Bodybuilder’s Guide To Acne-Free Skin And Big Gains

By Seppo | Cause

59

Some bodybuilders face a frustrating dilemma. Going to the gym messes up their skin, something known as bodybuilding acne. Unfortunately for acne-prone people bodybuilding and clear skin can be inherently opposing goals. The more gains you make on one front the more you slip back on the other.

In this post I’ll explain the surprising truth of why bodybuilding causes acne. We’ll also cover some tips on how to maximize your gains without wrecking your face.

Let’s start by looking at the most common explanation for bodybuilding acne, increased testosterone levels as a result of weight lifting.

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Hormonal response to bodybuilding as cause of acne?

Contrary to popular perception bodybuilding doesn’t cause big hormonal changes. Weight training session causes short-term increases in testosterone, growth hormone and insulin like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) levels, but levels quickly return back to normal.

In contrast, bodybuilding alone doesn’t seem to cause any long-term changes in hormone levels. For example resting levels of growth hormone are more or less identical in Olympic weight lifters and normal people.

Testosterone

Increased testosterone levels can easily lead to acne. In a study where men were given testosterone as birth control about half developed mild acne. Similarly, both men and women with acne show elevated testosterone levels (as compared to those with healthy skin). And if you are thinking of taking steroids consider that a German study showed acne occurs in about 50% of people abusing steroids.

Testosterone is especially problematic since the skin converts it to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a far more acne-stimulating hormone. Studies have shown that the higher T levels lead to higher DHT production and higher risk of acne. In the hormonal acne page I explained in detail how these hormones lead to acne.

Weight training increases testosterone levels for about 30 minutes, after which the levels return to their pre-training levels. But it’s not at all clear whether weight training causes long-term changes in resting T levels. Some studies show weight lifting increases resting T levels, some show no change.

Very intense weight training, bordering or pushing into overtraining, may increase resting testosterone levels, but levels drop back to normal when training intensity reduces. At least one study showed no drop in resting T levels after stopping weight training for 6 weeks.

So a tentative conclusion from studies is that under normal training load resting testosterone levels remain stable.

And it’s hard to say whether the acute changes after workout make any difference to acne, probably not.

Testosterone precursors

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a testosterone precursor, meaning the body converts it to testosterone. Because of this it’s commonly taken as bodybuilding supplement, but studies show it doesn’t actually improve muscle gain or strength.

Weight training session elevated DHEA levels and they remain elevated for several hours after the workout. This may increase the risk of acne as DHEA is one of the hormones found elevated in acne patients, and it can increase sebum production and skin cell growth.

Insulin like growth factor 1 (IGF-1)

IGF-1 is another hormone bodybuilders are interested in. It’s important in protein synthesis and muscle growth. Animal studies show that blocking IGF-1 results in no protein synthesis (and thus also no muscle growth) after resistance training.

IGF-1 is one of the prominent hormones behind acne. Studies have shown correlation between sebum production and IGF-1 levels. IGF-1 also increases the sensitivity of skin to androgen hormones by increasing the conversion of T to DHT. To put it shortly, the higher your IGF-1 levels the higher the risk of getting acne.

Studies show resistance training has similar effect on IGF-1 than testosterone, short-term increase after workout but little to no long-term effects.

Exercise in general improves insulin sensitivity and reduces insulin and IGF-1 levels, especially in people who are not very fit. For those people weight training is probably good for acne. At least one study showed a drop in IGF-1 levels after 10 weeks or weight training in untrained men.

Summary

In summary, weight training alone doesn’t seem to lead to any significant hormonal changes that could lead to acne. It’s plausible that heavy training loads cause short-term hormonal fluctuations that are big enough to cause acne, but I wouldn’t bet my house on it.

Diet and supplements

If weight training itself doesn’t cause acne, then how can we explain increased acne in bodybuilders? I think it comes down to diet and supplements.

