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Weight lifting and whiteheads (sweating, protein, etc)

Hi everyone. I was wondering if I could get some advice on a very frustrating acne problem. I am unsure of what is causing my problem and what's correlated.

First, a bit of history. I am male and 26. I've had some type of acne problems since I was 16 or 17. The only thing that has ever cleared me up is accutane, which I have been on twice. This improved things while I was on it and for some months after I finished. However, my acne always seems to come back.

I only get whiteheads and only on my face. These whiteheads tend to (but not always) cluster together, sometimes on my jaw, sometimes my cheek, sometimes my temple, etc. The only place that never gets anything is my forehead. Also, the whiteheads do not pop out immediately. They sit there, sometimes for 2 weeks, sometimes one month or even two months. Then, like on the same clock, a cluster will pop out and it they can get quite huge and noticeable. It's very frustrating to see these whiteheads every day and know that at some point in the future, they will burst out. One last note is that I should say my skin is naturally very oily as well.

I have been lifting weights at the gym since I was 18 or 19. And I never really felt there was a relationship between working out and my acne problem. It seemed to exist no matter what. However, recently, I've been questioning this. Since the summer of last year, I have had persistent acne problems again. I've tried everything from laser treatments to levulan. Nothing has worked. Out of desperation, I'm on accutane yet again.

I am lifting weights about 4 times a week, which isn't unusual. But I am also taking protein supplements every day, and I've been trying to eat a lot more calories to gain weight. However, I wasn't taking all of this stuff before my problem started again last year. But, on top of that, I noticed that I sweat...a lot, more than a normal person. By the end of a workout, my face is usually drenched. I always make sure to wash my face thoroughly with water when i'm done, and take a shower as quickly as possible. However, this doesn't prevent anything. By the next morning, I always seem to notice another one or two whiteheads under the skin.

I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions based on all of this. I'm considering these possibilities:

1. Weight lifting causing too much stress on the body / raise in hormone production. However, I've been working out since I was 18/19.

2. Overproduction of sweat is clogging pores. But I don't remember the acne problem ever being this bad when I was working out before.

3. Protein supplements causing some reaction in my body. But I've been taking protein for a long time.

4. Eating too much dairy/protein/calories is causing some problem in my body. However, my acne problem existed before I started eating more.

Anyone have any help/ideas/insight? I'm kind of at a loss here. And I really don't want to be on accutane again :\

Thanks

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I want to say that is isn't related to lifting. For one, sweating and exercise is good for your body (Sort of purges you) and a healthy body means less acne. Exercise also releases endorphines which trigger a reduction in stress levels, and so you are under more physical stress but not more mental stress. Testosterone levels increasing is an interesting thought, but I don't think that it would effect you in a way to break you out so frequently (I lift myself and I don't really make this connection.)

The thing that I suggest is maybe you are just treating your skin way to harshly. The way you describe it is that you go home after the gym and really attack your face to try and clean it, but in reality this may be making it worse (especially since you are on accutane again).

It's up to you, but I would suggest just giving everything up. Stop using cleaners, stop using toners, quit the tane, even quit moisturizing unless you actually have dry skin. After battling acne since I was 13 (I'm 19 now) I've basically learned that by using these products, I'm basically just hurting my skin and irritating it more, leading to more breakouts. After I stopped using products, my skin tone improved, I broke out less and less, and it's just so much less of a hassle.

The only thing I do now is ice zits that I feel coming on to prevent them, and spot treat where needed. I'm basically giving into my body and letting it do what it does best, which is regulate itself and heal itself. To me, acne products have just been a vicious cycle that goes something like: Acne, use acne product and irritate skin, get a breakout, breakout begins to clear up, red marks stay for weeks due to BP, acne is almost gone but now I walk around with my skin red and shining due to all the products, more irritation and dryness due to acne products, use a moisturizer to balance this, break out again, start process over.

I pretty much thought that I was just doing more harm using the acne products, because rubbing your face so much (especially over active zits) only spreads the bacteria around even more. The irritation from the products causes pore collapse, and only a little bit of that bacteria that survived the onslaught of products is needed for a new zit to form. So now I just let it be, my skin is healing, I'm less stressed over it, and I don't need to waste money on acne products anymore.

