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Does Pre Workout Cause Acne? (7 Tips To Prevent Breakouts!)

Pre workout contains ingredients which may cause acne. For example, the high amount of caffeine in pre workout can dry out your skin, which can contribute to acne. Also, the artificial sweeteners in pre workout can make you more insulant resistant which is linked to acne development.

female looking at her acne in a mirror

In this article, we’ll cover the reasons why pre workout can cause acne, tips on reducing breakouts from pre workout, and some pre workout supplements that won’t cause acne.

Pre Workout Ingredients That Cause Acne

The following ingredients in pre workout can cause acne:

  • Caffeine
  • Artificial Sweeteners
  • Sugar
  • BCAAs

Let’s explore these in more detail.


Many pre workout supplements contain a high caffeine amount in the range of 150mg to 300mg per serving.

This is partly why pre workout supplements make you feel “wired”.

Why is this bad if you’re prone to acne?

Well, research has shown that caffeine may have a diuretic effect on the kidneys.

In other words, pre workout makes you pee more than usual which can aggravate acne in multiple ways.

First, peeing more than usual can lead to a poor hydration status.

When you’re dehydrated, one of the first organs that’s affected is the skin.

For most people, dry skin isn’t an issue. But for those of us with acne-prone skin, the oil which our skin produces to combat the dryness can clog pores and lead to blemishes.

Second, caffeine may reduce the absorption of magnesium which can cause your body to pee out this unused magnesium.

Research shows that magnesium plays an important role in reducing inflammation. And some believe that acne is triggered by inflammation.

Artificial Sweeteners

What do the following popular pre workouts have in common?

  • MuscleTech Vapor X5
  • MyProtein THE Pre-Workout +
  • Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre Workout

Answer: They’re full of artificial sweeteners.

Why could this be problematic for acne sufferers?

Well, according to research, many different artificial sweeteners increase insulin levels and insulin resistance just like sugar does.

In one study, 15 participants took either 200mg of sucralose or a placebo each day for 4 weeks.

By the end of the study, those in the sucralose group were more insulin resistant than those in the placebo group.

In another study, those who consumed aspartame with a meal had significantly higher insulin levels than those who consumed a natural sweetener with a meal.

Unfortunately for acne sufferers, research suggests that insulin resistance may play a key role in acne development.


If you’re sensitive to artificial sweeteners, then you may opt for a pre workout supplement that uses sugar instead.

Research suggests that consuming a high amount of refined carbohydrates, like sugar can increase your risk for acne breakouts.


Some gym-goers take BCAAs as a pre workout supplement.

These essential amino acids help you feel less tired and sore post-workout. 

BCAAs may affect your hormones, including insulin, but the research is inconclusive.

Some people have anecdotally reported about breaking out from BCAA supplements, but there’s currently no definite proof.

7 Tips To Prevent Pre Workout Related Acne

Thankfully, there are some strategies that you can use to prevent acne when taking pre workout. These are:

  • Take A Break From Pre Workout
  • Test Whether Certain Foods Are Causing Acne
  • Take Cold Showers
  • Take A Milk Thistle Supplement
  • Take A Fish Oil Supplement
  • Avoid Stress
  • Wear Sunscreen

Let’s explore these in a bit more detail.

Take A Break From Pre Workout

To be certain that it’s the pre workout that’s giving you pimples, you should take a 4 week break from your pre workout supplement.

If you still have acne, then it’s unlikely to be caused by your pre workout supplement so you can start taking it again as normal.

Whereas if your acne starts to clear up, you should either stop taking pre workout, or choose a different pre workout that doesn’t have the problem ingredients we’ve mentioned in this article.

Test Whether Certain Foods Are Causing Acne

If you’ve took a break from pre workout and discovered that your acne hasn’t cleared, it’s possible that certain foods are triggering your acne.

A good starting point is eliminating any food groups which are linked to inflammation, like dairy, red meat, and sugar.

For some people, this wonders and clears up their skin.

If you’ve identified which foods trigger your breakouts, then simply remove them (or at least reduce them) and carry on taking your pre workout supplement as normal.

Take Cold Showers

Cold showers help acne in multiple ways.

For example, they help reduce oiliness by not drying your skin out.

(When you have dry skin after a hot shower, your body compensates by producing more oil which is problematic for acne sufferers.)

Another way they help reduce acne is by improving immune function.

That’s right – cold showers increase the number of white blood cells in your body. (Source)

How cool is that?!

So by having more white blood cells, your body will have more ammo at fighting the bacteria which is known to cause acne.

Take a Milk Thistle Supplement

Many people supplement with Milk Thistle for its liver protective effects.

But not many people know about its ability to combat acne.

In one study, 60 patients with acne were treated with either Milk Thistle, Antibiotics, or both.

The results showed that those in the Milk Thistle group showed similar improvements in acne as those in the Antibiotics group based off their Global Acne Grading System scores.

Milk Thistle is believed to be useful for acne due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

Take a Fish Oil Supplement

Fish Oil supplements are rich in omega 3 fats that offer a wide range of health benefits.

