There's been a growing buzz around the potential link between pre-workout supplements and acne, and as someone who struggled with acne as a teenager, I wanted to share my knowledge and experience on the topic.

Today, I'll present you with scientific evidence and relevant research data, providing you with a clear, evidence-based perspective, in order to dispel myths and provide comprehensive answers.

There is no definitive answer to whether or not pre-workout gives you acne, as everyone's skin reacts differently to different ingredients. However, according to currently available data, there is no direct and widely accepted scientific evidence that conclusively links pre-workout supplements to acne breakouts.

That said, anecdotal evidence is out there, and if we try to associate and extrapolate data from scientific research, there is a slim possibility that pre-workouts could worsen skin health because of their ingredients, such as:

  • High levels of caffeine and other stimulants
  • Artificial sweeteners and colors
Does Pre-Workout Cause Acne? (Explained for Acne-Prone Skin)

4 Reasons Why Pre-Workout Might Cause Acne

Here are just a few reasons why there's a chance pre-workout might cause acne.

1. Most Are High in Caffeine

Caffeine can increase your adrenal hormone production, mainly cortisol, which could lead to increased oil production and inflammation, clogging pores and leading to breakouts.

In addition, a recent 2022 study showed a direct link between elevated cortisol levels and acne severity.[1]

However, it is unlikely that the amount of caffeine in pre-workout can cause chronic cortisol elevation which could lead to the abovementioned issues.

2. They Are Packed Full of Artificial Sweeteners

Pre-workout powders often contain artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, sucralose, and acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), which have been associated with stimulating insulin secretion, which could possibly result in insulin resistance.[2

Consequently, insulin resistance was shown to be one of the main triggers behind acne development, especially in young men.[3]

3. They Could Dehydrate The Skin

When you sweat, you lose water and electrolytes, which can lead to dehydration. Dehydrated skin is more prone to acne, and caffeine is a known diuretic, which could further contribute to this issue.

Dehydrated skin is also more susceptible to breakouts because it's unable to shed dead skin cells properly, leading to clogged pores and potential acne breakouts.

4. Some Ingredients Can Cause Slight Inflammation

Inflammation is a key factor in the development of acne, and there is a slight chance some pre-workout supplement ingredients may cause inflammation, which can trigger or worsen breakouts.

For instance, L-citrulline could, in theory, cause slight inflammation by raising nitric oxide levels, which could induce inflammation in certain conditions.[4]

pre-workout scoop and pills

What Ingredients To Look For In Pre-Workout

Not all pre-workouts are created equal, and for the sake of your skin and performance, you should pick your pre-workouts wisely.

The Good Stuff

Feel free to use pre-workouts containing caffeine, citrulline, tyrosine, and theanine. If these four are dosed properly, there is no reason for any of them to cause acne. In fact, there's no direct evidence linking any of them to acne or skin breakouts.

Similarly, if you're looking for a pre-workout that's gentle on your skin, you may want to try products that contain niacinamide, as this form of vitamin B3 has anti-inflammatory properties that can help to calm acne breakouts.[5]

I had troublesome skin in my teenage years, and niacinamide was one of the products I used (although topically).

Later on, while I was studying pharmacology, I learned that even oral niacinamide could reduce inflammation associated with acne.

The Bad Stuff

A lot of pre-workout supplements contain artificial sweeteners, food dyes, and other chemicals that can be harmful to your skin health, as mentioned above.

These ingredients can cause side effects, like insulin spikes, which can lead to breakouts. Therefore...

Avoid anything with artificial sweeteners, food dyes, or other chemicals.

Another thing you might want to do, just to stay on the safe side, is go for third-party tested pre-workouts, to ensure there was no cross-contamination with other ingredients, such as whey, gluten, or others, which could potentially harm your skin.

One final piece of advice is if you already have acne, minding the caffeine or creatine dose, might prevent your condition from worsening.

what ingredients in pre-workout cause acne

10 Tips & Remedies To Reduce Acne

There are a few things you can do to help reduce the frequency and severity of your acne flare-ups, even if you are using a pre-workout supplement. Use the following acne tips. [6]

1. Use a Milk Thistle Supplement

Milk thistle is a plant that has been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments, including acne and improved skin health.

Milk thistle contains silymarin, an antioxidant that helps to protect the liver and lower inflammation in the body.

2. Take Cold Showers Straight After A Workout

Cold showers help to close pores and reduce inflammation. They also help to regulate sebum production, which can minimize the chances of an acne breakout.

Another bonus is that cold showers will help with DOMS.

Hot showers, on the other hand, can strip the skin of its natural oils and lead to dehydration, both of which can trigger or worsen breakouts.

3. Take a Fish Oil Supplement

Fish oils are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties. This can help to reduce the inflammation that can lead to breakouts.

I've used fish oil capsules for years at this point, and I would urge acne sufferers to consider taking fish oil supplements daily.

4. Wear Sunscreen When Going Outside

Sunscreen can help to protect your skin from the sun's harmful UV rays. It can also help to lower inflammation, which can minimize the chances of getting pimples and acne breakouts.

