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Does Sweating Cause Acne? Everything You Need to Know about Sweat Pimples

Man stretching

If you’re a guy who cares about your health and appearance, chances are you’re no stranger to the gym. Sure, it’s not easy to balance work, family, and health in a busy schedule. But you make the effort because looking and feeling your best is important to you.

So it’s frustrating when you finish a workout and find tiny red sweat pimples around especially sweaty areas - like your armpits and shoulders. What is that? Does working out and sweating cause acne? What can you do to stay fit and also enjoy great skin?

Does Sweat Cause Pimples?

Acne blemishes appear when dead skin cells, dirt, or other debris clog your skin’s oil ducts. These mix with bacteria, leading to inflammation, redness, and irritation - everything you would use to describe a pimple.

Sweating may lead to, if not cause directly, acne breakouts for some guys, known as sweat pimples. That’s because sweat can mix with dirt, oil, and dead skin cells to clog your pores and form pimples.

But sometimes, you may develop red bumps that aren’t acne. Still, they show up after workouts and seem to be triggered by getting all hot and sweaty. What gives?

Does Sweat Help Acne in Any Way?

Luckily for you, sweat can actually help clear up acne. As we sweat, the pores open up, allowing previously stuck dirt, debris, and oils to be released. This gives your skin the chance to rid itself of stagnant impurities. Sweat contains antimicrobial peptides that fight off acne at the moment, meaning you don't have to quit going hard during your workouts for acne's sake.

The problem arises if sweat is allowed to linger on the skin too long and too often, creating a literal breeding ground for bacteria. Sweat pimples only appear if you wait too long to rinse off.

How to Treat Acne from Sweat

If you already have sweat pimples on your forehead, body, face, or wherever, don't sweat it. We'll teach you how to get rid of sweat bumps by changing your habits and using the right cleanser:

  • Wash twice a day with a gentle cleanser
  • Moisturize with a lightweight, non-comedogenic cream
  • Avoid touching the area or picking at your acne (hands have oil and bacteria on them, and popping pimples leads to scarring)
  • Avoid scrubbing it too hard while washing - there's no need to further irritate the region


Which Areas Are Most Prone to Sweat Acne?

Commonly affected areas include the body parts that sweat the most, especially where clothing is tight against the skin.

This could be waistband lines, hat lines, under tight pants and shirts, or under a headband, or even a mask (see how to prevent maskne). Notice that areas covered by clothing are the worst culprits:

  • Forehead
  • Chin
  • Chest
  • Buttocks
  • Shoulders
  • Back

Sweat pimples on the face and forehead are super common because that's where most of us sweat the most, using our hands to wipe them off during a workout.

What Do Sweat Pimples Look Like?

After a workout, you may be trying to distinguish a heat rash vs acne.

Acne from sweat usually looks like small, irritated red or pink bumps. It ranges from papules, pustules, and nodules to blackheads and whiteheads, depending on the age and severity of the acne.

Heat rash seldom looks like whiteheads or blackheads, but more like clear to pink blisters.

Best Products to Prevent and Clear Up Sweat Pimples

Because acne from working out is preventable, using gentle cleansing products and supporting healthy, moisturized skin is the main thing we can do to wipe it out. At Brickell, we know that working out is an important step in any man's self-care routine. Our products are designed with your lifestyle in mind. Here are our favorite products to prevent and treat sweat acne.

Acne Controlling Face Wash For Men

Our Acne Controlling Face Wash for Men is the perfect first step in fighting workout acne. Salicylic acid works to cleanse the skin, clear up blemishes, and reduce breakouts. Tea tree oil fights the inflammation that aggravates acne and makes it more visible. This cleanser is built for men with oily and acne-prone skin.


Purifying Charcoal Face Wash for Men

Charcoal sucks impurities out of the skin, clearing up the dirt and debris that caused your sweat breakout. Brickell's Charcoal Face Wash for Men is perfect for dry or sensitive skin that suffers the occasional breakout. The recipe has natural olive and jojoba oils that rebuild the skin's natural protective barrier after cleansing.

Clarifying Gel Face Wash for Men

Our crowd-pleasing Gel Face Wash for Men helps normal to combination skin types address workout acne and other common skin concerns. With aloe vera to soothe and refresh and geranium to hinder bacteria, this cleanser's powerful natural formula knocks acne out of the park.

Acne Controlling Spot Treatment for Men

Acne from sweat, bacteria, and environmental toxins sometimes requires a topical treatment to make it disappear as fast as we'd like. Our Acne Treatment for Men is a spot treatment designed to eliminate zits, pimples, and whiteheads. With 2% salicylic acid, witch hazel, and organic aloe, this formula will help clean up both sweat pimples and oil-caused pimples.

Acne Controlling Face Moisturizer Treatment For Men

We know that sweat can cause acne, but what about excessive dryness? Our Acne Controlling Moisturizer for Men provides the moisture skin needs to heal from and repair acne. Use this moisturizer after cleansing to soothe irritated skin and promote healthy cell turnover.


Polishing Body Scrub For Men

After learning about sweat, exercise, and acne, you know that the face isn't the only susceptible area. The body gets sweat acne too, especially where the clothes trap heat and cause friction. With our Body Scrub for Acne, you can gently exfoliate your back, chest, shoulders, thighs, and arms for more polished-looking skin.

Invigorating Body Wash for Men

Breaking out from sweat can make folks hesitant to work out, a crucial part of looking and feeling good. Our organic Men's Body Wash doesn't irritate or dehydrate the skin, respecting your natural pH and wiping out sweat and oil before acne has the chance to appear.