In my previous post about whey protein I looked at studies on protein powders. Compared to weight training alone or carbohydrate supplements protein powders increase both acute and resting IGF-1 levels. Whey protein is derived from milk, a food notorious for causing acne.

Much like carbohydrates protein triggers insulin release from the pancreas. When it comes to acne, insulin is just as bad as IGF-1 as they both stimulate sebum production and increase sensitivity of the skin to androgens. These hormones are cited as the reasons why sugar and simple carbohydrates trigger acne is some people.

Given all this I can definitely see how taking protein powders increases the risk of acne.

Caloric intake

Eat big to grow big. How many times you’ve read that advice on bodybuilding forums and book? And it’s good advice, eating more helps you to grow bigger. Unfortunately it also helps you to get more acne.

Insulin acts as storage hormone and is affected by both protein and carbohydrate intake, as intake goes up so do insulin levels. And IGF-1 levels usually follow insulin levels.

It’s not uncommon for bodybuilders to eat 4000 to 5000 calories per day during bulking phase. Such massive caloric intake causes significantly elevated insulin and IGF-1 levels, which translate into increased sebum production and skin cell growth in acne-prone people.

Simple sugars and pre- and post-workout drinks

Aside from dairy products, studies have also linked sugars, simple carbohydrates and other high GI foods to acne. Glycemic index measures how quickly a food increases blood sugar levels. Sugars and simple carbohydrates that are digested in a snap make their way into the bloodstream within minutes of digestion and thus score high on GI. Complex carbohydrates have much gentler impact on blood sugar levels.

Foods with high GI often stimulate higher insulin and IGF-1 release than low GI foods, and that’s why they cause acne in some people.

Some bodybuilders take pre- and post-workout drinks that are high in simple sugars. The rationale is that this increases insulin and IGF-1 levels and helps to drive more protein into the muscles. As we’ve covered many times already these same hormones also lead to acne.

Muscle building shakes are yet another possible cause for acne. They are often high in calories, protein and simple carbohydrates, and that’s 3 strikes for the skin.

Omega-3:6 balance

Studies have shown acne patients are under higher inflammatory burden than those with clear skin. While there are no studies linking omega-3:6 balance to acne, imbalance has been shown to increase inflammation and contribute to many health problems. That’s why I err to the side of caution and list omega-3:6 imbalance as one of the factors that contribute to acne.

The problem is that many bodybuilding staple foods, like chicken, meat and eggs, are excessively high in omega-6 fats but low in omega-3. Without omega-3 rich foods to balance this you run the risk of increasing inflammation in the body with its associated health problems (increased risk of acne, heart disease and many other inflammatory health conditions).

One easy way to balance things is to switch to omega-3 eggs, which have far healthier omega-3:6 balance. See my article on omega-3 eggs for more on these eggs and omega-3:6 ratio in general. Fish and sea food is another good source for omega-3 fats.

Summary

In summary, diet and supplement practices that increase your risk of acne are protein powders, muscle building shakes (high in carbohydrates, protein and calories), eating excessive calories and sugars and simple carbohydrates with high glycemic index. Imbalanced omega-3:6 ratio increases inflammation in the body and possibly also contributes to acne.

Genetics matter

One thing that confuses people about acne is how it doesn’t strike everyone doing the same thing. I’ve lost count of the times somebody tells me about a person who they know who eats nothing but junk and still remains clear.

That’s because genetics determine how likely you are to get acne. Genes don’t cause acne as such, but they make acne-prone skin excessively sensitive to androgen hormones. So that they can trigger acne even at normal levels.

How to clear bodybuilding acne

Let’s switch gears and talk briefly about how to fix bodybuilding induced acne.