5. Avoid Stress

Stress is linked to acne. Stress can trigger the release of the hormone cortisol, which can increase sebum production and inflammation.

This hormonal imbalance can lead to more breakouts. So, try to find ways to relax and de-stress, and maybe tone down on coffee, pre-workouts, and energy drinks.

6. Don’t Wear Makeup During Exercise

Makeup can clog pores and traps sweat and acne-causing bacteria against your skin. Clogged pores can lead to acne development. So, it's best to avoid wearing makeup during exercise.

7. Change Exercise Clothes Regularly

Exercise clothes can trap sweat and bacteria against your skin. This can lead to breakouts in acne prone skin. So, make sure to change into clean clothes after a workout.

8. Avoid Sugary And Greasy Foods

Sugary and greasy foods can increase insulin levels, which can increase sebum production and inflammation. High insulin levels can lead to more pimples.

Greasy foods can also contribute to acne by clogging pores and providing a breeding ground for bacteria, so avoid them as much as possible and focus on eating plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

9. Eat Whole Foods

Whole foods are packed with nutrients that are essential for healthy skin, so including them in your diet is a great way to give your skin a boost from the inside out.

Foods like salmon, sweet potatoes, and blueberries are all rich in antioxidants, which help to protect skin cells from damage.

10. Try A Glycemic Load Diet

A low glycemic load diet is a diet that includes foods that have a low glycemic index. This means that the foods won't cause your blood sugar to spike after you eat them.

Studies have shown that people who consume a diet high in glycemic load are more likely to suffer from acne than those who eat a diet low in glycemic load.[7]

Personally, I've never tried this diet, but as a certified sports nutritionist, I can tell you that if you're looking for ways to clear up your skin, trying a low glycemic load diet may be worth it.

Can I Still Use Pre Workout If I Have Acne?

Yes, you can still use a pre-workout if you have acne. As long as you adhere to the proper dosages and choose high-quality pre-workouts with properly dosed ingredients, you shouldn't aggravate your skin any further.

If you're concerned about the potential side effects of pre-workout supplements on your skin, it might be worth trying natural pre-workout alternatives.

For example, a cup of coffee or a banana can provide a similar boost of energy without the added ingredients.

Alternatively, sweet potatoes are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates and can help to sustain your energy levels during a workout.

The best way to determine what works for you is to experiment with different options and see how your skin reacts.

What Pre Workout Doesn't Cause Acne

Based on scientific data that are available and known to me, I'd say that pre-workouts, void of any artificial colorants and flavors, are the least likely to cause acne.

One pre-workout that doesn't cause acne is Transparent Labs BULK pre-workout.

BULK is one of my favorites, and it is a neatly balanced and very effective formula that uses natural ingredients and flavorings to achieve a pleasant taste, all while being incredibly useful in the gym.

Instead of food colorants like FD&C #40 or sweeteners like Ace-K, Transparent Labs keeps its products colorless and uses natural flavors.

Now, if the BULK pre-workout is too hard-hitting for you, another pre-workout that doesn't cause acne but still improves performance is the 4 Gauge pre-workout.

Mixing Workout Supplement With Water

Pre-Workout & Acne FAQs

What are the best pre-workout supplements for acne prone skin?

The best pre-workout supplements for acne-prone skin are those without any artificial flavors or colorants, such as Transparent Labs BULK or 4 Gauge pre-workout.

Should I use protein powders and shakes if I have acne?

There are several studies that have suggested there may be a link between whey protein supplements and acne development, but there's no ironclad evidence to suggest whey protein causes acne.[8]

Does working out cause acne?

It is highly unlikely that working out can cause acne. The only way working out could cause significant skin issues is if there is a lack of hygiene after the workout session.

Does C4 pre-workouts cause acne?

No, C4 is not likely to cause acne, but the possibility can't be ruled out. It does contain both artificial colors and flavorings, so if taken too often, some skin changes could occur.

Related Article - Cellucor C4 Pre-Workout

Does Lit pre-workout cause acne?

Lit pre-workout is not very likely to cause acne, but considering it does contain artificial flavors and colors, it is possible that it could aggravate the skin in some way.

Related Article - Beyond Raw Lit AF Pre-Workout Review 


If you have sensitive skin, acne, or other skin issues and are concerned about the potential for additional breakouts, you could avoid taking pre-workout supplements just to be safe(er).

However, there is simply not enough evidence to claim that good pre-workout supplements can cause acne in otherwise healthy skin or even to claim that they could worsen someone's condition unless consumed improperly.

Some pre-workout ingredients could affect your skin health if you're acne-prone, but even then, the dosages you would have to consume are greater than the ones included in pre-workouts.



Last Updated on November 3, 2023

Miloš Lepotic

Miloš Lepotic

Meet Miloš, a certified sports nutritionist and self-taught supplement expert whose pharmacological background and nearly a decade of gym experience make him the perfect guide for optimizing your health and athletic performance through supplement reviews and practical advice rooted in factual, science-backed information.