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Can Mass Gainer Cause Acne

Can Mass Gainer Cause Acne? (Explained)

A mass gainer is an incredibly popular supplement among gym-goers looking to build muscle mass and gain overall size. While mass gainers have some common and well known side effects like:

  • Excess fat gain 
  • Bloating 
  • Stomach cramps 
  • Diarrhea 

There’s one side effect that some people suffer from but don’t know if a mass gainer is a leading cause and that is acne. 

Can mass gainer cause acne? 

Supplementing mass gainers can be a cause of acne. The main reason is the whey protein that many mass gainers use as a primary ingredient. The dairy and sugar in whey protein are known to cause acne, especially when consumed in large quantities. 

In this article, I’ll cover whether or not mass gainers can cause acne, what to watch out for in particular and what you can do to prevent it. 

Can Mass Gainer Cause Acne

If you’re looking to bulk up, or just make gains as part of your workout routine, then mass gainers are going to be a big part of your routine. Mass gainers are a product that combines protein powder, carbohydrates, and often fats into a mix that aids in weight gain and bulking.

Mass gainers have been shown to help increase body mass, which makes them an increasingly popular product. However, you might have noticed some negative and unintended side effects of using mass gainers. 

I’ve mentioned these points previously in an article outlining whether mass gainers actually work 

A commonly reported problem that people experience is acne. 

This can range from blackheads and whiteheads, to boils and cysts. You might also notice it in different places, with some people seeing it on their faces, as well as chests and backs. Acne can be unpleasant, painful, and have a negative impact on your body image.

Here I’m going to explain the relationship between mass gainers and acne, as well as what you can do to resolve the acne you’re experiencing from mass gainers.

Why Does Mass Gainer Cause Acne?

Mass gainers can cause acne for various reasons. They often contain whey protein as well as high levels of sugar, both of which can trigger hormones to produce more sebum. Sebum increases the oiliness of the skin, clogging pores and leading to acne.

To expand on this a bit more, a crucial ingredient in mass gainers, especially traditional mass gainers that you’ll commonly see, is milk. This might be within the product itself or be recommended as a product that you mix mass gainer powder with. Milk can trigger acne because it is made up of two main proteins: casein and whey. 

Whey is often linked with the production of acne because it increases the production of insulin-like growth factor, a hormone. This hormone triggers your body to produce what’s known as sebum. Sebum has an important role in the body, but when it’s produced in excess it makes skin (as well as hair) extra oily which clogs up pores and leads to acne.

Mass gainers can also cause acne because they can trigger hormones called androgens. Androgens are known to increase acne because they stimulate oil glands. This excess of oil clogs pores and results in various types of acne. This is especially the case if you already have naturally oily or acne-prone skin.

Another factor contributing towards acne from mass gainers is sugar. Some mass gainers have high amounts of sugar or artificial sweeteners. Sugar can trigger insulin-like growth factor which further activate the production of sebum, leading to clogged pores and acne.

Considering that mass gainers contain these acne triggering ingredients it’s not surprising that so many people report acne as a common side effect.

Why Does Whey Protein Cause Acne

Whey protein can cause acne because it activates the production of a hormone known as insulin-like growth factor. This increases the production of sebum, an oily substance that when produced in excess causes clogged pores, leading to acne.

As I explained above, whey protein is linked with acne as it increases the production of insulin-like growth factor. This then starts to trigger the production of sebum, which is an oily substance that coats the skin. As this oil sits on the skin it clogs pores and blocks them, leading to different forms of acne.

You’re more likely to experience acne from mass gainers if you’re someone who already has acne-prone skin. For example, if you have oily skin or have dealt with acne in the past then you might notice it starting up again after using mass gainers for a few weeks.

How to Get Rid of Acne From Mass Gainers

Acne from mass gainers isn’t something you want and the good news is that there are various things you can do that can make a difference.

Check out this video which also highlights some things you can do to reduce acne when working out:

Eliminate or Change Mass Gainers

The first option is to eliminate using the mass gainer to see if this makes a difference. If your acne resolves then you know for definite that the mass gainer is causing it. It will usually take a few weeks for you to see a difference though, so be patient. At this point, you can decide if taking the mass gainer is worth dealing with the acne that comes as a side effect.

If you don’t want to stop using a mass gainer though another option is to change the product that you’re using. While dairy and sugar are pretty common in mass gainers there are other products available. For example, vegan mass gainers don’t contain dairy so if your acne is triggered by dairy then it should resolve by changing to a non-dairy product.

You could also look for mass gainers that are lower in sugar if you think your acne might be triggered by the sugar within these products. This process might be a bit of trial and error for seeing what ingredients trigger your acne and then changing the product to suit you.

Mass Gainer That Doesn’t Cause Acne

If you’re looking for a mass gainer that doesn’t cause acne, it’s best to go for a product that doesn’t contain dairy as this will eliminate the consumption of the acne-triggering proteins whey and casein. Mass gainers with less sugar in are also less likely to cause acne.

Other Factors Causing Acne

There are also other factors that can cause acne that you need to think about. For example, when you work out you sweat, sweat irritates the skin and can also cause acne so it’s important to always shower or wash off after working out to try and reduce skin irritation. 

Bacteria can also live on things like towels, so cleaning the towel you’re taking to the gym and using separate ones for acne-prone areas can also make a difference.


If you’re trying to bulk up and build muscle, chances are you’re using a mass gainer to try and force down some additional calories. While some side effects are to be expected depending on how much you are consuming, one you might not be expecting is acne!

Mass gainers can cause acne if they have whey or casein protein present. The dairy in whey protein triggers the release of insulin-like growth factor which can lead to an overproduction of sebum, which then leads to clogged pores and potentially acne. 

If you are experiencing this, there’s no guarantee that it’s caused by the mass gainer but it’s definitely something you could look to eliminate. Try taking a mass gainer that doesn’t use whey protein as a primary ingredient and also avoid mixing it with milk which could have a compounding effect. 

If you’ve experienced mass gainers causing acne or think it could be something else diet or training related, I’d also recommend reading:
Can Bulking cause acne

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