Acne Not Triggered by Exercise: Study
Exercise and sweating do not increase acne, contrary to popular
myth, according to Stanford University School of Medicine researchers.
Their single-blinded study found that changes in acne did not
correlate with the days exercised, time spent exercising, time sweating
during exercise, or the time between exercise and showering, the
"It's okay for people with acne to go ahead and exercise and take a
shower within the hour," said Dr. Alexa Kimball, MD, PhD, director of
clinical trials at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
The study dispels a long-held myth among patients and some
physicians that strenuous exercise producing sweat can actually worsen
In an earlier study of football players, researchers coined
the phrase "acne mechanica" after discovering a variant of acne
vulgaris that occurred in the areas where the helmet or uniform padding
rubbed the body.
That study left many patients and physicians with the perception
that exercise producing sweat could worsen acne, said Dr. Kimball.
"Looking at football, the sport did worsen acne, but mainly from a
frictional component from mechanical forces on the skin," she said.
"There were concerns that the athletes' acne would worsen when they were sweating and dirty."
During the study, there were no statistically significant changes in
acne among the three groups of men. Changes in acne did not correlate
to the number of days exercised, time spent exercising, time of
sweating during exercise, nor the time interval between exercising and
taking a shower. Stress levels were similar among the three groups of
Dr. Kimball said that while the men who showered within an hour of
exercising had many more lesions than men who delayed showering "this
was not statistically significant."
Guy Webster, MD, moderator of the acne poster discussion session and
vice chairman of dermatology at Jefferson Medical College in
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, said the study did not address acne
mechanica, which can seriously disrupt the skin with athletic
equipment. But he agreed with Dr. Kimball's premise about
misinformation and acne.
"There are a zillion different misconceptions about acne," he said.
Two of those misconceptions are that both diet and dirt have something to do with acne outbreaks, Dr. Webster said.
"This study shows that the dirt you generate yourself — the dirt and grease on the skin — doesn't have much to do with acne."