Sports–Related Acne and Tips for Athletes

Sweat + Friction combine to create acne in basketball players
Acne is common in basketball players

Social media has changed the way we view sports. Monday morning quarterbacking has been replaced with real-time commentary across Twitter, Facebook and forums. Fans—and haters—constantly comment on everything from bad plays, to opinions on uniforms, to athletes’ acne.

Kevin Durant, a 29-year-old player for the Golden State Warriors, is often critiqued on social media for his skin, for example. In September of this year, he replied to a thread of comments on YouTube:

Fan: “Who cares what people think. Just do you. Someone of stature shouldn’t worry about stuff like that.”

Durant: “of my stature, I play basketball, I got acne, I grew up with nothing…still figuring myself out in my late 20[s]…I’m closer to you than u think.”

Durant mentions sports-related acne, a skin condition many basketball players seem to suffer from. It is a hard condition to conceal, especially on a jumbotron or high definition TV. Jerald Sklar, M.D. is a Dermatologist in Private Practice in Dallas, Texas and treats athletes’ acne, including basketball players from the high school level all the way up to the pros. He serves as Team Dermatologist for the Dallas Mavericks, and explains acne in this way: “Acne begins when oil released from glands in the pores mixes with dead skin cells and clogs and inflames the skin’s pores. This can be exacerbated in basketball by excessive sweating, staying in sweaty clothes too long, and friction from clothing and headbands.”

Dr. Sklar is spot-on. So let’s break down his intel in order to have a look at why a player like Durant (even with all the resources available to him) still deals with acne.

How Acne Begins for Athletes

Testosterone & Overactive Oil Glands

The last time we wrote about teen acne, we focused on teens and their struggles. The same acne equation applies to how sports can cause acne in male and female athletes:

Overactive oil glands + skin cells = clogged pores

With the addition of an overproduction of testosterone, acne is almost a certainty.

Sweat, Sweat & More Sweat

Basketball players run about 2.5 miles per game, not to mention the rest of the physical exertion in the sport. All of this work means a whole lot of sweat, which allows acne bacteria to multiply.

Uniform & Headband Friction

Acne mechanica is a unique form of acne that is most common amongst athletes. The culprit? Friction. A headband or uniform traps heat and sweat against the skin, causing a hair follicle blockage, and clogged pores result.

A Close Shave

Shaving the face, chest, arms and legs can reduce uncomfortable friction and keep a player cool, but it also increases the risk for acne. A close shave may feel smooth, but folliculitis can soon to follow.

Player to Player

Basketball isn’t a full-on contact sport, but when contact occurs, it is typically skin-to-skin. The transfer of bacteria between players can make an existing acne problem worse, or can lead to new skin conditions.

No Time for Blotting

Basketball is a fast action sport and players have little downtime on the bench. Wiping sweat away from the eyes with the back of the hand may seem intuitive and easy, but blotting it away—not rubbing—with a towel is better for the skin.

How to Avoid Sports-Related Acne

Keep Clothes Clean & Dry

Wash uniforms, socks, sweatbands and everything else every time you practice or play. Make sure all items are dried thoroughly.

Try to Reduce Friction

As mentioned above, try to blot—not wipe—sweat away. If uniforms are creating friction, consider wearing a base layer underneath (if permitted).

Don’t Forget to Sanitize Your Razor

As mentioned above, shaving can contribute to folliculitis, which often looks like acne. Clean your skin before shaving, and don’t forget to sanitize your razor. Tricia Holderman, a specialist in infection prevention and control was recently quoted by GQ , offering this advice: “Cleaning your razor with alcohol or hydrogen peroxide will kill most germs. Doing this for short periods frequently will kill the germs without damaging the metallic finishes of the razor’s holder and handles.” Clean razors=fewer germs entering your skin while shaving.

Shower Right Away

NBA players might have to conduct interviews right after a game. For all other basketball players, hitting the showers immediately after a game is the best way to stop acne-causing bacteria.

Use CLn SportWash Daily

Our head-to-toe wash was designed by physicians to cleanse athletes prone to –including acne, back acne, razor bumps, folliculitis, ringworm, jock itch and body & foot odor. Shower right after exercise, massaging the product into skin, hair and nails for 2 minutes. Then rinse with lukewarm water.

Whether or not you find yourself on a screen with millions of fans commenting on your every move (or pimple), a healthy routine and the right skincare products designed for athletes will help you target bacteria and reduce the spread of sports-related acne.

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