Skin Deep

How to treat five common skin problems you get from the gym

A warm, moist environment like the gym and your skin after a long workout can cause skin issues to thrive.
A warm, moist environment like the gym and your skin after a long workout can cause skin issues to thrive. Miami Herald file

Exercise is beneficial for your overall health and skin, but your time at the gym might also lead to some unwanted effects on your skin. A warm, moist environment like the gym and your skin after a long workout can be the perfect conditions for common skin issues to thrive. Here is a quick overview of what these conditions are, what causes them, and how to get rid of them.


Acne is caused by clogged pores, excess oil, and a type of bacteria called P. acnes — or C. acnes, its new more accurate name. When you sweat at the gym, your pores can become clogged, especially if you don’t wash your face before your workout. Clogged pores create the perfect environment for acne-causing bacteria to grow.

Gym equipment is also full of bacteria, so if you touch the machines and then touch your face, you could transfer that bacteria to your skin. For many people, acne isn’t just a problem on their faces. It can be an issue on the chest or back as well.

To help prevent acne, always wash your face before and after working out. Do not wear makeup while you exercise. If you can, take a shower immediately after exercise to prevent body acne. If you’re not able to shower right away, at least change into clean, dry clothes.

Athlete’s foot

Athlete’s foot, also called tinea pedis, happens when the tinea fungus grows on your feet. This fungus thrives in warm, moist environments, making gym showers and locker rooms very common places to get it. The most common symptoms of athlete’s foot are itching, burning, redness and peeling.

To prevent athlete’s foot, always wear flip-flops or sandals in the gym shower and locker room, and remove sweaty socks as soon as you’re done working out. If you do end up with this bothersome rash, talk to your dermatologist about prescription and non-prescription antifungal medications to use.

Jock itch

Jock itch, also called tinea cruris, is caused by the same fungus as athlete’s foot. Although women can get jock itch as well, this condition is more common in men. It grows in folds of skin in the groin area and causes a red, itchy rash.

To avoid this rash, don’t wear tight-fitting clothing when exercising, use your own towels at the gym, and wash and thoroughly dry your body after your workout. If you currently have athlete’s foot, be careful not to spread the fungus to other parts of your body.


Tinea corporis — commonly known as ringworm — is not caused by worms at all. It is caused by the same fungus as athlete’s foot and jock itch, but presents as a red, scaly ring on your skin, hence its name. It is very contagious and can be spread by touching or even brushing up against a surface where the fungus is growing.

Prevent ringworm by wiping down gym equipment before using it, and avoid sharing personal items like towels and exercise mats.

Pityrosporum folliculitis

Pityrosporum is a type of yeast that makes its way down into the hair follicles and causes an itchy rash. It is naturally found on healthy skin, but is able to quickly multiply in warm, moist conditions — like under tight-fitting clothing after sweaty exercise. We believe that this condition is behind the “Lululemon rash” that I wrote about in a previous column.

To prevent pityrosporum folliculitis, wear breathable, loose-fitting clothes when working out and remember to change outfits after exercising.

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