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Exercise & Cystic Acne

By Dana Severson ; Updated July 18, 2017

Cystic acne is often characterized as the most severe form of acne. It’s marked by a deep obstruction within the affected pore, causing inflammation to the surrounding tissue. It also stimulates the accumulation of pus under the surface of your skin. Like other forms of acne, exercise can sometimes set the stage for its development.

Exercise

Whenever you exercise, the physical activity tends to elevate body temperature, which causes perspiration. But along with the sweat, your body also secretes sebum, an oily substance that helps you retain moisture. If sweat and oil are left on the skin, they can trap dirt and bacteria within the openings of your hair follicles and lead to active lesions, warns the Mayo Clinic website.

Prevention

Showering after exercise can sometimes help prevent acne. Washing the face and body with a gentle cleanser not only removes sweat, oil, dirt and bacteria that can become trapped in the pores, but also slough away dead skin that can combine with sebum to form a soft plug that clogs the opening of the hair follicle.

Consultation

If cystic acne still develops even after showering, it’s best to talk to a doctor. This form of acne can be difficult to treat on your own, so prescription medications are often necessary to improve the appearance of the skin and prevent potential scarring. Your doctor can refer you to a dermatologist in your area.

Treatment

Most medical professionals start off by injecting cortisone directly into the active lesion, according to Acne.org. This lessens inflammation and thereby helps prevent scarring. From there, a topical medication containing a retinoid is typically prescribed. Tretinoin is probably the most common, but your dermatologist may instead prescribe adapalene or tazarotene. These retinoids may also be combined with other topical medications, such as benzoyl peroxide or an antibiotic. These topical medications help remove dead skin, dry up excess oil and reduce bacterial buildup. All three factors can improve active acne lesions. If cystic acne doesn’t respond to topical treatments, your doctor may then look to other options, such as isotretinoin, oral contraceptives or laser therapy.

Recommendation

The potential for cystic acne to arise from exercise shouldn’t dissuade you from working out. It should, however, cause you to pay attention to what you’re putting on your skin prior to a workout or your hygiene habits after strenuous activities. Wash your face before exercise to remove cosmetics and dirt on the skin and hit the showers before changing back into your street clothes. Also, wash your gym apparel regularly.

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