  • Topical DHT blockers. Certain substances can hinder the conversion of T to DHT. When applied to the skin they can reduce sebum production and acne. These include green tea extract and saw palmetto. Please see the oily skin remedies post for more details.
  • Solid topical treatment regimen. A good topical treatment regimen can undo lot of the damage genes cause. In addition to normal face wash (don’t use soap on acne-prone skin) you should use morning and evening creams that contain benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid or tea tree oil. Benzoyl peroxide can be drying and harsh on the skin, so it’s a good idea to follow it up with a soothing moisturizer.
  • Don’t over wash. If washing 2 times per day is good then 4 times must be better. Not quite. Washing too often or using too many products on your skin usually does more harm than good. Wash twice a day, and use plain water if you have to clean your face more often than that.
  • Mind your diet. Minimize dairy and simple carbohydrates from your diet. Switch to omega-3 eggs and include other omega-3 rich foods into your diet.
  • Test common acne trigger foods. Gluten, soy, peanuts and citrus fruits are known to trigger acne for some people. It’s worth it to eliminate these from your diet for 2 to 3 weeks to see if they have any effect.
  • Balance gains with clear skin. For people prone to acne big gains and clear skin may be inherently opposing goals. Protein powders, mass building shakes and overeating all help you to gain muscle but may also trigger acne. Consider if the boost you get from these is worth the price paid by your skin.
  • Prescription drugs. Accutane is a decent option for those with severe acne. The side-effects are generally overhyped and only amount to minor irritations for most people. Oral antibiotics often cause more harm than help.

Conclusion

Bodybuilding triggers acne for some people. One possible mechanism is increased testosterone and hormone levels. Though this is unlikely, as research shows levels return to normal within 30 minutes of the workout. Taking supplements and overeating to increase gains is a far more likely cause. All of these are known to increase insulin and IGF-1 levels, hormones that can stimulate sebum production and cause acne.

The implication is that acne shouldn’t be a problem for recreational bodybuilders eating normal diet. However going beyond that increases your chance of getting acne, and you have to judge whether the boost in gains is worth the risk.

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About the Author

Seppo Puusa, a.k.a. AcneEinstein shares rational advice about natural and alternative acne treatments. Read more about me and my acne struggles at the page.

Leave a Comment:

(59) comments

Kevin February 20, 2013

Hi :) i had a severe acne on my face and im a fitness addict. Is there any possible solution to reduce my acne without stop bodybuilding? Should i stop drinking whey protein and dairy skimmed milk? Im really in dilemma right now :(

Reply
    Seppo February 20, 2013

    I don’t think there’s anything about bodybuilding as such that causes acne. Based on the research I’ve seen, it doesn’t cause any long-term hormonal changes. It’s more the whey protein, other supplements and eating excess calories that causes acne.

    I would change whey protein to soy protein and as far as possible keep dairy out of your diet.

    Reply
      Dennis May 15, 2014

      Well, with that one statement regarding ingesting soy protein instead of whey is enough to undermine your entire article as soy blocks the production of testosterone. As a male, do not take soy protein. This may explain why your photo looks like you need to drop the soy.

      Reply
        Seppo Puusa May 15, 2014

        I suggest relying more on facts and science than rumors and ‘broscience’ you hear at the gym. Soy does not block T. Taking soy protein has little to no long term effect on T levels. It’s true that soy protein to some degree blunts increase of T following weight lifting but this seems to have no long term effects. For a good overview of studies on soy and testosterone, see this post: http://www.buffednerd.com/soy-protein-testosterone/

        Reply
Jenny May 2, 2013

Terve Seppo,

Thanks for great info! I started weight lifting seriously in January and what I have now is .. zits. Plus some muscle (maybe). But now that I know why that is it’ll be easier to handle.

Reply
    Seppo May 3, 2013

    Terve Jenny! Unfortunately bodybuilding and acne sometimes go hand in hand. I don’t think it’s so much about bodybuilding but about overeating and the supplements people often take.

    Reply
Nick May 6, 2013

Soy protein is a horrible idea for a male period. It will hinder your lifting goals tremendously and cause a raise in estrogen levels. Stick with a whey protein isolate or if you feel that is against your skin needs go with whole food with high bio-availability like eggs whites or hard boiled eggs (whites only). and try supplementing with vitamin B5 to help keep skin blemish free.