You may not want to try this out of fear of breaking out, but trust me, accutane is harsh on your body, and the products are harsh on your skin. Give nature and try and see how it works for you.

Edited by GrimZ

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with more sweat theres seems to be more acne. there a video on the site where dan goes into detail about the relationship about the two.

lifting also causes acne due to the increased levels of testosterone. working out is beneficial but it can definitely cause acne to certain people. i, myself, have noticed that i have not broken out much at all these pass weeks because i have not biked/worked out since it is the off season.

experiment. i hate to say that because unwanted effects may occur but it may be the only thing to do to see what is the cause of your acne problems.

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Alot of people have said they tend to break out when taking Protein Supplements like Whey Powder and such.. Maybe it could be that?

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Thanks for the quick replies!

I don't think I'm too harsh on my face. Actually, in the past I was. I used to wash my face at least twice a day with generic soap, scrubbing quite diligently. But these days, after the gym I wash my face immediately with water (not rubbing very hard). And I'll do a mild cleanser morning and night, washing it off only with my hands.

I did try the BP regimen for a while, but I don't think it affected the whitehead formation. Other than that, I might try the ice thing. I can usually tell when a whitehead is ready to breakout finally.

I am afraid trial and error might be my only option as well. There's so many variables - from workout intensity to eating less to stopping all supplements. The only thing I refuse to do is stop working out completely. Maybe I might stop for a month or something. It just seems ridiculous that I'm in my mid-20's and things seem to be getting worse instead of better.

However, I am curious if there is anyway to help minimize the amount a person sweats....I guess scale back my workout.

Any other ideas on this? By the end of this, I'll end up having my facial hair removed to try and end the acne. :\

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Alot of people have said they tend to break out when taking Protein Supplements like Whey Powder and such.. Maybe it could be that?

I've actually started doing that now anyway. I ran out, so it was a good opportunity. If nothing else, I can put some of my own shakes together with glutamin, arginine, bcaa, etc.

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Cut back on the proteine supplements you are taking. I guess you are taking the creatine shakes? They only inflate your muscles with more water and the effect dissappears when you stop using it. They are also known to cause acne.

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Cut back on the proteine supplements you are taking. I guess you are taking the creatine shakes? They only inflate your muscles with more water and the effect dissappears when you stop using it. They are also known to cause acne.

Well I actually only recently started creatine with a new workout routine. My current run on acne problems extends to a year and a half ago. however, cutting all supplments out is probably the best advice right now.

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I work out a lot also and wondered about the connection. However, as my recent acne problem is "new" (I've never had it this bad, though I have broken out some from time to time) I am pretty sure it's NOT the work outs. I decided to go supplement free also. I did take Muscle Milk Light (I'm a girl, don't need the regular) but I suspected it might have played a role. Again, I've been working out a lot for the past year & a half, and taking muscle milk on and off during that time and never broken out like this before. Perhaps it's just time to figure out a whole foods approach to protein replacement instead of a handy shake. I work out HARD, running at a minimum 3-5 miles a day 6 days a week plus weight lifting with the guys at least 3-4 times a week, so I push the limit and sweat a lot also. I think the sweat itself is actually not the problem and they say sweat is sterile... plus the stress relief gained by working out should help instead of hurt.

I also found that even with oily skin, washing more than 2x a day is irritating to it and causes my skin to look more unhealthy (and break out worse). So I only rinse lightly with cold water in the morning, then wash GENTLY when I shower after my workout (cetaphil cleanser). I've just ordered jojoba oil to try instead for an even more gentle approach.

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I work out a lot also and wondered about the connection. However, as my recent acne problem is "new" (I've never had it this bad, though I have broken out some from time to time) I am pretty sure it's NOT the work outs. I decided to go supplement free also. I did take Muscle Milk Light (I'm a girl, don't need the regular) but I suspected it might have played a role. Again, I've been working out a lot for the past year & a half, and taking muscle milk on and off during that time and never broken out like this before. Perhaps it's just time to figure out a whole foods approach to protein replacement instead of a handy shake. I work out HARD, running at a minimum 3-5 miles a day 6 days a week plus weight lifting with the guys at least 3-4 times a week, so I push the limit and sweat a lot also. I think the sweat itself is actually not the problem and they say sweat is sterile... plus the stress relief gained by working out should help instead of hurt.

