Will bodybuilding cause acne

Will Bodybuilding Cause Acne? Your Questions Answered

Most people get into bodybuilding to improve their appearance, so the idea that bodybuilding could lead to acne is a frightening prospect. Will bodybuilding cause acne? Or is there more to this than meets the eye?

Acne is almost always caused by genetics, but can also be affected by diet, stress, and hormonal changes. Bodybuilding is not itself a likely cause of acne, however steroid use is certainly linked to acne formation. Affecting about 50% of users.

In this article, I will look at the main causes of acne. The link between bodybuilding and acne, and how best to avoid acne formation.

Will Bodybuilding Cause Acne?

Bodybuilding on its own is unlikely to cause acne, though it certainly is possible. 81% of cases are caused by genetics. Exercising more, eating healthy, and looking at ways to improve your lifestyle are more likely to have a positive effect on your skin than a negative one.

There is, however, a possibility that bodybuilding could cause acne, by increasing stress (which is related to the hormone cortisol). Studies have found that stress can cause or worsen acne in some people, but this does not apply to everyone.

Many people believe that sweat can cause acne, and bodybuilding is obviously going to cause you to sweat more than normal. But actually, there is no evidence that sweat causes or worsens acne.

There are two possible ways that bodybuilding may affect acne, and neither of them is specific to bodybuilding:

  • Diet: There is some evidence that dairy products can cause acne. Bodybuilders often consume a lot of dairy (whey protein, milk). High-glycemic diets have also been linked to acne, and bodybuilders tend to eat a lot of carbs (bread, potatoes, rice). These foods would be eaten whether you were bodybuilding or not though, so it is unfair to blame bodybuilding here.
  • Hormones: Large increases in testosterone and growth hormone can lead to acne, this mostly occurs from PEDs (more on that later), but even natural bodybuilding could lead to a huge increase in both hormones.

Steroid Use and Acne in Bodybuilding

A 2007 study in Germany looked at the effects of anabolic steroids on acne. The study found that 50% of men who used anabolic steroids suffered from acne. This should not be too surprising, the idea that taking steroids leads to back-acne is near-universal! The reason why anabolic steroids lead to acne has been touched upon earlier in this article. Large increases in testosterone and growth hormone can lead to acne, and taking PEDs means consuming massive levels of testosterone and growth hormone.

The type of acne that is caused by steroids is known as drug-induced acne. But it isn’t just PEDs that cause acne, many forms of medication (anticancer medication for example) can also cause drug-induced acne. The belief in medical circles is that the benefits outweigh the acne. Bodybuilders clearly agree!

Can You Treat it?

For most people, simply stopping all steroid use should eventually lead to the acne clearing up. You may also consider seeing what happens when you remove dairy products or follow a low-glycemic diet. Now, the chances that either of these dietary changes will work is low, but could well be worth a try.

Using fragrance-free moisturiser on the affected area may be beneficial, or talking to your doctor about medication (though you will have to mention your steroid use). They will probably prescribe Benzoyl peroxide or Salicylic acid.

If you are taking PEDs to improve your bodybuilding physique then you may have to decide whether the benefits outweigh the side-effects.

Of course, there is always the option to get yourself makeup that is suitable for acne. I am NO expert on this subject, but a good foundation could help hide it. Just ensure that the makeup is oil-free, and doesn’t block pores (thanks, Wikipedia).

Bodybuilding and Drug Use: A Complicated Relationship

The purpose of this article is to answer the question of whether bodybuilding causes acne. It does not. Bodybuilding is building muscle mass in a way that is aesthetically pleasing, this pursuit does not cause acne.

Dietary allergies may be exacerbated by bodybuilding (consuming whey protein and milk in large quantities) but this is not a direct link. Neither is the natural increase in hormones, which would occur in anyone who exercises.

The use of PEDs does cause acne, this is pretty well known. But bodybuilders do not have to take PEDs, and many don’t! Even if you do take PED’s, you still have a 50/50 chance that they won’t affect you at all.

Acne is mostly genetic, meaning that you are going to get it or not get it whether or not you participate in bodybuilding.

Final Thoughts

Acne sucks, the spotty teenager caricature has not done anybody any favours. It’s ironic that trying to massively improve your physique and therefore appearance can in some cases lead to acne, an affliction that does the exact opposite.

If your acne is from steroid use, then you should at least avoid having acne on your face, as it tends to show up on the chest and back instead. At this point, you just need to decide whether steroids are worth it. Bodybuilding without PEDs is difficult, and you’ll never be professional. But how likely is that anyway? It’s a decision you’ll have to make.

Personally, it is the other side-effects of anabolic steroids and other PEDs that put me off, rather than acne! But, I am aware that when done properly, steroids can be taken safely and with little lasting issues. Just make sure you know what you’re doing first.

If you are interested in bodybuilding and have questions about the subject, check out my other articles on bodybuilding. Answering whether bodybuilding will affect your height, whether it will help you get stronger, and whether it will help you burn fat.

About the Author Matt Smith

Matt Smith is the owner of Beer N Biceps. He has a degree in Sports Science, 10 years of experience working in the fitness industry, and has written for hundreds of fitness websites. He is a lover of good quality beer and believes that drinking in moderation can form part of a healthy lifestyle.

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