Reply
    Seppo May 7, 2013

    This is one of those myths that just keeps going regardless of how much science shows it’s just not true. Soy has little to no effect on hormone levels in men, this has been shown in several studies now. I wrote about soy earlier. Check that post for all the details.

    Reply
David L May 12, 2013

Is it possible to bodybuild after youve cleared your skin? Should I expect acne coming back when I start increasing my intake of calories to gain mass? In other words, when I get clearer skin and less acne prone skin (does that even exist? can you decrease sensitivity to hormones and inflammation?) will bodybuilding be possible for me? Im 16, if thats of any help.

Reply
    Seppo May 16, 2013

    You can never get rid of your susceptibility to acne (and hormones). So yes, if, after getting clear, you start doing things that increase insulin and angrogen levels, then you can expect your acne to come back.

    I’m sure it’s possible to build muscle and have clear skin. But you have to keep in mind that there’s an inherent conflict between the two. So you probably have to make some compromises and find a balance between them.

    Reply
Jay July 2, 2013

Will eating excess calories still mess up insulin levels even I avoid dairy, refined carbs, and make sure every meal has a low glycemic load?

Reply
    Seppo July 2, 2013

    It will to some degree, but I can’t say how much. It’s not as bad as eating a lot of sugar, but when you eat more than your body needs it puts the body into a fat storage mode that’s always somewhat detrimental to insulin sensitivity.

    Reply
Daveed July 2, 2013

Mate, fantastic article. I’ll certainly try some of your suggestions. Thanks

Reply
Agreed September 14, 2013

I think this is a solid article but I have a question.

“Animal studies show that blocking IGF-1 results in no protein synthesis (and thus muscle growth) after resistance training.”

So you’re saying that no protein synthesis leads to muscle growth? This confuses me..

Reply
    Seppo September 16, 2013

    It seems I wasn’t clear with my writing. What I meant was that blocking IGF-1 prevents protein synthesis and that means no muscle growth.

    Reply
Joey November 2, 2013

Some of the things been said in this article and the comments are ridiculous. If you wonder why bodybuilders often have acne it is due to their usage of anabolic steroids. will lifting weights cause acne? No. does whey protein cause acne? No. infact its very good for you! Despite common misconception there really isn’t a link between diet and acne, it all comes down to hormone levels. But by far the most incorrect and ridiculous thing written is that excess calories causes acne!… just LOL! dont believe a word guys and happy bodybuilding! keep clear of steroids and you’ll have no skin issues.

Reply
Max November 6, 2013

Hi, nice article but I have a few issue with it. From my personal experience I have moderate acne when I train and eat healthy (including whey and milk). I have tried to make many adjustment to my diet to see if there was any improvement in my skin and as far as cutting back on whey and dairy not change at all. However when I go on holiday for a few weeks and I eat a lot (including cheese and desserts) as well as drink alcohol but no exercise at all my skin clears up.
Also I have tried BP and SA products and if they do anything other than aggravating my acne it still not as good as when I don’t use them and don’t train.
So to me it seems more than working out gives me acne more than the type of food I eat.
I train 5 times a week, one day per muscle group.

So far I haven’t found any solution to this, I like to train but now it doesn’t seems to be worth it anymore

Reply
    Seppo November 7, 2013

    Max, you getting clear during holidays could have less to do with not training and more to do with getting away from stresses and hassles of normal life.

    Reply
      Max November 7, 2013

      I don’t think so I am a student and I am not really stress in general. Also I had some holidays and kept training at the same time and still got acne. So to me it’s clearly a sign of hormones effects. I’m not saying that food such as sugary goods don’t aggravate it but most of it comes from working out hence hormonal response.

