Why Is Lifting Weights Causing Acne?

Acne, the most common skin condition in the United States, affects approximately 13 to 16 percent of the population, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, or AAD 1. Many factors can contribute to acne, including genetic make-up, hormones and stress, the AAD reports. Lifting weights can trigger hormones in your body, causing an imbalance that may lead to the formation of acne.


Acne involves your oil glands and hair follicles. It occurs when your skin pores become blocked with oily residue and become swollen and infected, according to Medical News Today 2. Various types of acne can form, including whiteheads, blackheads, pustules, papules and cysts. The face, neck, back, shoulders and chest areas often show the most susceptibility to acne. Although not a dangerous disease, acne can cause scarring, Medical News Today reports 2.


Androgens, or hormones responsible for male sexual characteristics, contribute to acne, according to the Cleveland Clinic 3. High androgen levels increase the size and production of oil glands under the skin, causing acne breakouts. Levels of the most common type of androgen, testosterone, often rise in adolescents and bodybuilders. Lifting weights increases testosterone levels nearly 30 percent post exercise, according to San Diego State University, which contributes to acne formation.


When sebum, an oily substance produced by your body, gets trapped in skin pores, inflammation and acne develops on your skin’s surface. The androgens released during strength training create excess sebum production, which contributes to acne. Testosterone levels increase with each bout of heavy resistance training, according to “Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.” Raised testosterone levels promote oil production, often clogging follicles and encouraging acne breakouts 5.


Proper skin washing helps prevent acne breakouts. Wash your skin to remove excess oils, especially after exercising, recommends KidsHealth.org 6. If breakouts on your body occur, avoid wearing tight clothing that can cause irritation. Treatments include topical creams, oral antibiotics, retinoids and hormone treatments, according to the AAD. Over-the-counter products containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid may effectively treat acne, as well, according to KidsHealth.org 6. Seek advice from your health care provider for treatment options.


Although lifting weights may contribute to acne, consider the overall benefits of testosterone and strength training. Testosterone helps increase muscle strength, red blood cell production, bone density and sex drive, according to MayoClinic.com. Low androgen levels may cause a decrease in self-confidence, sleep disturbances and infertility. Resistance training provides numerous health benefits such as reduced risk of injury, weight management and reduced risk of disease, according to MayoClinic.com, and should be a consistent part of a healthy lifestyle.