Heat Rash vs. Acne

Heat rash is not as common as sweat pimples, but it’s definitely an issue for guys who workout in hot, humid places. High humidity makes it harder for your sweat to evaporate. This can clog your skin’s sweat ducts and cause heat rash. It appears as small red bumps that look like acne with few important distinctions:

  • Heat rash usually appears in clusters and looks like a rash, not like individual pimples.
  • Heat rash occurs most frequently on the sweatiest parts of your body - like your shoulders, armpits, and groin.
  • Heat rash bumps don’t fill with pus like acne blemishes do.


How to Prevent Heat Rash

  • Wear loose-fitting clothing
  • Stay hydrated
  • Seek shade or AC if you feel yourself getting extremely hot
  • Avoid heavy creams that could clog the pores like petroleum and oils
  • Take cool baths or showers and avoid piping hot ones

There's no guarantee that you can avoid heat rash or heat pimples entirely, but these recommendations are widely believed to help. Remember, heat acne is caused when the sweat ducts get clogged, and sweat can't escape. This type of sweat rash is different from acne and can't be "cleansed" away.

Sweat Acne vs Hormonal Acne

Sweat acne is directly caused by sweating combined with inadequate cleansing. It's preventable and easily treatable. Sweat pimples are experienced by people of all ages, not just teenagers or those with hormonal imbalances.

Hormonal acne is the result of hormones telling the skin to over-produce oil, feeding the bacteria that cause acne and clog pores.

This type of acne starts in the deeper skin layers and is often sensitive and painful. It's persistent, often located on the cheeks, jaw, chin, or back. Though sweat can aggravate hormonal acne, it's not the primary cause and cleansing isn't the sole solution.

If you notice a correlation between exercise and acne or think you're breaking out from sweat but cleansing isn't helping, you might be suffering from hormonal acne that's being fed by sweat. Make sure to cleanse soon after exercise but note that more comprehensive solutions will be needed to clear up the acne for good.

Acne Mechanica and Sweat Pimples

Acne mechanica is a type of acne caused by friction, heat, and pressure on the skin. It's triggered by a combination of excess pressure, moisture, and rubbing, so you can see how it might be closely related to a sweat rash.

Acne mechanica is most likely to occur on the shoulders, thighs, neck, and buttocks, areas where the skin rubs on clothing or other skin. In many cases, acne mechanica and sweat acne are combined or linked, especially when the sweat is trapped against the skin for long periods. If you think sweat is causing your acne, consider throwing friction into the mix as another likely culprit.

How to Prevent Acne from Sweating and Working Out

Shower Soon After

The sooner you get out of those sweaty clothes, the better. An easy solution for getting clean - without dehydrating or irritating your skin

All in One Wash for Men

The triple threat All in One Wash quickly cleanses hair, body, and face for men with a busy schedule. Wash away acne from sweat in one simple step.


Improve Your Skincare and Grooming Routine.

Sensitive skin is especially prone to breakouts and sweat rash. A cleansing body wash without harsh detergents like our Invigorating Body Wash is best to keep your skin clean, hydrated, and non-irritated. Moisturizing is also critical as it helps prevent irritation, dryness, and itch. Use a moisturizer after you shower to keep your skin looking and feeling its best.

Deep Moisture Body Lotion

Follow up with a Deep Moisture Body Lotion to restore the skin's natural protective oils. This lotion is lightweight enough to avoid clogged pores and sweat pimples but hydrating enough to prevent moisture loss throughout the day.


Moisturize After Cleansing

Cleansing without moisturizing can leave skin dry, chapped, and prone to irritability. Don't make your skin work overtime to restore hydration after a wash; help it out with our Acne Controlling Face Moisturizer. This non-comedogenic, organic moisturizer won't aggravate heat pimples or clog pores.

Use a Smoother Shaving Cream

If you have sweat pimples on your face and can't afford to skip a few shaves, you'll need to protect them as much as possible. Our Smooth Brushless Shave Cream lifts hairs for an ultra-smooth shave and prevents knicks and cuts on your existing bumps.


Other Habits to Consider

  • Wear loose clothing. Tight clothing traps sweat, which can lead to both acne and heat rash. Choose looser fitting gym clothes that let sweat evaporate and won’t rub against your skin, which would cause friction that further heats your skin.
  • Wear breathable fabrics. Fabrics designed to wick sweat off your skin are best. Fast drying gym clothes for hot weather will help you reduce the chance of developing heat rash or suffering from regular acne breakouts after your fitness sessions.
  • Towel off regularly. Have a towel with you and use it to keep your skin dry. It only takes a second and will leave you substantially cooler and less acne prone at the end of your workout.
  • Stay hydrated. Keep a bottle of cool water with you while you workout. Take frequent sips and splash some on your skin if you’re feeling overheated.

If you’re experiencing heat rash after your workouts, make an effort to keep your skin as cool and dry as possible. The same tips apply to acne since excessive sweating can lead to acne for many men.

Key Takeaway: Don’t Sacrifice Fitness or Skincare

Your personal fitness routine and skincare regimen are both critical to looking and feeling your best every day. So don’t sacrifice either!

Instead, create a simple skincare routine that prevents heat rash and reduces the risk of sweating causing acne.

Remember, sweat pimples are provoked by working out in tight clothes and waiting too long to shower. If you're one of the guys who started working out and breaking out, know it doesn't have to be that way. With the help of Brickell's products, you can kick sweat acne for good!

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