      Reply
        Seppo November 9, 2013

        OK, you know your situation better than I do. The studies I looked showed that the hormonal effects of weight lifting are transient and very short-lived, probably not enough to affect your skin. But the studies only report averages and it’s possible some people have stronger response.

        Reply
Spencer November 8, 2013

This was a horrible article. Whey protein and calorie intake have no affect on acne whatsoever. This guy is a hippie and obviously from looking at his picture he is not a bodybuilder. Genetics and steroids are what causes acne due to this topic. Med Student-UCD

Reply
    Mike November 8, 2013

    Obviously you don’t lift either, not every person who workout takes steroids, stop being so simple minded. Increases of hormones following intense workout can lead to acne as well as what you eat can encourage it.

    Reply
    Seppo November 9, 2013

    It’s always nice to receive rational and well-thought feedback.. I suppose you don’t care to address the studies and case reports linking whey protein consumption to acne? Or perhaps you are too busy lifting and prefer to leave the actual science to ‘us hippies’?

    Reply
Caitlin November 24, 2013

Very nice article! I’ve suddenly had acne ever since I started weightlifting and it’s so frustrating! I think it may be the whey protein. I’ll try eliminating that and see what happens. I appreciate the scientific data here as that seems be lacking in other articles. Anyway, thanks!

Reply
serg632 December 25, 2013

I like the article, I was wondering how you feel about beef protein isolate. It says free of lactose but it does contain creatine and bcaa’s. I took one scoop the other day and have a few bumps on my face now..I don’t understand why its effecting my skin because there’s no whey or lactose

Reply
    Seppo December 26, 2013

    All protein powders are to some degree acnegenic, they can cause acne, but whey and milk proteins are the worst in that regard.

    Reply
    Arturo_Spain December 31, 2013

    Ey Man! I have been taking the same protein powder ( beef isolate with bcaa and creatine). Since i have stopped taking it, breakouts have dissapeared. I have noticed that most protein powder are correlated with bumps. I have noticed too that we are more sensitive to protein powder than high caloric intakes.
    Drop all your supplements for two weeks and you’ll see big changes

    Reply
      Seppo December 31, 2013

      Thanks for sharing! Glad to hear your skin is doing better.

      Reply
Damiel February 8, 2014

For me this is true i was
Lifiting weight when i was 15 i would eat 6 meals a day 3 protien shakes a day an had perfect skin. But when turned 16 i had nasty cystic acne breakout all over my face so i had to stop bodybuilding. Im 17 now an about to turn 18. My acne has cleared but not completely. I started lifting again an it seems if im breaking out again please help?

Reply
Arturo_Spain March 7, 2014

Hello. I wrote my experience and i have made my own research. I’ll write my conclusions:

– The most important factor is overeating. When you are cutting, most of your acne will desappear. You can eat some dairy products and nothing will happen.
-If you are overeating, acne will increase. You can’t do anything, it will appear. In fact, when you are gaining weight, acne appears. Dairy products and protein shakes are even worse during bulking. The same occurs to with bccas.
I have a question about overeating. Do you think that meal frequency is important? And the caloric intake of each meal? Let me explain, Would it be the same to have a low caloric breakfast and then a high caloric ( high carb) lunch, or it would be better to divide your carbs in several meals, so your insuline levels would be more stable?
I’m used to eat most carbs during my workout ( Pre workout meal and post).
I know that sebum production increase because I also suffer from seborreic dermatitis, and it appears when I’m bulking and dissapears when I’m cutting

Thanks for your time. Best regards!

Reply
    Seppo March 10, 2014

    Thanks for sharing your findings!

    I’ve started recently going to gym again. I also started taking whey protein and consuming more milk. So far my skin has remained clear. But I’m also cutting calories to lose fat. Have to see what happens once the weight loss phase is over and I can up my calories again.

    There’s some research to show that by eating more in the morning and less in the evening you can reduce insulin and other acne-related hormones. I don’t know if dividing your calories into several smaller meals would help. Eating more fat and less carbs should help.

