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Acne Strategies to Stop Post-Workout Breakouts

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It’s no secret that maintaining an active lifestyle will give your skin that beautiful post-workout glow, but some of your favorite fitness gear could be damaging your pores. While you're working hard to sweat the toxins right out of your skin, bacteria is putting it right back on the surface via your go-to fitness products.

So what's most likely to cause breakouts during your workout? We rounded up the biggest culprits, plus expert advice on how to steer clear of acne flare-ups.

Your Headphones
It’s hard to imagine training for a run without headphones delivering your favorite tunes, but your ear gear could be the reason why your skin is so infected. “Wearing over-the-ear headphones during and after exercise can increase acne breakouts and skin infections,” says Dr. Debra Luftman, dermatologist for Simple Skincare. “They collect sweat and moisture, which encourages bacteria and yeast to multiply.”

Quick Fix: Thankfully, cleaning your headphones is easy. Wipe them down with a facial cleansing cloth—we love Simple Cleansing Facial Wipes ($4; Target)—before and after each use. Also, make sure to also wipe off your ears and surrounding areas with a wipe after removing your headphones. Keep any eye out for any wear and tear on the rubber earpiece; that's a sign that they should be tossed. (FYI, cleansing wipes are one of the 18 Life-Saving Items Trainers Keep in Their Gym Bags.)

Your Sports Bra
The most important part of your workout wardrobe, no matter your cup size, is your sports bra. But it could also be the reason why you are noticing so many breakouts on your chest. “The fabric blend and tight elastic can cause a build-up of sweat that leads to acne breakouts,” says Luftman.

Quick Fix: Combat flare-ups by (again!) packing cleansing wipes in your gym bag. Immediately wipe down your skin after your workout, and make sure to wash your sports bra before reusing. The sooner you take it off and throw it into the washing machine after a workout, the better.

Exercise Machines
Considering that the exercise machines are shared among all gym-goers, it seems pretty obvious that they could be covered in skin irritants. “Exercise machines are rarely cleaned sufficiently, and the warm vinyl seating and hand grabs are magnets for bacteria and yeast,” says Luftman. “This is especially true at the end of the day.”

Quick Fix: Most gyms provide wipes to clean off the machines, so use them to give the handles, seats, and any other part of the machine that could touch your skin a quick cleansing. And give yourself some good skin karma by wiping the machine down after your reps for the next sweaty person behind you.

Your Exercise Towel
The whole purpose of taking this with you to a yoga class or on the treadmill is to mop the puddles of sweat off of your face. So it should come as no surprise to find out that they're basically a breeding ground for bacteria. “Used wet towels are full of bacteria and yeast,” says Luftman.

Quick Fix: Avoid touching your face with the towel, and make sure to wash your towels after every use. Wiping your skin with a dirty, sweaty towel will apply bacteria and yeast directly to your face, and is likely to cause acne and rosacea. If you're seriously melting during your workout and need to dab off the sweat, reach for facial wipe instead. Not only will you love the cool, refreshing feeling during your workout, but your skin won’t be at risk for breakouts. 

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