Does Pre-workout Cause Acne

Does Pre-workout Cause Acne? (Debunked)

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‘Pre-workout’ describes different kinds of products and ingredients that people take before a workout.

Pre-workouts are a widely popular supplement that help to give a boost (stimulate), allowing people to get through tough workouts and maximize their results.

Although pre-workouts are popular, they can come with possible side effects. One commonly discussed side effect is acne. However, do pre-workouts actually cause acne?

Here, I’ve explained whether there is a connection between pre-workout and acne.

Does Pre-Workout Cause Acne?

Whether or not pre-workout is bad for your skin is debated. This is because the exact cause of acne is unclear, so whether pre-workout contributes to worse skin is unsure. However, there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest it can cause acne, especially in people with acne-prone skin.

Whether or not pre-workout is bad for your skin is debated. This is because the exact cause of acne is unclear. Some people have it, others don’t. Acne can also come and go throughout a person’s life. 

In fact, the risk of developing acne has been linked to different factors including stress, genetics, different medications, and hormones.

As the underlying cause of acne isn’t clear, it’s hard to tell whether pre-workout contributes to bad skin.

With this being said though, there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence from people who have used pre-workout which suggests that it can make acne-prone skin a lot worse or even cause acne on people who don’t have acne-prone skin.

This might be because some of the ingredients in pre-workout products are believed to be associated with acne, as I’ll explain in the next section.

What Ingredients in Pre-workout Causes Acne?

Some of the ingredients in pre-workout products have been linked to acne, particularly in people with acne-prone skin. For example, ingredients like caffeine, artificial sweeteners, and whey protein may contribute to developing or worsening acne.

Different ingredients within pre-workout products have been associated with acne, particularly for people who already have acne-prone skin. Here I’ve broken it down and explained what products can cause acne and how they’re believed to cause acne.


Caffeine is one of the main ingredients in pre-workout supplements and it has been linked to the development of acne. 

The amount of caffeine within each pre-workout product varies from around 100 mg to 400 mg. To put this into perspective, the daily recommended intake of caffeine is 400 mg. So pre-workouts contain a lot of caffeine.

Caffeine has been linked with acne because caffeine is what’s known as a ‘diuretic’ which means that when you consume caffeine it makes you need to pee. If you don’t drink a lot of water alongside it, then caffeine can cause dehydration.

When skin is dehydrated, it becomes dry and your body compensates by producing oil to combat this dryness. However, this oil can clog pores and blocked pores can cause acne.

Caffeine can also trigger stress and anxiety. This is because caffeine triggers your body’s flight or fight response. During this process stress hormones, like cortisol, can increase the oil that is produced by glands causing an excess of oil that clogs pores and worsens acne.

As stress and anxiety are both associated with acne, caffeine can be a significant trigger for people’s acne.

Artificial sweeteners

As well as caffeine, another common ingredient within pre-workouts is an artificial sweetener. Artificial sweeteners are listed under different names, but a common one is sucralose.

Artificial sweeteners have been linked to acne. This is because they affect the body’s blood sugar levels. In this way, artificial sweeteners can act like sugar and trigger insulin-like growth factor which activates the production of 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

Mass gainers are now all-encompassing supplements and some, in particular, will contain a pre-workout blend (along with countless other ingredients).

Mass gainers have been associated with acne because they often contain whey protein as a primary ingredient.

Milk is a common product within mass gainers, as well as within pre-workout products more generally. Unfortunately, milk can trigger acne.

This is because milk is made up of two proteins: casein and whey. Whey protein is often linked to acne because it increases the production of insulin-like growth factor. This hormone triggers your body to produce sebum leading to clogged pores and acne.

Mass gainers can also cause acne because they can trigger hormones called androgens. These are known to increase acne because they stimulate oil glands and this excess of oil clogs pores, resulting in acne. 

Related – Can mass gainers cause acne

Other ingredients

As well as caffeine, artificial sweeteners, and mass gainers some other ingredients often found in pre-workout are also linked with acne. These include creatine, protein, and branched-chain amino acids.

So the bottom line is that whilst there isn’t any clear evidence to suggest that pre-workouts cause acne, many of the ingredients commonly found in pre-workout products are believed to be linked with acne.

If you already have acne-prone skin then, it is possible that pre-workout can make it worse.

Best Pre-workout for Acne-Prone Skin

If you want to avoid acne when using pre-workout then you should look for pre-workout products that don’t contain ingredients linked to acne. For instance, you should avoid products containing caffeine and added sweeteners.

If you develop acne, or if your acne gets worse, when using pre-workout supplements then it’s a good idea to stop taking them or change the product to see if it improves.

If it does improve then it’s probably an ingredient in the product causing your acne. However, it can be difficult to find out exactly what ingredient is causing acne considering a few of the most popular ingredients within pre-workout are thought to potentially cause acne.

The good news though is that you don’t need to avoid all pre-workout supplements. 

Due to the popularity of pre-workouts, there are plenty of alternative options to pick from. This means that you can select products that don’t contain acne-triggering ingredients like caffeine and sucralose.

Related – Stimulant vs non-stimulant pre-workout

Two good options to consider are Legion Pulse and Pre-Kaged by Kaged Muscle. These are pump formulas so you’ll get many benefits from a standard pre-workout minus some of the drawbacks from the caffeine. 

Just note that caffeine is also what provides energy and focus for many people so if you have a pre-workout for the energy boost, these pump formulas won’t provide that. 

Final Thoughts

Pre-workouts are one of the most popular supplements on the market, however, for all the benefits they provide, there are also some drawbacks. One drawback that people associate with a pre-workout is the potential for acne. 

Not only does working out contribute to acne but dieting choices, hormonal changes, and supplements can also contribute meaning it’s difficult to identify what the exact cause could be. 

Pre-workout is one supplement that could cause acne due to certain ingredients that it contains like caffeine and artificial sweeteners. 

When comparing this supplement against well-known causes of acne like dairy (whey protein) though, it’s much less likely that a pre-workout is the cause for acne in people training intensely. 

Also, if you’re looking to avoid acne while working out check out this video for some tips: 

See also:
Does bulking cause acne