Can Pre Workout Cause Acne? 

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Can Pre Workout Cause Acne? 

Can pre-workout cause acne? It’s a question that has troubled many fitness enthusiasts with acne-prone skin. 

After all, we’re often told that regular exercise is beneficial for our overall health, including our skin. However, when it comes to intense exercise combined with the use of a pre-workout supplement, the picture becomes more complex. 

In this article, we’ll explore the intriguing connection between pre-workout supplements and acne flare-ups, backed by scientific evidence and expert insights.

I. Can Pre Workout Cause Acne?

Yes, taking pre-workouts can indeed trigger acne [1]Total Shape: Does Pre-Workout Cause Acne? A Dermatologist Answers breakouts in individuals with acne-prone and sensitive skin. This phenomenon is attributed to several factors, each of which contributes to the overall impact of pre-workout supplements on skin health.

Let us explore the link between pre-workout supplements and acne flare-ups.

1. Hormonal Changes

One of the primary mechanisms through which pre-workout supplements can cause acne is by affecting hormonal balance.

Most pre-workout supplements contain a cocktail of energy-inducing inducing ingredients like caffeine, creatine, and so on. These ingredients have often been linked to hormonal changes in some people.

For instance, caffeine can stimulate the adrenal glands to release stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Elevated cortisol levels can lead to increased sebum (skin oil) production, clogged pores, and, ultimately, acne.

2. Increased Sweat Production

Another way pre-workout supplements are connected to acne is through increased sweat production during exercise. While sweating itself is a natural process to cool the body, excessive sweat can be the stuff of nightmares for many acne sufferers.

Sweat mixes with dead skin cells and bacteria on the skin’s surface, potentially clogging pores and exacerbating acne in individuals prone to it.

Explore More: Does Pre-Workout Make You Sweat More?

3. Dietary Factors

It’s not just the pre-workout ingredients themselves; it’s also how they interact with our overall diet. Many pre-workout supplements contain artificial sweeteners.

Additionally, workout and supplementation plans that are not supplemented by healthy diets can be a recipe for acne-speckled disaster. Eating refined carbs sugary and greasy foods can be detrimental to skin health.

Consuming these substances alongside pre-workouts can increase the glycemic load of a meal, potentially worsening acne in those who are sensitive to high-glycemic foods.

4. Other Factors

Whether or not your exercise routines and pre and post-workout habits are tailored to your skin type can also influence the severity of acne breakouts.

For instance, showering immediately after exercise decreases the chances of clogged pores due to sweat and bacteria. However, taking hot showers after an intense workout can worsen acne.

Lastly, some individuals may experience acne breakouts when taking pre-workout supplements due to their unique sensitivities or allergies to specific pre-workout ingredients. This personalized response can vary widely from person to person.

II. Key Ingredients and Their Acne Potential

Let’s delve deeper into the key ingredients commonly found in pre-workout supplements and how they can impact acne-prone skin:

1. Caffeine

Caffeine, a staple in most pre-workouts, has very often been linked to acne breakouts in some individuals. This is due to some of its impacts on the body, including dehydration and hormonal changes.

Caffeine is a diuretic that can cause dehydration – a condition known to worsen acne. Dehydrated skin may over-compensate by producing more oil, further contributing to acne.

Caffeine can also disrupt hormonal balance by increasing the production of stress hormones like cortisol. One of our body’s reactions to this is increased sebum production and potentially clogged pores.

Pro tip: Go for stim-free preworkouts. These will not trigger your stress hormones or cause dehydration.

2. Creatine

Creatine, often included in pre-workout formulas, has been shown to influence hormone levels, particularly testosterone. Elevated testosterone levels can increase sebum production, again contributing to acne.

Additionally, creatine works by drawing water into the muscle cells, leaving very little water for the rest of the body(including your skin). Dehydrated skin tends to produce more oil and is the perfect playground for acne-causing bacteria.

Pro tip: An alternative to creatine pre-workouts and the problems they cause is a BCAAs supplement. BCAAs or branched chain amino acids are not linked to hormonal changes and dehydration, so they’re an excellent choice for skin-sensitive exercisers.

