6 Ways to Prevent and Treat Breakouts

6 Ways to Prevent and Treat Breakouts

Acne breakouts result from adherent dead skin cells, excess sebum/oil production, bacteria and inflammation. Sweat actually flushes internal toxins and cleans the pores. When the flow of sweat is blocked, the pores become plugged with the sticky skin cells, oil and toxins, leading to breakouts.

Since we know that intense exercise is a part of your plan, here are some tips to prevent and treat breakouts:


Avoid makeup

Makeup or lotions may block the flow of sweat. On a makeup-free face, sweat can exit the pores more easily. The only makeup I recommend is loose mineral powder makeup, such a Jane Iredale. Always look for products that state “non-comedogenic.”


Immediately after your workout, gently wash skin to remove any dirt and bacteria. When sweat containing toxins, oil and skin cells dries on your skin, it can feed bacteria and result in breakouts. I recommend the PCA Skin Blemish Control Bar or Derivations Purifying Cleanser with salicylic acid to gently exfoliate and prevent acne. For any red or inflamed breakouts, I recommend the PCA Skin or Haley Dermatology BPO 5 percent cleanser. Leave cleanser in place to work for two minutes, but avoid scrubbing, as this will lead to red, inflamed skin. If you don’t have time to wash, another option is to wipe your skin with salicylic acid pads or toner. Salicylic acid will gently exfoliate the dead skin cells so that they can’t clog the pores and lead to acne.

Avoid Friction

If you wear any type of gear when you sweat, make sure it fits well to avoid friction. I commonly will see breakouts on the forehead in people who wear hats, helmets or headbands or on the chin in football players or on the face where a phone is held for long periods of time. Friction irritates the follicles and doesn’t allow for proper exfoliation and also allows for bacteria buildup in the area. If you cannot avoid certain gear, make sure it fits properly and is cleaned daily. Also, when drying off sweat with a towel, dabbing is better than aggressively rubbing.


Wear lightweight, moisture-wicking clothing and avoid tight clothing that may cause friction. The more your skin can breathe, the better. If only your shoulders are having a problem with breakouts, I would recommend wearing tank tops. Also, take a look at the mats you may be working on and ensure they are clean and wiped down prior to use.


Since we know that sweat is a vital way that the body removes toxins, think about what you are consuming. Healthy fat (nuts, avocados, fish) and high-antioxidant, anti-inflammatory foods (colorful fruits and veggies) are essential in keeping your skin glowing. If you have recently started a weight-loss program, many of the toxins accumulated in your body’s fat stores over the years will be purged as the fat is burned and released into the system, often causing breakouts. Once those toxins are cleared, the acne will resolve, so stick with the healthy lifestyle changes. Unless medically contraindicated, I find that most acne patients will benefit by supplementing with zinc 25 milligrams daily, fish oil 2,000 milligrams daily and a probiotic.

Spot Treat

Spot treat any active acne with tea tree oil or benzoyl peroxide. Both kill bacteria but can be irritating, so take it slow and see what works best for you.

In general, healthy sweating flushes toxins from the body and should reduce breakouts. Small modifications in your routine will eventually get both your body and skin in the best shape ever.

Jennifer Haley, MD, FAAD

Jennifer Haley, MD, FAAD is a board-certified dermatologist with a degree in Nutrition Science from Cornell University. She has been an NPC bikini competitor and a consultant to the US Capitol. She enjoys an active lifestyle in Scottsdale, AZ and Montrose, CO with her husband and three boys.