    On a general note, I would also avoid the typical bulking/cutting cycle. There’s very little research to show that overeating a lot increases lean mass. I did fid 1 study that showed overeating did also increase lean mass, but I don’t know if the small additional gains are worth it. I personally would limit overeating to a few hundred calories per day. That way you should also be able to avoid the worst effects on your skin.

    Reply
Fox May 7, 2014

Your jump to Accutane as a good option for people with severe acne, saying that the “side effects are largely overhyped” is extremely irresponsible. Accutane is a very serious last-resort type medication for only the most severe cystic acne that has not shown improvement from topical retinoids and abx therapy. In addition to the severe liver enzyme elevation that requires monthly monitoring, it’s also been linked to suicide in a number of patients in the UK. Just thought I would mention that there are a whole host of pharmaceutical interventions besides what we consider to be the nuclear option for acne, so please be careful about which ones you recommend people seek out from their physicians.

Reply
    Seppo Puusa May 12, 2014

    If you have some actual data to support your argument, please share it. I know Accutane can cause serious side effects for some people, but all credible data I’ve seen shows only a small fraction of people get severe side effects. I covered side effects in more detail in this post.

    Reply
alfi May 14, 2014

I started a more intense training routine along with bulking and using whey protein creatine and bcaas during my first few months of gym and my acne became very bad. A couple of months ago however i decided i would cut dairy from my diet (only milk with oats cereal) and switch to pea protein isolate, not only does it digest easily i feel that it has made no changes to my skin and the acne although still present is improving. Creatine i have also stopped as i dont feel it is neccessary when traning for an aesthetic goal. The current supplements i use are cnp prolean fat burner, l argnine, chromium picolinate and l carnitine. All of these i do not feel affect my skin and the fat burner probably helps due to the antioxidants it contains. I would also recommend drinking 2-3 cups of green tea per day

Reply
pablo June 10, 2014

what are you thoughts on 100% complex carbs as a supplement? take a product like this
http://www.amazon.com/NOW-Foods-Carbo-Gain-Pounds/dp/B0013OUNRM

Reply
    Seppo Puusa June 12, 2014

    It’s probably a very bad idea. That supplement says it’s complex carbohydrate, but it’s refined to the point where I guess it’s not that different from sugar. The reason some corn, sweet potatoes and other foods have low GI is because the sugars need to be separated from fiber, and breaking down fiber takes time. There’s no fiber in that supplement and I presume that the enzymes in your saliva and small intestine break down the complex carbs to sugar very, very rapidly.

    If you want to supplement your diet with complex carbs, I suggest eating corn, sweet potatoes and other real foods.

    Another point. On the side I’m also writing a site about weight lifting (BuffedNerd.com). In the process I’ve looked at lot of the studies on gaining muscle. There’s very, very little evidence that eating massive amounts of calories actually helps you to build more muscle. It may, but the scientific support for it is very weak. And I think the negatives of overloading your body with calories far outweigh the potential gains. I personally wouldn’t eat more than a few hundred calories over my caloric needs, and I’ve managed to put on a lot of lean mass even on weight loss diet.

    Reply
Gary June 13, 2014

I agree with most of the things you’ve written. Over time I have tested how diet/lifting effects acne. I think diet is bigger then lifting for causing breakouts but also lifting during stressful times when your cortisol is already out of whack seems to cause breakouts in some people too. Try a paleo diet to get your essentials and limit high insulin response foods. And a cleanse (juice cleanse recommended) if your currently breaking out to remove already built up toxins/ bad gut bacteria simply put. Then slowly up your intake of healthy foods and you will see slow but solid results in the gym. This is the best way to go believe me.. if you up your calories significantly you will breakout (not everybody depends on genetics) but also you mess up your digestive tract/ or atleast put strain on it and you will add fat that you will just have to lose later while not making a significant difference on your gains.

