from the weights onto your face.

Not only is this gross to think about, but can be horrible for your skin. If your gym has wipes available for the weights, use them before and after you start using the weights.

If they don’t, grab a paper towel from the bathroom and wipe them down. Do this, try not to touch your face in the gym, or at all, wash your face, and you should be free from this aspect of acne.

Dehydration From Lifting

Water in an ocean, a large body of water.

Just like I talked about before, lifters, or anyone exercises, can tend to sweat a lot.

This might sound obvious, but when you sweat, your body loses its moisture and water. Being dehydrated is unhealthy in general, but it can also have horrible effects on your skin.

When you’re dehydrated, your skin becomes dry. This causes your body to produce even more oil for your skin, overcompensating for the sweat that it lost.

This dehydration can also come from washing your face too often. Try to get your daily eight cups of water or more, and give your body the water that it needs.

Along with this, remember to only wash your face twice a day at the most, and avoid unnecessarily dehydrating your body and skin.

Poor Recovery/Sleep Habits

Lifting Might Not Be the Cause of Your Acne

I talked about this a bit at the beginning of this article, but I want to go a bit more in-depth to stress my point. If you’re a teenage lifter, you’re already possibly dealing with acne.

If you weren’t, and you started getting acne after you started lifting weights, that could raise some alarms. While lifting can potentially cause acne, you shouldn’t rule out the possibility of it being normal.

Acne is normal for many teenagers to experience, and just because you’re a lifter, doesn’t make lifting itself the cause of it.

Lifting weights may cause acne in some people, but it’s definitely preventable if you know what to do. The possibility of developing some acne shouldn’t discourage you from getting into the gym.

How to Avoid Lifting-Induced Acne

A man washing his face in a lake or river.

Learning how to avoid acne is a huge topic, and it would take a whole other blog post to explain all the best ways to stop it.

This being said, I want to set you on the right path to stopping acne so you can keep lifting weights happily.

My two most important tips are to remember to wash your face and try to not touch your face throughout the day.

Touching your face brings oil and dirt from whatever you were touching to your skin, and this isn’t a good thing. Drink a good amount of water, around 8 cups a day, so you can avoid becoming dehydrated.

Nobody knows the true cause of acne or an exact way to cure/stop it. The best that you can do is keep your body and skin healthy and clean.

Skincare Is Especially Important if You’re a Lifter

Humans are creatures of habit. Developing a healthy routine for skincare, or anything for that matter, can make it easier to remember what you need to do and stay on track.

With skincare and even lifting weights itself, consistency is key. With either of these things, if you keep forgetting to do them, you’ll fall behind. If you miss too many days of caring for your skin, the things you do won’t have a positive effect.

Having a good routine will help you achieve better skin, and make you feel more accomplished once you’re done.

Many people have difficulty feeling accomplished. This is partly due to people not finishing things they started.

For example, if you don’t finish your routine in the gym, you won’t feel like you did anything, even if you did a lot.

To a lesser extent, this can apply to skincare. Make routines for different things you do just like setting goals, and you’ll feel more accomplished and better about yourself.

Hydration Is Essential Before, During, and After Workouts

As I talked about before, water and hydration are the most important aspects of keeping your skin healthy. More importantly than your skin, your body needs enough water to function the right way.

Your body is around 60 percent water, so it’s important to keep those levels up. Water also helps keep all your organs functioning properly. Drinking water also makes you less hungry.

This can help you cut down on calories, and lose weight. Although if you drink too much water, you might gain water weight, this weight can be lost easily within a few days.

Drinking a glass of water instead of a soda or energy drink is also great for your body. Sodas are filled with sugar, that won’t help your skin look better, or make any progress with lifting.

Water, without a doubt, is one of the best things you can put in your body. It’ll help you lose weight, keep your skin clear, and keep your body running happily.

Why Does Anyone Get Acne Anyway?

Acne is something that affects everybody, not just lifters. Although we don’t know all the direct causes of acne, we definitely know the basics.

Put simply, acne happens when the pores in your skin get clogged by oil and dirt. After they’re clogged, bacteria starts to grow in there if your pores aren’t properly cleaned out. This can affect lifters more than other people in some cases, due to them sweating more often.

