The reward for getting healthier is breaking out—what gives?

By Lisa DeSantis
March 26, 2018
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I began my fitness journey with beautiful, clear skin.Sure, I'd get the occasional cystic breakout, but I managed to keep a pretty good handle on those suckers with birth control and a cortisone shot from my dermatologist every once and a while for the real whoppers.But then I started working out...a lot. My reward? Well, along with a more toned physique, I was greeted with a speckled complexion that made me rethink my daily sweat sessions.As a result, I went from not even taking off my makeup before hitting the gym to having a full pre- and post-workout skincare regimen to keep my skin in check.This is the combo that finally helped me kick my breakouts to the curb.

As a beauty editor, I always tell others not to wear makeup when they exercise because it can clog your pores.But I never practiced what I preached, mainly because I never had any trouble...until I did. Though I can't pinpoint why all of a sudden I started flaring up, it was very clearly related to wearing makeup.I found that if I worked out without wearing any, I'd wind up with less irritation. Once I had that realization, I started booking early morning classes that I could show up to with a bare face.If I only have time after work, though, I always wash my face first. I keep Yes To Tomatoes Detoxifying Charcoal Facial Wipes($10; my gym bag for a quick removal process. The cloths are black, so they feel a little more luxe and they're made with charcoal, which acts like a magnet for impurities.If I have access to a sink and a little extra time to spare, I like to pair the wipes with Eve Lom Gel Balm Cleanser($60; Not only does it smell like a spa and gets me in the zone for a good sweat sesh, the gel-to-balm formula is an all-star at whisking away every trace of dirt and oil.

If I'm in a super rush and maybe didn't do such a great job with removing all of my makeup, I have a saving grace:the Lumion Skin Oxygen Mist + HOCL ($24; I spritz it generously over my face, and the hypochlorous acid it packs kills breakout-causing bacteria. While I'd prefer to go completely makeup-free, it helps me sweat easy knowing that I used it. I spray it on after I workout, too, as a refresher. And I keep one on my desk and use throughout the day to make sure that my skin is protected from environmental aggressors like pollution and sweat.

After my workout, I try to wash my face as quickly as I possibly can. The less time I spend with sweat on my face, the less opportunity there is for a breakout to manifest (at least that's what I tell myself to force myself into the shower rather than get sucked into a Gilmore Girls black hole.)In the shower, I keep Dermalogica Precleanse Balm ($45;, which isn't dissimilar to the Eve Lom—hey, I like what I like! This one goes from a balm to oil, though, and comes with a little silicon mit that I slip on my hand and scrub my face with.It's so satisfying to get into all the nooks and crannies knowing that I've removed every last bead of sweat. To finish, I sweep a Sonage Glow To Go Glycolic Acid Peel Pad($30; over my face.They look like cotton rounds and have been soaked in a natural AHA formula, which is known for helping with cell turnover to help brighten dark spots and acne marks and leave an all-over radiant glow.Packaged in a convenient travel case, they're easy to bring to the gym, too.

Before bed, I bring out the big guns.When it comes down to it, I really credit my overall clearer complexion to Differin($15; It's an over-the-counter, full-strength retinoid cream that helps to both clear and prevent acne.So, rather than using it as a spot treatment when you already have a pimple, it's recommended that you use about a pea-sized amount and spread it over your entire face. Because it's a retinol, which are known for being drying (and I've peeled in response to it in the past), I slather on a generous amount of moisturizer on top. My cream of choice right now is Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream($68; because it's rich, but not overly so, and my combo skin reacts well to it. When I wake up in the AM, my skin feels smooth and looks blemish-free (most of the time). What more could I ask for?