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Can running make acne worse? 4 skin secrets to help prevent runner’s acne


“Can running make acne worse?”

“How do I prevent runner’s acne?”

This are some of the question I’ve asked myself over the years.

If you’re used to running and working out, you know the challenges when it comes to keeping your skin clear and squeaky clean.

How to prevent runner acne

I’ve had acne since I was a teenager, so I can’t wholly blame running for my breakouts.

I’ve lost count of the many skin routines that I’ve tried over the last few years.

The amount of products I’ve used to try and calm down my skin goes into double, if not triple figures.

Some of these products worked great for a time, but my acne would always come back in one form or another.

My breakouts tend to be on my chin and around my nose.

I also get spots on my chest and back.

I have quite a bit of acne scarring around my mouth on my chin and cheeks.

The leftovers of quite a severe bout of acne in my mid-20s, for which I needed a prescription of roaccutane to get rid of.

Although the scarring isn’t too prominent, it means I have a lot of discolouration on my skin around my mouth.

My skin tends to redden very easily in this area – something I am conscious of to this day.

Despite my history with acne, I’m grateful that I have the skin I have now.

My acne is nowhere near as bad as it used to be and the skin around my chin has the occasional breakout.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that I have troublesome skin.

I’m never going to have perfectly clear skin and I’m ok with that.

After all, who even has perfect skin? It’s just impossible.

As a runner, I’ve learnt ways to prevent acne and protect it against the many elements we runners have to deal with.

By far the most troublesome element (if you can call it that) is sweat!

Spots occur when sweat mixes with oil, dead skin cells and bacteria, leaving your pores blocked.

The result? The big, inflamed spots that you find on your face, chest and back.

As you exercise, your body temperature rises and your heart rate increases causing your pores and sweat glands to open up, helping to cool your body down.

There’s no wonder then that running can cause the occasional breakout.

Sweating is inevitable, so you can’t exactly stop the sweat in order to clear up your skin.

So what other ways can you help prevent acne?

Here are four strategies to help you prevent runner’s acne.

Make makeup removal a priority

I’m not here to tell you to not wear makeup when you go for a run or when you workout.

I’m incredibly self conscious about my skin, so I regularly wear makeup when I go for a run or when I go to the gym.

I’m not ashamed of that.

If you want to wear makeup, go ahead.

This does mean though that you have to make makeup removal at the end of the day or after a workout or run a priority.

And by makeup removal, I mean a thorough clean!

Not just a once over with a baby wipe.

As discussed above, your face and body will be alive with sweat and bacteria following a run, so a good tip is to ensure you get all of that off following a run.

Makeup and sunscreen nowadays can be very stubborn.

It forms a very effective layer over your skin.

So my tip is to use a hot cloth cleanser and a clean flannel and wipe all that off.

The key point here is to use a clean flannel, not one you used the day before following your run as this will still have remnants from that run (eww!)

If you don’t believe me here, watch this video by Caroline Hirons.

This video literally changed my life as I now have a skin routine that actually works.

Washing your flannel every day can be tricky, so I recommend you buy 7 or 8 flannels from somewhere like Poundland or Wilko so you have a fresh flannel every day of the week.

This may sound excessive, but it saves you from washing your flannels all the time.

And there’s nothing worse than using a flannel that you’ve already used as you’ll be spreading the bacteria all over your face again.

I used to use cotton pads with a cleanser, but this did nothing for my skin.

Little did I know at the time that the cotton pads were just spreading the bacteria around my face.

My makeup and sweat was just too stubborn!

Using a hot cloth cleanser and a clean flannel really does give you that deep clean that your skin deserves!

My favourite hot cloth cleanser is this little beauty from Superdrug.

It’s by far my favourite beauty product that I own and at £5.99 a bottle, it’s a frigging steal!

I’ve tried high-end products like Liz Earle before and I can honestly say this product is right up there with them.

Well done, Superdrug, well done!

Wear sunscreen

Sunscreen is a necessity, whether you’re running in the summer or winter months.

Prolonged exposure to the sun whilst running outdoors causes skin damage, not to mention more serious forms of skin cancer.

I wear factor 50 sunscreen in the summer and factor 30 sunscreen in the winter.

Having red hair and blue eyes means I am more susceptible to the sun’s rays.

When picking a suncreen, make sure it is one with a 4 or 5 star UVA rating.

You can get sunscreens that are specifically designed for sports, but most of the high street brands are great.

If you have acne prone skin, opt for oil-free sunscreens that are formulated for the face and neck.

Apply 30 minutes before you head out for your run, and re-apply a few hours later if you’re still out in the sun.

Believe it or not, excessive sun exposure can aggravate acne prone skin.

So wearing sunscreen is a must, no matter the type of skin you have.

How to prevent runner acne

Wear the right clothing

There are so many choices nowadays when it comes to running gear.

I have a wardrobe full of it at home, and when I do a wash, I almost always have a few pieces of running gear in the drum.

Some running gear, however, no matter how pretty it looks, just isn’t designed for your skin to allow it to breathe.

Running leggings and tight running tops can make acne worse.

It covers your pores and prevents sweat from escaping which can result in nasty outbreaks.

Acne can normally be found on areas of the skim that are obstructed by constricting clothing, such as bra straps, waistbands or under headbands or devices like watches.

If you’re anything like me, you stuff your phone down your sweaty sports bra sometimes just to get it out of the way.

To help prevent acne, wear breathable, sweat wicking fabrics like cotton which help you keep cool and absorb any excess moisture.

It’s also a good idea to clean any devices that you take with you running when you get home.

I dread to think of the amount of bacteria that my phone and Garmin collect after a run – so give it a once over with a baby wipe, or better, with alcohol solution.

Be careful with gym equipment

We all know how nasty gym equipment can be.

They are teaming with bacteria – from treadmills to medicine balls – so be careful when working out, especially when it comes to touching your face.

Take a towel with you and wipe down any equipment before using it.

I like to keep some hand sanitiser in my bag for when I get back in the changing room.

Caroline Geoghegan