I also found that even with oily skin, washing more than 2x a day is irritating to it and causes my skin to look more unhealthy (and break out worse). So I only rinse lightly with cold water in the morning, then wash GENTLY when I shower after my workout (cetaphil cleanser). I've just ordered jojoba oil to try instead for an even more gentle approach.

I actually have a female friend that works out as hard as you do. I am unsure what supplements she takes, but I know that she is dealing breakout issues as well. The idea was that it was possibly due to hormones, considering how hard and how often she works out. I'm not ruling that out as my problem either, but I have no info to back that up with.

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I wouldnt say the weightlifting would cause an increase in hormones because staying fit helps your body to keep hormones at an appropriate level. Also, working out increases circulation which is good for you and your acne. Although cardio exercise ie running, stationary bike, etc is better when it comes to improving circulation, weightlifting would still help.

As for the sweating, i dont think thats likely either but i guess it depends how long your workout is and how long the sweat is on your face.

My guess is the protein, dairy and just diet choices. even though what your eating is probably considered healthy (i'm guessing since your weightlifting) things like dairy can aggreviate acne. Protein should actually help or in the least not hurt but this depends on where you get your protein from. If its from meat try and buy organic because non-organic has lots more hormones and pesticides. If its from 'fitness foods' like protein shakes and bars they might contain things that you personally shouldnt eat or that just arent healthy in the long run. If protein is clean it will be good for your skin.

I'm with Grim on how you treat your skin. Chill out on all the products. I just wash my face with sorbelene cream at night and thats it. I would suggest just switching to a diet that isnt as focused on weightlifting (sorry). Since your working out four days a week you should be a healthy guy(may add in some cardio). Last thing i can suggest from personal experience is you may have candida (most people who have been on antibiotics for a while have it). Google candida test and the candida diet. If you do have candida dont see a doctor theyll tell you to go away. They dont like being told that the meds they gave you to help you have done more damage then good.

Wow that was more in depth than i planned but hope it helped.

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I actually have a female friend that works out as hard as you do. I am unsure what supplements she takes, but I know that she is dealing breakout issues as well. The idea was that it was possibly due to hormones, considering how hard and how often she works out. I'm not ruling that out as my problem either, but I have no info to back that up with.

In my case, I actually don't produce my own hormones like other women do because of a total hysterectomy (long story) when I was 23 - I am now 28. I have to take a prescription hormone replacement. I suspected hormones were playing a role, so I switched to an all estrogen hormone (vs. the one with a little bit of testosterone which is frequently given to younger women). I wondered, have I pushed my body so hard that I am actually leeching out too much in the way of nutrients/vitamins/minerals? So I have also implemented a change in vitamins (a, d, e, zinc, melatonin, no-flush niacin, evening primrose oil, menopausal multi-vitamin pack), stopped consuming any milk/cheese/yogurt (although I didn't eat much of those anyway), & begun using Retin-A 16 days ago. I am seeing improvements, but like I mentioned washing my face less visibly helps. For instance, I am off duty today, so I woke up and rinsed with cold water, waited 30 min then applied an antibacterial enzyme gel (from psfskincare.com) then waited 30 min and applied a light layer of cetaphil moisturizer. If I ignore the red marks my skin actually appears to glow with health. LOL.

You might check out the threads on rooibos tea - I think there is a big one in the severe acne forum. I ordered that and it should be arriving today. I also ran across some interesting threads last night in the holistic health forum on colostrum and thought I'd research on that some more today. I honestly do NOT think this is related specifically to the amount you or I or your female friend sweat in the gym. Sweat itself is sterile, and sweating should help unclog pores while reducing stress levels. I have never had a problem this bad - which compared to some people, I suppose it's NOT that horrible - and I've been a gym rat for too long for the 2 things to be connected. I think it's diet and hormones, which as we all know hormones do change from year to year.

Cut back on the proteine supplements you are taking. I guess you are taking the creatine shakes? They only inflate your muscles with more water and the effect dissappears when you stop using it. They are also known to cause acne.

Well I actually only recently started creatine with a new workout routine. My current run on acne problems extends to a year and a half ago. however, cutting all supplments out is probably the best advice right now.

