Does Sweat Cause Acne?


Whenever I survey my clients, “What do you think is the cause of your breakouts?” The most common answer is “sweat.”

What are sweat glands? Sweat glands (sudoriferous glands) are located in the epidermis and produce moisture (sweat) that is secreted through tiny ducts onto the surface of the skin (stratum corneum).

There are two types of sweat glands:

Apocrine glands are specialized sweat glands that can be found only in the armpits and pubic region. These glands secrete a milky sweat that encourages the growth of the bacteria responsible for body odor…

Eccrine glands are found over the entire body, including the face; they regulate body temperature by bringing water via the pores to the surface of the skin, where it evaporates and reduces skin temperature.

Did you know? The average person has about 3 million sweat glands and these glands can produce up to two liters of sweat an hour?

As for sweat causing acne, sweat can in fact create an occlusion of the pores, which can result in red bumps caused by a combination of both sweat and oil being mixed together and getting blocked in the pores. This can create clogged pores, which aren’t so much like big blemishes, but rather more of a cluster of red, rash-like bumps. They don’t itch but they are rather small and bumpy.

Sweat related breakouts are often found in areas where material or fabric is pressed against the skin for long periods of time, such as a teenager wearing a football helmet or someone wearing a hat while running and getting breakouts on the forehead from the mix of both oil and sweat.

How can you lessen sweat-induced acne?

-Cleanse Skin More Frequently. Your skin should be able to tolerate cleansing up to three times a day, as long as you’re not using a harsh cleanser. Allure Magazine named Renée Rouleau AHA/BHA Cleansing Gel—Best Cleanser for Oily, Acne Prone Skin by Allure Magazine. It uses salicylic acid–a keratolytic beta hydroxy acid (BHA) famous for its ability to smooth the skin without causing irritation, reduce acne-causing bacteria and oil to prevent blemishes, all while penetrating the pores to help clear out impurities (making it also excellent for preventing blackheads after a deep pore cleansing facial).

-Use a gentle, yet effective BHA serum. All experts and top dermatologists all believe Beta Hydroxy Acids used in skin care products are extremely effective for reducing acne-causing bacteria that forms within the pores. Use BHA Clarifying Serum at night under moisturizer to keep sweat-induced acne away.

-Lighten Up Your Moisturizer. For those prone to sweat-related breakouts, the goal is to have less oil on skin since oil mixed with sweat can breed bacteria.  Lighten up and switch to an oil free lotion.  Try Renée Rouleau Skin Recovery Lotion.

If you’re experiencing regular breakouts in the summer (that are not rash-like and not in clusters and therefore probably not from sweat) then it’s probably heat-induced oil production that is causing it since oil is a breeding ground for bacteria.

Read: Five Ways To Reduce Oil Production In Skin

Read: Renée Rouleau Shares 11 Causes For Acne And Blemishes

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Renée Rouleau

Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”