Picture a stereotypically sexy person. You might think of a pro athlete, a personal trainer, yoga instructor, or just someone who demonstrates a high energy, active lifestyle. Regardless of who comes to mind, chances are you’re picturing them with clear skin. Fitness influencers and yoga instructors on social media certainly try to present an airbrushed complexion, but the reality of their skin may differ.
Efforts to maintain good health––namely exercise, diet, and supplementation––have the potential to trigger acne breakouts. If you care about your health, you shouldn’t have to decide between clear skin and a healthy body. Keep reading to learn how a wellness-oriented lifestyle can affect your skin and how to take care of both.
Athletes and Acne: Don’t Sweat It
Everyone knows that regular exercise is good for you. Staying active is known to help maintain a healthy weight, promote joint and bone health, and prevent heart disease. Naturally, exercise has the potential to be good for your skin as well. Confusingly, though, some types of physical activity can make skin problems worse.
Tight-fitting and non-breathable clothing can irritate skin and trap sweat, leading to clogged pores and body acne. This same unfavorable combination of sweat, heat, and friction can cause facial breakouts from headbands, hats, and loose in-your-face hair.1
Skincare Strategies for Active Individuals: Prevention and Treatment
Washing your face, ideally with a well-formulated gentle cleanser, immediately after exercise can stop breakouts in their tracks. Regular exfoliation can also counter the clogged pores you get from working up a sweat.
Lots of exercise takes place outdoors, which means sun exposure. The irritation from too much sun exposure can damage the skin barrier, making you more acne-prone. Use a non-comedogenic sunscreen to prevent the damage UV rays cause.
The Hormonal Element: How Acne Relates to Physical Activity
Regular exercise can manage stress and blood sugar, making it a powerful tool in the fight against two of the most common acne triggers. Exercising late in the day, however, can disrupt sleep, as can high levels of caffeine in some pre-workout formulas. Time your workouts and supplements to maximize sleep to reduce the impact on your skin.
Supplements and Skincare: How Health Efforts May Backfire
Those serious about their fitness will often turn to outside help for recovery and performance. These supplements can make waves in your workout regimen, but anything that alters your body chemistry can also have side effects.2 Here are a few of the most common unintended consequences of supplementation.
Whey Protein Powders and Acne: There’s a Better Whey
If you’re hitting the gym, you’re no stranger to protein. You can only eat so many chicken breasts in a day, so to maximize gains, many weightlifters turn to protein powders and shakes.
Whey protein is undeniably the most popular variety of protein supplement on the market—but this might be bad news for those struggling with their complexions. This highly concentrated dairy-based additive has androgenic properties, which can lead to acne on the trunk and back.3
You can mitigate this effect by choosing a plant-based protein powder instead. While whey protein is more bioavailable, the reduced acne risk with plant protein may be worth the trade-off.
Nootropics and Vitamin B12: Uncovering Their Impact on Skin
Nootropic agents are all the rage these days among the fitness- and performance-focused. A nootropic is any supplement intended to enhance cognitive function. While many of them work well for that purpose, they also have the potential to interfere with your skin.
- Vitamin B12 – An essential vitamin for brain and nerve health, many claim taking B12 supplements improves focus and thinking. However, large doses of this vitamin are positively correlated with severe nodulocystic acne breakouts. Regular doses found in multivitamins and fortified foods should be okay, so stick to the recommended amounts to ensure your vitamin B12 supplement doesn’t cause acne flare-ups.4
- Vitamin D3 – Another essential vitamin, proponents of D3 supplementation tout this nutrient’s ability to stave off fatigue and optimize energy levels. There’s mixed research about vitamin D’s impact on acne. Some studies suggest that low vitamin D levels can cause acne, while others suggest that the high dose of vitamin D3 present in most over-the-counter supplements has the opposite effect.
- Caffeine – Caffeine is everywhere, beloved by millions in the form of coffee, tea, soda, and energy drinks. Recently, caffeine has been getting some shine for its brain-boosting potential as well. Even so, caffeine can increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol and exacerbate dehydration, both of which can make acne worse. In moderation, though, caffeine shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
While vitamins like B12 and D3 have a concerning relationship with acne-prone skin, there is strong emerging evidence that supplementing vitamin B5, also known as pantothenic acid, prevents acne. CLEARSTEM’s hormonal acne supplement contains B5, along with other skin-friendly vitamins like vitamin A to stop breakouts at their source.
Dietary Adjustments: Navigating Acne Triggers
Acne sufferers have long been subject to mixed messaging about how diet causes (or doesn’t cause) pimples. Urban legends about the real culprit being chocolate or potato chips have largely fallen out of favor, but that doesn’t mean that food and acne are entirely unrelated.
Recent studies indicate that diets with a high glycemic load are related to the development and exacerbation of acne. High glycemic diets, usually containing high amounts of refined carbohydrates, raise insulin, which can trigger sebum production and acne.5
To counter acne with food, make sure you’re eating plenty of fiber, whole grains, protein, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats. A varied whole-food anti-acne diet can help prevent insulin spikes, is rich in micronutrients to promote skin health, and contains lots of water to promote hydration.6
Work Toward Clear Skin with CLEARSTEM
Sexy people get acne, too; there’s no shame in that. That doesn’t mean you have to deal with it forever. Our extensive line of clinically-minded products at CLEARSTEM can help reduce breakouts so you can spend more time celebrating your capabilities with confidence.
CLEARSTEM skincare addresses all of the lifestyle-related contributors to acne. Concerned that your skin woes are related to hormones or nutrition? See if our hormonal acne supplement works for you.
Looking for skincare solutions with science-backed ingredients? We’ve designed effective, non-pore-clogging skincare for acne-prone skin to help restore your skin’s natural glow.
- UW Health. Exercise and Acne. https://www.uwhealth.org/news/exercise-and-acne-how-to-balance-the-breakouts
- Dermatology Online Journal. Acne related to dietary supplements.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32941710/
- Health Promotion Perspectives. Acne located on the trunk, whey protein supplementation: Is there any association.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5350548/
- Science. Vitamin B12 modulates the transcriptome of the skin microbiota in acne pathogenesis.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6049814/
- Dermatoendocrinology. The relationship of diet and acne.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2836431/
- The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. Diet and Dermatology: The Role of a Whole-food, Plant-based Diet in Preventing and Reversing Skin Aging—A Review. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7380694/