No one is going to argue that working out is bad for you. However, there are a lot of things lurking around the gym that can do more harm than good. And those things can wreak havoc on your skin.
We’re talking mainly about bacteria and fungus, and they’re everywhere. Both of these things thrive in moist environments and because you and everyone else around you is sweating their asses off in the gym, it’s a truly wild environment for both bacteria and fungus to run rampant. Not just on the equipment either, on your body too, which can lead to a variety of skin issues.
Number one among them: acne. According to dermatologist Adam Geyer, MD, acne is caused by bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes (or P-Acnes) that thrives in a moist, sweaty environment. “The more we work out, the more we perspire, which makes us a better Petri dish,” he says. “People who work out a lot can often find an increase in pimples on their chest, back, and face.” Exercise also can increase testosterone levels, which in term tell your oil glands to produce more oil, making you even more moist and helping even more P-acnes grow. “It’s a feedback loop,” he says.
Complicating the issue, not all body pimples are actually acne. They could also be folliculitis, which is an inflammation of the hair follicles. Folliculitis looks like acne and is also caused by bacteria, but a different kind that likes to burrow down into your hair follicles and block them. Sweat helps them along. Chances are, if you notice pimples on your legs, arms, or torso, it’s probably folliculitis instead of acne. Apart from not looking great, folliculitis can be linked to staph and other types of infections. Dr. Geyer recommends using benzoyl peroxide on both acne and folliculitis to help dry out the pores and kill the bacteria (either in a spot treatment or cleanser).