Goodluck

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Gary June 13, 2014

Oh and for supplements everybody should be on BCAA’s ( most important imo)… a protein.. I use plant protein taste like shit but paleo mindset you know its meant to go in your system. glutamine fastest absorbed.. just do it awesome recov.. zma.. sleep is important but some people might breakout on this.. AND if you just dont give a fuck and you want to get huge and considering steriods. try fenugreek extract (torabolic) save yourself the 100 chemical peels ;)

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Constantine June 16, 2014

I know for a fact I suffer from hormonal acne due to genetics. I lift weights and I’m trying to bodybuild in spite of my skin condition. Whey shakes and milk based protein wreck my skin to a terrible extent so I’ve completely banished those as an option. I’ve read up on meat based protein powders such as MuscleMed’s Carnivor protein powder and some reviewers of them have said that they have not experienced acne breakouts like they did with whey based protein supplements. Meat based protein powder sounded too good to be true but there are tons of positive reviews on the internet and it has no cholesterol, no fat, no sodium, no sugar and hardly any calories per a serving. What is your take on this? Will the meat based protein powder still cause an acne flare up regardless? Or does moderate intake of protein of any kind carry the risk of causing acne even if its from fish or meat?

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Jade June 23, 2014

Great article !
But I have a question : if we already have high DHEA-S, high cortisol and low progesterone (but normal testosterone), can we broke out even from a short high intensity training if we are sensible to even little hormonal changes (like I am) ? It seems that even if I eat very well (strict AIP paleo), I broke out from even a little half hour of bodyweight training. Urgh.

Reply
    Seppo Puusa June 24, 2014

    It seems you answered your own question. It’s impossible for me to say what’s happening in your situation. It’s possible your skin is hypersensitive to cortisol. There’s some test tube data to show cortisol increases sebum production and triggers the release of pro-inflammatory messages from skin cells. High-intensity exercise triggers a massive increase in cortisol levels. That could explain what happens to you, but it’s impossible to say for sure. Does your skin respond to stress? If so, that’s additional clue that points towards cortisol.

    Reply
      Dave September 5, 2014

      I know your post wasn’t aimed at me, but I think my skin definitely responds to stress/cortisol – which would explain why I tend to break out after heavy weight lifting (my diet is junk/dairy free too), Do you think drinking green tea before and after lifting sessions would help in reducing the effect of the cortisol on my skin? I haven’t tried drinking it yet, but having read your blog posts about it, it sounds very promising.

      Reply
        Seppo Puusa September 9, 2014

        It’s possible, but I have no reliable data to say either way. Also, keep in mind that blunting the cortisol repose to lifting might also reduce your muscle gains.

        Reply
Russ July 4, 2014

What a brilliant article – thank you so much for the time and effort! I will be taking this well balanced advice and making some serious changes to the high supplement diet I am on, switching to whole foods and more omega 3 type foods. Awesome!

Reply
pablo July 16, 2014

update: i stopped talking any form of dairy for about a month now, and 95% of all my cystic jaw line acne is gone. i also stopped talking all bodybuilding supplements (whey, bcaa, preworkout).

backstory: i started lifting in October, eating a lot of food. Heavy bulking. i was doing fine until 5 months later when my face broke out just as bad as when i was a teenager (also my forehead did as well, which has never happened before). i believe that it took those 5 months for my body to become resistant to insulin.

i eat anti-imflammitory food as well. which helps me

my skin is still really oily. and im still getting breakouts, but not as much as when i was on dairy.

(there are certain foods i had to cut out of my diet because they did the same thing right after i ate them, for instance i would mix peanut butter, oatmeal, and greekyogurt. that made my skin super oily)

Reply
    Seppo Puusa July 17, 2014

    Thanks for sharing your progress report!

