Does Pre Workout Cause Acne or Insane Bad Skin?

If you exercise, chances are you’ve taken a pre workout supplement to boost energy during a workout. 

That’s sound like a normal thing to do, but there may be hidden shocking side effects lurking that affect your skin.

As a certified personal trainer, I get asked, does pre workout cause acne? Let’s find out.

Join me as we explore pre workout ingredients, talk about the causes of acne, and provide practical tips to prevent it. It’s time you focused on safeguarding your skin. 

Here’s what’s coming up. 

Acne And Its Causes 

does pre workout cause acne

Acne is a common skin condition. Usually it’s found in adolescents and teenagers going through puberty, however adult acne can also occur.

Some people are more acne prone than others because of hormonal imbalances or sensitivity to ingredients found in pre workouts.

Acne is identified by the development of pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads. The causes of acne are varied. Examples are: 

  • Clogged Pores. Pores are tiny openings that help liquids and gas move through the skin on your face. They can get clogged with dead skin cells, oil, or dirt, which leads to acne. 
  • Excess Oil Production: Sebaceous glands produce an oily substance called sebum, which helps keep the skin lubricated. Overproduction of sebum can lead to clogged pores.
  • Bacterial Infections. Once pores are blocked, bacteria can infect them. This leads to acute inflammation and acne. 
  • Hormones. Changes in hormones during puberty, menstruation, and stress can trigger breakouts. 
  • Certain Medications: Some medications, such as corticosteroids or drugs containing lithium or androgens, can contribute to acne.

These are some of the most common causes. One noticeable thing is missing, and that is nutrition. But is there a link between nutrition and skin health? Yes, there is! 

Your skin can be a reflection of your overall health. What you eat (and don’t eat) has a major impact on its condition. A well balanced and hydrated diet promotes radiant skin that is clear and glows.

But a poor diet can contribute to breakouts, because what’s not good for your insides can begin to show up on the outside as acne. Case in point – some ingredients can make you wonder, does pre workout cause acne? 

Ingredients In Pre Workout That Can Cause Acne

Does pre workout cause acne? It can because of some ingredients.

When you introduce something new into your body (like supplements, pre workout, vitamins) there’s a chance your body will react to it.

Some things go unnoticed in everyday life. But can be outright annoying and ruin your mood – like acne!

Certain ingredients in pre workout could potentially trigger acne in some people because of impact on hormone levels and potential to increase inflammation.

Here are a few ingredients commonly found in pre workout supplements that could potentially contribute to acne.


Does pre workout cause acne? It can because of caffeine.

Caffeine stimulates the adrenal glands, leading to more production of cortisol.

Elevated cortisol levels may contribute to developing acne by influencing oil production in the skin.

Chronic stress can also slow down the skin’s healing process, making it harder for existing skin issues to resolve.

Moderate consumption of caffeine may not directly cause skin problems. But excessive amounts of caffeine can affect your skin. 

Other skin issues may arise because caffeine is a diuretic, meaning it promotes the increased production of urine.

  • Peeing more often mean there’s a greater potential for dehydration and dry skin.

  • Dry skin can worsen existing skin issues, including acne. Dry skin can cause a build up of dead skin cells, which can clog up facial pores and lead to acne.

  • Dry skin can cause the skin to produce more oil to take care of the dry skin. Excessively oily skin can cause acne. Either way you look at it, dry skin is not good. 

  • Overconsumption of caffeine later in the day can upset sleep patterns. Poor quality sleep has been linked to skin problems like acne. 

Artificial Sweeteners and Flavorings

Does pre workout cause acne? It can because of artificial sweeteners and flavorings.

Pre workout often contains artificial sweeteners like sucralose or aspartame.

These sweeteners may disrupt gut bacteria and potentially trigger inflammation, which could exacerbate acne in some individuals.

Many pre workouts may boast low calories, but that’s because of zero calorie artificial sweeteners. Pre workouts on the market contain artificial sweeteners, among other artificial colors and flavors to enhance the taste. 

Artificial additives can trigger allergic reactions in some people, causing irritation or worsening acne. Additives can also cause changes in the gut microbiome.

 The gut has billions of living bacteria that contribute to overall health and wellbeing. An altered gut microbiome can affect holistic gut health, and can also contribute to skin problems. 

Some individuals may be sensitive to artificial sweeteners, and they can trigger an inflammatory response. Inflammation is a known cause for acne, so if you are sensitive, then be cautious.

Whey Protein

Whey protein is not directly a pre-workout ingredient. But it’s commonly consumed before or after workouts.

Some people may experience acne breakouts due to whey protein.

It can spike insulin levels, leading to an increase in the production of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), which is linked to acne development.

This observational study was conducted in a gym and a dermatology clinic. Researchers examined 30 patients for acne for 60 days.

They found that females and individuals without current acne who took whey protein powder saw outbreaks in acne, even though they had no family history of acne.


Does pre workout cause acne? It can because of creatine.
Creatine is generally safe and effective. It’s been widely studied and can help with muscle and strength gains.

Creatine can cause an increase in dihydrotestosterone (DHT) levels in some individuals.

Elevated DHT levels have been associated with acne, especially in those who are have to hormonal imbalances.