I know a lot of guys who have creatine-related acne. When they stop taking it, things clear up, then if they cycle back on it gets bad again. You are probably wise to stop for now. Be careful in stopping all supplements suddenly - they always advise to taper off to avoid shocking your body.

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Check out my thread here titled Big Tip on Clearing Your Acne.

No doubt its your protein supplement. It didn't happen to be a Chocolate flavored protein did it??? If it was we have something in common, along with millions of other weight-lifters.

And its DEFINITELY not working out, that is GOOD for your skin and system.

Sunny

Edited by Panic!!

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yea im doing some Weider's weight gainer along with my workouts/lifting. caused my acne to look a lot more inflamed, and caused more whteheads. /sigh

mine is vanilla though. ;/

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Wow a lot of replies! Thanks to all of you! You guys seem to have some knowledge on this then. I'm going to completely rule out sweating and weight lifting as the cause.

I guess one thing I wanted to add one thing though. I usually only see whiteheads form in the period of working out at night and waking up in the morning. Sometimes the time between working out and going to bed is enough. But usually I see notice new ones when I wake up in the morning. I also noticed that the harder I lift, the more whiteheads that would form. Maybe there is no correlation, but I can't help think about it when I workout now.

As far cleaning goes, I definitely don't use that many products. I'd still like to use a very mild cleaner. And I might look into that sorbelene cream. But really, I only wash with water and clean hands.

And I'm going to cut out the 'fitness foods' and probably dairy again. If it wasn't for easy protein, I would only drink milk anyway. But I've found rice milk and vitamin D is a good replacement. I may cut out the protein intensive foods for a while. But I get hungry every couple hours, so I'll have to eat something.

I'm with Grim on how you treat your skin. Chill out on all the products. I just wash my face with sorbelene cream at night and thats it. I would suggest just switching to a diet that isnt as focused on weightlifting (sorry). Since your working out four days a week you should be a healthy guy(may add in some cardio). Last thing i can suggest from personal experience is you may have candida (most people who have been on antibiotics for a while have it). Google candida test and the candida diet. If you do have candida dont see a doctor theyll tell you to go away. They dont like being told that the meds they gave you to help you have done more damage then good.

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I saw a correlation between workouts and acne, but now I see for sure it wasn't the working out or amount of sweating that caused it. I think it was the increase in protein supplement that the increased workout schedule created. Plus, sweating so much was literally leeching that stuff onto my skin. I quit drinking the muscle milk and within days, things appeared improved. I got a soy protein isolate yesterday and even bought the Silk Vanilla Milk (light) so I can "pretend" I have milk - it's actually really good. Otherwise, I quit all milk/cheese/ice cream products. Today, I woke up for the first time in a couple of months with no active acne. I'm healing from the recent outbreak and scarred, but nothing new and nothing active. I've used Muscle Milk (chocolate flavor) previously, but never in the amount that I have recently. It was definitely a trigger for me. I wonder if all along I have had this reaction to a little bit of dairy and have never tied the two together because it was never this severe? I'm avoiding all chocolate, also, but that part kinda sucks! LOL!

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I saw a correlation between workouts and acne, but now I see for sure it wasn't the working out or amount of sweating that caused it. I think it was the increase in protein supplement that the increased workout schedule created. Plus, sweating so much was literally leeching that stuff onto my skin. I quit drinking the muscle milk and within days, things appeared improved. I got a soy protein isolate yesterday and even bought the Silk Vanilla Milk (light) so I can "pretend" I have milk - it's actually really good. Otherwise, I quit all milk/cheese/ice cream products. Today, I woke up for the first time in a couple of months with no active acne. I'm healing from the recent outbreak and scarred, but nothing new and nothing active. I've used Muscle Milk (chocolate flavor) previously, but never in the amount that I have recently. It was definitely a trigger for me. I wonder if all along I have had this reaction to a little bit of dairy and have never tied the two together because it was never this severe? I'm avoiding all chocolate, also, but that part kinda sucks! LOL!

Sorry for the delayed reply. Busy weekend. But that is something I didn't think about either. Sweating itself is a healthy process in that it helps releases toxins. But if I sweat out those toxins onto my face, and somehow rub them back into pores, or don't wash well...perhaps that's causing the whiteheads too.

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