The reasons for these pores being clogged are things like excessive sweating, poor skincare, and imbalances with your hormones. Along with this, these different causes result in different types of acne.

The most common types are whiteheads and blackheads, which are mostly caused by oil and are easier to get rid of.

A more serious type of acne is called cystic acne. Doctors think this type is mostly caused by hormones, but they’re still researching the main causes. Cystic acne is bigger, and redder, and very difficult to get rid of.

No matter which type of acne you get, there should be a way for you to get clear skin.

How to Pick a Good Skincare Product

A few common skin care products.

Like most lifting supplements, the market is saturated with thousands of different skincare products. With all of these options, it can be hard to pick the right one. I’ll give you a few tips for making a good choice.

Know what you need: In the section above, I explained a few types of acne. Your first step should be to figure out what type of acne you have. It’s possible you’ll have multiple types of acne, so if this is true, you might need multiple products.

After this, do a simple search on (your type of acne) skin products. This should give you a base to pick some good products that will work for your type of acne.

Avoid too many chemicals: As with most products, the best ones have the least chemicals. With acne products especially, some of these chemicals can be very harsh on your skin, possibly even making your acne worse.

Parabens are found in some skincare products, and they’re potentially dangerous. They’re added to keep the product fresh, but they’ve also been found in breast cancer tumors. Despite the study that found the link, there’s no answer to whether or not they caused the tumors.

Along with this, avoid things with alcohol in them. Alcohol is put into many aftershaves, as well as exfoliators. Alcohol will feel good on your skin but dry it out, which is the opposite of what you want.

Above are just a few chemicals to avoid. To find more information, do a quick google search on which skincare product chemicals to avoid.

Taking Care of Your Skin as a Lifter

Taking care of your skin may seem like a daunting task, but it’s easier than it may seem. This being said, with whatever routine you develop, you have to stay consistent.

Keeping good care of your skin boils down to a few things; staying hydrated, managing your diet, and cleaning your face regularly. Acne can happen anywhere on the body, but I’m going to focus on the face.

As I’ve said multiple times by now, it’s vital for you to keep yourself hydrated. Dry skin produces too much oil, leading to an increase in acne.

Your diet is another one of the key aspects of controlling acne. Foods high in sugar, and in some people dairy, can cause spikes in acne.

Just try to eat healthily, and this shouldn’t be a problem for you. Dairy isn’t a problem for most people, so unless you’re drinking way too much, you shouldn’t have any issues.

Keeping your skin clean is another big one, but it can be a bit more tricky. It’s important to keep your skin from being too oily, but washing it too much can have the opposite effect.

If you always keep your skin dry, your skin will produce more oil than it should. Wash your face once or twice a day, and try not to exfoliate every day. If you do these few things, your skin will be healthy and happy.

Diet: One of the Biggest Causes of Acne

Table full of donuts, which are very high in sugar.

As I said before, there are a few foods that cause acne in different people. They may not affect everyone, but there’s definitely a link with some of them. Here are a few foods that could be causing your acne to flare up.

Dairy: Dairy products probably won’t actually cause acne. This being said, they’ll likely irritate existing acne, causing it to flare up and become worse. Doctors don’t know exactly why this is, but they think it’s because of growth hormones.

In modern times, farmers give hormones to cows to make them bigger. These hormones make their way into the milk that we drink, having adverse effects on humans because they aren’t meant for us. These added growth hormones have the possibility of causing your hormones to be disrupted, potentially causing an increase in acne.

Sugary foods: Once again, sugar is not a direct cause of acne, but it’ll make it worse. When you eat sugar, after a chemical process, it’s converted into insulin. This extra insulin can cause inflammation throughout the body, which makes acne worse. Besides acne, sugar isn’t very good for you. You don’t need to completely get rid of it, but try to cut down on sugar where you can.

Oily foods: Now again, eating foods with a lot of oil won’t actually have any effect on your acne. Instead, this oil can make its way onto your face and skin from cooking, and eating oily foods. If you let it sit there, it can get into your pores and cause acne wherever it is. After cooking or eating oily foods, wash your face just to be safe.

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Pete Schenkel

My name is Pete Schenkel, and I've been into weightlifting since I was a teenager. Now, my main focus is growing Powerful Lifting and putting more information out there. In fact, I'm also currently working on becoming a certified personal trainer.

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