    Reply
    pablo September 5, 2014

    another update
    seems i have found my problem
    i think i am sensitive to gluten, which would explain a lot
    i haven’t been tested yet, but im 90% sure it’s gluten or another food sensitivity

    Reply
Carey August 18, 2014

Hello,
Your site has really inspired me to dig deeper and really research causes behind acne. My hormonal acne has been driving me crazy lately and today I’ve finally put two and two together. My revelation has to do with the mTOR pathway and IGF-1 levels that you have mentioned on your site. I admit I’m a fitness addict and have been supplementing with whey isolate, BCAA’s and upping my protein intake for the past couple of months. I have developed awesome muscle but its come at a cost. I am going to stop supplementing with whey, BCAA and reduce my protein intake to more “normal” levels. However, stopping working out and strength training is out of the question for me, its too important for my happiness and stress reduction.
However I will make some big changes. I will switch my protein to soy protein isolate and use only strategically after workouts. My question is how can I offset cortisol production (which can also cause acne) after an intense workout? Usually I take a high GI carb like dextrose. If I cut that out, what else can I do?? Or is a high GI carb, when used when really needed, ok?

Immense thanks to all you do. You really help people and your dedication to your site is really impressive.

Carey

Reply
    Seppo Puusa August 20, 2014

    Glad to hear you like the site!

    I’m not sure you need to offset post-exercise cortisol spike. Cortisol may or may not aggravate acne, nothing has been proven. And even if it did, the post-exercise increase in cortisol doesn’t last for very long (an hour or two). Unless you have some very good evidence that it’s the post-exercise cortisol spike that causes your acne, then I wouldn’t worry about it.

    High GI carbs can be a problem for people with hormonal-type acne. But if you take them after exercise then they most likely won’t cause any problems. What we want to avoid are long-lasting increases in blood sugar and insulin levels. My guess is that a high GI drink after exercise session won’t cause acne.

    Reply
Brian December 10, 2014

Drink more WATER!

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P January 23, 2015

Sorry, but you are so damn wrong. Lifting weights CAN cause acne. I have had problems with acne for several years while working out. I quit lifting weights for two months just to see if there would be any improvement to my skin, and my acne almost disappeared entirely. I tried taking up my training again the other week, hoping it wouldn’t cause acne. Within a day, it did. And it got worse as the week of intense training progressed. I made sure not to eat differently or take supplements, in order to rule out that possibility.

It is so ironic: I have been lifting weights to improve my appearance, confidence, but now it turns out that it was weight lifting that ruined it.

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    Seppo Puusa January 27, 2015

    Sorry to hear.. that must suck. I do standby what I said in this article. That for most people weight lifting only causes transient increase in hormones and it’s unlikely that alone will trigger acne. That said, it doesn’t surprise me to hear that some people are more sensitive and breakout from just weight lifting.

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DXabier January 28, 2015

are soy milk and soy protein bad for acne?

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    Seppo Puusa January 28, 2015

    It depends on your acne type. If you are like me who has inflammatory-type acne linked to gut issues, then soy could be very bad. Soy makes me constipated and shows up on my skin a day later. On the other hand, if you have hormonal-type acne and get pimples from whey protein, then soy could be a feasible alternative.

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Ethan January 29, 2015

Hey there, nice facts man. I really really need help man. I’m 15 years old and about im about 125 pounds and love to play football. I’m also a acne suffer. I take whey protein and try to eat 5-6 healthy meals a day. I eat ALOT of fruits and veggies. Drink 10 or more bottles of water a day.. Workout 1-2x a day, running too. I just can’t seem to find results. Everyone at school, even family members, look at me a lot. I hate the feeling. This what keeps me going. I wanna build a lot of muscle and look handsome.. But it just won’t work. Please respond.I really really want your help. I eat nuts, PB, meat, rice, etc. For fats.

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    Ethan January 29, 2015

    Also I wash my face 2 ti

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      Ethan January 29, 2015

      I wash my face 2 times a day with face wash. I have scars on my cheeks and a little on my forehead. I get zits every now and then. Any suggestions? I wanna get bigger but how am I suppose to do it without eating more and getting protein? I feel alo

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