6 Nasty Things That Happen To Your Skin While Exercising

Here's how to deal with body breakouts, chafing, and more.


Jenn Sinrich |

Exercise is great for your bod (duh), but making certain mistakes can cause you to break out, develop a rash, or worse. Here are the most common ways your fitness routine might mess with your skin…

1. Skin Infections Caused By Dirty Gym Equipment

With so many people using the same exercise machines every day, germs and bacteria are easily spread. And that can lead to some nasty skin infections.

The fix: “Whenever possible, wipe down any gym equipment before you use it – even if you think someone already did so; and never, ever touch your face until your hands have been washed,” says dermatologist Dr Joel Schlessinger. “Touching the machine and then touching your face can transfer these bacteria, causing acne and even infection.”

READ MORE: 4 Ways To Keep Your Sweat Sessions From Messing With Your Skin

2. Heat Rash Caused By Working Out In Hot Environments

Heat and humidity can cause sweat ducts to become blocked and swell, leading to a heat rash. “This condition, which often appears in the form of tiny pink or red dots that look similar to pimples, is most common around skin folds and areas where clothing causes friction,” says Schlessinger.

The fix: If you’re heading outdoors for a walk, run or bike ride, stop and seek a shady place to rest every now and then – preferably somewhere that’s air-conditioned. Wear breathable fabrics and rehydrate constantly with lots of water. “Apply a cool compress to any areas you think are infected with heat rash to help reduce some of the swelling and discomfort,” suggests Schlessinger.

READ MORE: 7 Nasty Skin Problems You Can Get From Having Sex

3. Hyperpigmentation Caused By Exercising Outdoors Sans SPF 

UV exposure can seriously damage your skin, leading to collagen breakdown (read: fine lines and hyperpigmentation – not to mention an increased risk of skin cancer). And this applies in winter too, peeps!

The fix: “If you exercise outside, it’s very important to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen to all exposed areas of the skin at least 30 minutes before heading out and reapply often,” says Schlessinger.

4. Body Acne Caused By Wearing Tight Fitness Gear

Getting hot and heavy in an outfit that’s too tight can cause sweat and bacteria to become trapped inside your clothes. This irritates your skin and causes your body to break out. “Your sweat creates a warm, damp environment where acne bacteria can thrive,” says Schlessinger.

The fix: “The best way to prevent body acne is to shower immediately after you work out if you think your clothing is hugging too tightly,” says Schlessinger.

No shower at your facility? Change into fresh clothes and shower as soon as you get home. You can also try wearing looser, more breathable fabrics to minimise the amount of trapped sweat.

READ MORE: 7 Struggles All Adult Women With Acne Understand 

5. Chafing Caused By Constant Rubbing Of The Skin

When your skin repeatedly rubs against clothing or other areas of skin, you’re sometimes left with red, raw patches that sting and burn.

The fix: “Working out in smooth, low-friction fabrics and avoiding loose-fitting clothes on sensitive areas that are usually in motion can make a world of a difference,” says Schlessinger.

If you do experience chafing, wash the area with lukewarm or cool water and some gentle soap and apply an antibiotic ointment, keeping it covered as it heals. Once you’re ready to get back at it, try using an anti-fungal powder to absorb excess moisture while you exercise.

6. Athlete’s Foot Caused By Taking A Shower Barefoot

“The fungi that lead to athlete’s foot, a scaly rash that causes itching, stinging and burning between the toes, can be found on the floor of many public shower stalls,” says Schlessinger. “You’re also at risk for contracting onychomycosis, a fungal infection that causes toenails to become thickened, brittle and hardened with a yellow discolouration.” And quite possibly the worst foot-contaminating fact you’ve never thought of: even the smallest of cuts on the bottom of your feet could allow the human papillomavirus (HPV) to sneak through and cause a painful plantar wart.

The fix: The best way to protect your feet if you shower at the gym is to always wear shower shoes – even while you’re changing in the change room. “It’s also a good idea to clean your shower shoes with a disinfectant like bleach and replace them regularly,” says Schlessinger. And if you do find yourself with some kind of funk, head to your local pharmacy for OTC creams like cortisone, which can clear up most harmless infections.

Gyms are breeding grounds for germs and bacteria – just one of the 5 Reasons To Take Your Workout Outdoors … Yes, even in winter!

READ MORE ON: Beauty Skin Skin Issues