DHT is a more potent form of testosterone. It plays a role in regulating the sebum production in the skin.

Elevated DHT levels have been associated with an increase in sebum production, which can lead to clogged pores and acne.

High-Glycemic Carbohydrates

Does pre workout cause acne? It can because of high-glycemic carbohydrates.

Some pre workouts include high-glycemic carbohydrates because they can increase energy levels quickly.

Foods with a high glycemic index are digested and absorbed quickly.

They may spike blood sugar levels, leading to increased insulin production, which can affect hormones and potentially worsen acne.

Increased insulin levels are linked to the stimulation of androgen hormones like testosterone, which can influence sebum production and skin cell growth – leading to acne.


Does pre workout cause acne? It can because of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs).

BCAAs are found in many pre workout supplements and can promote muscle recovery.

However, they may also increase insulin levels, contributing to acne development.

Similar to the ingredients above, when insulin levels increase, they trigger IGF-1 which can lead to acne.

Alternatives to Pre Workout Supplements

You can enhance your workout performance without using pre workout if you wanted. You will not get the same ingredient induced effects of pre workout.

You will, however, get more natural energy and can still experience a great workout. Some effective options are: 

  • Low-glycemic complex carbs. Oats, brown rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and more. Complex carbs will provide steady energy for workouts. They release glucose in the bloodstream gradually. Eat 60-90 minutes before. 
  • Natural caffeine sources. This is if you like caffeine but want to avoid the other ingredients found in pre workout. Coffee, green tea, or black tea can prove alertness without overstimulation. 
  • Nuts, seeds, and healthy fats. These things are packed with protein, fiber, and healthy fats. These provide you with good energy for the workout, and help keep your gut and skin healthy. 

How To Balance Pre Workout For Skin Health 

It’s important to adopt skin friendly strategies so that pre workout doesn’t do a number to your skin. Here’s how you can take the right steps.

Choose The Right Pre Workout

Look for minimal artificial additives. There are a number of natural pre workouts on the market now. Less artificial sweeteners, colors, and flavors will help reduce the risk of acne.

Check for ingredients that don’t clog pores. These are called non-comedogenic ingredients, and certain brands will specify this. 

Prioritize natural ingredients. Some pre workouts use natural ingredients like green tea extract, or beetroot powder. These may have a gentler effect on the skin.

Choose Less Caffeine. Take pre workouts with moderate to lower doses of caffeine to avoid potential skin stress and the need to poop before working out.

Read And Follow Labels

Reading labels is important to make good decisions about what you’re putting into your body. Watch out for ingredients that can trigger skin issues. 

Proper Dosage. Minimize the risk of over stimulating with caffeine by taking the right amount of pre workout (avoid doubling up on scoops).

Time Pre Workout Properly. Take 30 minutes before working out for best results. Avoid taking pre workout too close to bedtime as to not disturb your sleep. You can premix pre workout the night before.

Moderation Is Key. Skin issues can be preventable with moderation when taking pre workout. Over time you can build tolerance to the effects of pre workout, making you take more than you should. 

Always Hydrate

I can’t stress enough the importance of staying well-hydrated during workouts and beyond. We’re made of about 70% water, so water is important for skin health and overall health. Drinking water helps to: 

  • Maintain Skin Moisture. Hydration supports your skin cells’ protective water barrier. It helps skin stay elastic and prevents it from becoming dry or flaky.
  • Flush Toxins. Water helps to flush out toxins from the body through urine. Do this regularly to keep skin looking clear and vibrant. 
  • Cool Down. Keep your body cool and prevent excess sweat gin and oil build up. Heat can flat up skin issues, while a cool body temp helps to calm the skin. 

Skincare Tips To Reduce Pre Workout Effects

Does pre workout cause acne? It can, but you can incorporate these skincare practices into your routine to help alleviate effects of pre workout sensitivity and sweating from working out. 

Wash your face before a workout. Use a gentle cleanser or wipe to remove any excess makeup, dirt, or grime that can clog pores while working out. 

Wash your face after a workout. Clean your face again with a cleaner or face wash to remove sweat, cool your face, and unblock pores from sweat and oil. 

Shower. Rinse off after your workout to remove sweat and bacteria from your skin. You’ll reduce the risk of breakouts on your neck, shoulders, back, and chest.  

Moisturize. Use a lotion or cream suitable for sensitive skin to keep your face hydrated without clogging pores.  

Wear Sunscreen. Use an SPF 30 or higher non-comedogenic sunscreen if you plan to workout outdoors. This will protect your skin from UV rays that can cause acne flare ups.  

Bottom Line 

The question, does pre workout cause acne, is complicated. If you take a new substance watch to see how you react.

While it may trigger acne in some people, in other people it may not. It’s  important to be aware of the potential drawbacks for anyone’s skin though. 

Now you can understand the ingredients, read labels carefully, and adopt a skin routine to help prevent acne breakouts. 

Your skin health is important just like physical fitness. So strike a balance that supports both as you continue the journey towards a healthier you! 

For a deeper dive into pre workout, check out Insight About Pre Workout.


Shalom is a content creator, musician, and a teacher at heart. As a certified personal trainer, his goal is to encourage others to lead healthier lives and to get buff in the process!

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