Body acne is not exactly the most appealing topic and can be an embarrassing one, too. But being active means getting sweaty, and getting sweaty often means breakouts. I’ve had breakout-prone skin since I was a teen, and working out hasn’t exactly improved that situation. Here’s some tips for keeping breakouts under control.
Photo: Seamless layer bra by Alala
Facial skincare products aren’t just for your face
Don’t feel like you have to purchase products specifically intended for body acne. Products marketed for facial acne work too! The active ingredients in facial vs body acne products are the same. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try specialized body acne products, it just means you shouldn’t feel limtied. Personally, I prefer to use leave-on products in a small area as opposed to a body wash that you use on your whole body and then rinse off.
My favorite product for body acne is Sunday Riley’s Saturn sulfur mask, which I use periodically to keep breakout-prone areas clear. I apply and leave it on as directed, then simply rinse it off in the shower. Yes, it does have quite the sulfur stench during use, but it fades quickly after showering.
In case of breakout emergencies, I like to use Drunk Elephant TLC Framboos serum. It’s one of the most effective anti-acne products I’ve ever tried. That said, since it’s very expensive, I use it daily on my face but sparingly elsewhere. (See the bottom of this post for info on a sale at Sephora this month!)
If you’re using a potentially drying product, follow the treatment with a light moisturizer on the area you treated. This will prevent your body from over-compensating with oil production (which can just lead to more breakouts).
One more important note about facial anti-acne products: I would not recommend using products containing benzoyl peroxide on your body, since this ingredient bleaches fabric. (Shoutout to the many pillowcases I ruined as a teen that taught me this firsthand.) Stick to ingredients like glycolic acid/AHA, salicylic acid/BHA, willow bark extract (another form of BHA), clay, sulfur, etc.
Wash your activewear after every wear
This tip is so important! My sports bras in particular go in the wash after every workout, even if I don’t feel like I worked out very hard. It makes a huge difference!
Occasionally I make exceptions for certain items. For example, I’m more lenient with items that have anti-bacterial properties or leggings I wore for an easy jog on a cold day. If I wear activewear casually, I’ll wear it a couple of times before washing, like I would with jeans or a sweater.
Rinse off ASAP
If possible, try to change out of your workout clothes and shower off as soon as you can after your workout. That said, as someone who frequently drives to wilderness areas to run, I know it’s not always practical to change and shower right away. Sometimes you just gotta do the best you can! Wet wipes on problem areas can be a good solution in a pinch.
For particularly stubborn breakouts, try rinsing out your workout clothes right away, then throwing them in your dirty laundry pile when they’re dry. Since you probably don’t do laundry every day, this prevents bacteria from festering in the time between wearing and washing.
Besides the major pieces of your outfit, don’t forget to regularly wash any accessories you wear to work out, like hats, backpacks, vests, or belts. Even if it’s not touching your skin directly, a regular wash will help keep the nastiness from building up and working its way into your clothes.
Retire old sports bras
I was washing my sports bras after every workout, showering as soon as I could, and using anti-acne treatments, but I was still getting breakouts on my upper back where my sports bra straps. I decided to retire a few older sports bras and replace them, and I immediately noticed a big improvement! If your wardrobe is full of a lot of aging styles, try phasing older items out.
Depending on the area that you’re getting breakouts, audit your closet for any aging items that contact the problem area and consider replacing them.
Go for a deep clean on laundry day
I admit I haven’t needed to try this one yet myself, but if your workouts have you sweating up a storm, consider a sports-specific laundry detergent to thoroughly purge the grime from your activewear. The odor in stinky workout clothes is caused by bacteria, and bacteria also causes breakouts. It’s not a stretch to imagine that if your clothes smell, it could also be breaking you out.
My favorite breakout fighters
Any anti-breakout tips I missed? I’d love to hear your suggestions!