3. Whey protein

Whey is a dairy-based source of protein that ‘s widely used in pre-workout supplements. While it can help build muscle mass, this protein powder has also been linked to acne breakouts.

This is due to whey’s ability to stimulate the release of insulin-like growth factor hormone(IGF-1). These hormones can increase oil production, skin cell turnover rate, and inflammation – all leading to acne formation.

Additionally, dairy proteins can promote inflammation in some individuals, further worsening the situation.

Pro tip: Stick to non-dairy protein powders like plant-based proteins and milk thistle supplements to avoid the potential acne issue. 

4. Mass gainers

Mass gainers typically contain a blend of carbohydrates (often including sugars and artificial sweeteners), proteins (such as whey protein), fats, vitamins, and minerals. These are sometimes added to pre-workouts for people who wish to achieve more significant muscle gains.

However, mass gainers can worsen acne due to their high carb content. Carbohydrates increase the glycemic index of a meal, leading to elevated blood sugar levels. High glucose levels can stimulate the release of hormones like insulin, resulting in increased sebum production and, ultimately, acne breakouts.

Pro tip: Look for low-sugar or no-sugar mass gainers. These will not spike your blood sugar levels but will still help you achieve your desired body mass goals.

5. Artificial sweeteners

Pre-workout supplements sometimes contain artificial sweeteners. They are used to enhance the taste of the supplement and make it easier to ingest.

However, artificial sweeteners can exacerbate acne when consumed in excess due to their inflammatory properties and potential role in altering gut bacteria.

This inflammation can trigger an immunological response in the skin, resulting in increased sebum production and pores being clogged up.

Pro tip: It is always a good idea to avoid all foods, pre-workouts, and other dietary supplements that contain artificial sweeteners. A little compromise on taste may go a long way in preserving your skin and overall health.

III. Natural Alternatives to Pre-Workout Supplements to Avoid Acne

If you’re concerned about pre-workout supplements exacerbating your acne-prone skin, there are natural alternatives to consider:

  • Whole Foods: Opt for a balanced, low glycemic load diet rich in antioxidants. Consume fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. This can help reduce inflammation, regulate blood sugar levels, and reduce the risk of acne.
  • Hydration: Prioritize staying hydrated before, during, and after your workouts. Drinking water can help counteract the dehydrating effects of exercise.
  • Fish Oil Supplements: Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil supplements have anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce inflammation associated with acne. Consult with a healthcare professional before adding supplements to your routine.
  • Milk Thistle: Some studies suggest that milk thistle supplements may have liver-protective effects, which can indirectly support skin health. However, consult with a healthcare provider before using supplements.

IV. Other Tips to Prevent Acne Breakouts 

In addition to considering natural alternatives, here are some general tips to help prevent acne breakouts while staying active:

  • Wash Your Face: After a workout, cleanse your face to remove sweat and debris that can clog pores.
  • Healthy and Low Glycemic Diet: Eating a balanced diet that is low on the glycemic index can ensure reduced insulin levels, lower inflammation, better cell regeneration and hormonal balance.
  • Cold Showers: Taking a cold shower post-workout can help soothe irritated skin and reduce redness.
  • Non-comedogenic Sunscreens: Choose skincare products, especially sunscreens that are labeled as non-comedogenic, meaning they won’t clog pores.
  • Manage Stress: High stress levels can exacerbate acne. Incorporate stress-reduction techniques like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises into your routine.
  • Breathable workout wear for body acne: Wearing tight clothes that aren’t breathable or quick drying can cause body acne breakouts. Look for workout wear made of comfortable, skin-friendly fabrics.
  • Consult a Dermatologist: If you have acne-prone skin, it is better to have a consultation with your dermatologist before starting a workout and supplementation routine. If acne persists or worsens despite your efforts, consult a dermatologist for personalized advice and treatment options.


Pre-workout supplements can indeed trigger acne breakouts, primarily due to hormonal changes, increased sweat production, dietary factors, and individual sensitivities. 

However, understanding the potential impact of key pre-workout ingredients and exploring natural alternatives can help individuals with acne-prone skin make informed choices about their exercise fuel. 

Remember, maintaining healthy skin while pursuing an active lifestyle is possible with the right strategies and personalized skincare routines.


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