But nowadays, far too many people are consuming too much omega 6 and too little omega 3.

Fish Oils are rich in EPA and DHA. These are fatty acids which help reduce inflammation – a major player in acne.

In a 10-week study, 45 acne patients were given supplements that contained either omega 3, linoleic acid, or a placebo.

The results showed that those who took the omega 3 had significantly reduced acne lesions compared to the placebo group.

Interestingly, those who took the linoleic acid supplements had improved acne too.

Minimize Stress

stressed out man holding his head

Stress can adversely impact your health in many ways.

One of the lesser known ways though is that stress can actually contribute to acne development.

While it’s unclear why this is the case, it’s theorized that stress can increase inflammation, which has been linked to acne in many different studies.

Reducing stress is a great way to prevent spots and zits, so you should aim to do so where possible.

Wear Sunscreen

While natural sunlight provides some benefits, such as improved Vitamin D status, it’s true that too much can damage your skin.

Wearing a high-quality sunblock can help reduce inflammation in your skin, which will help keep your acne at bay.

3 Best Pre Workouts That Don’t Cause Acne


So now that we know which ingredients in pre workout are problematic for acne, let’s see 3 epic pre workout supplements which exclude these ingredients.

1. Genius Pre Workout Powder

Click to see on Amazon


A highly rated caffeine-free pre workout supplement that’s naturally sweetened with Stevia extract.

Genius Pre Workout Powder ticks all the boxes.

Why I like it

I’m a big fan of Genius as a supplement brand.

Their supplements (including this one) are typically 3rd party tested for purity and potency which shows that you can trust their labels.

(You’d be surprised at how many supplement companies report inaccurate figures in their ingredients list!)

Also, it’s great that this supplement contains L-Arginine as this been shown to increase Nitric Oxide levels, which help give you a good pump.

The addition of Rhodiola Rosea is great too as this helps enhance mental and physical performance.

(Fun Fact: It’s believed the Vikings consumed Rhodiola Rosea before going into battle.)

Potential Drawbacks

When you substitute cheap ingredients like caffeine and artificial sweeteners for natural alternatives, you end up with a more expensive pre workout.

Unfortunately, this cost is passed on to you meaning this is a tad pricier than your “standard” pre workout supplement.

Check price and read more reviews of Genius Pre Workout Powder on Amazon.

2. Type Zero Clean Pre Workout Powder

Click to see on Amazon


Like Genius Pre Workout Powder, this is another quality supplement that’s caffeine-free and naturally sweetened with Stevia.

Perfect for those who are prone to pimples.

Why I like it

The potency of this supplement is super impressive.

For example, a single serving provides:

  • 5,000mg of Citrulline Malate
  • 2,000mg of Arginine
  • 1,000mg of Beet Root Extract
  • 150mg of Beta Alanine

Each of these ingredients will help boost your workout intensity without giving you the caffeine crash or spiking your insulin levels.

Also, this is a tad cheaper than Genius Pre Workout powder making it a more suitable option for those on a budget.

Potential Drawbacks

Some users aren’t a fan of the taste of this supplement.

Check price and read more reviews of Type Zero Pre Workout on Amazon.

3. Pre Historic Stim-Free Pre Workout Powder

Click to see on Amazon


An all-natural pre workout supplement that’s enhanced with nootropics.

Pre Historic Stim-Free Pre Workout Powder is the real deal.

Why I like it

I love that this supplement contains ingredients to help each aspect of your workout.

For example, it includes Citrulline Malate and Beet Root Extract to help improve your pump.

It also includes Beta-Alanine and Creatine to help boost your strength.

And then there’s stuff like Taurine and L-Theanine added to improve your energy and focus.

To put the icing on the cake, it has added BCAAs which help improve recovery.

So yes. This supplement works from all angles.

Potential Drawbacks

One user has reported feeling sick after taking this pre workout.

Check price and read more reviews of Pre Historic Stim-Free Pre Workout Powder on Amazon.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does C4 Pre Workout Cause Acne?

C4 Pre Workout is the best-selling pre workout in the USA. So, I’m sure many of you are wondering whether C4 causes acne.

Well, a quick scan through the ingredients shows C4 contains 150mg of caffeine as well as sucralose.

While this is less caffeine than many other pre workouts, I’d personally stay clear if you’re prone to acne.

Does Lit Pre Workout Cause Acne?

Beyond Raw Lit Pre Workout is another popular pre workout that many people swear by.

Looking at the product label, each serving provides 250mg of caffeine as well as sucralose and acesulfame K.

So not only does it have more caffeine that C4, but it has another type of artificial sweetener.

For this reason, I’d avoid if you have acne prone skin.

Does Ghost Pre Workout Cause Acne?

Another pre workout that’s highly regarded is Ghost Pre Workout.

A single serving of Ghost provides 202mg of caffeine as well as sucralose.

Since it has a fair amount of caffeine and an artificial sweetener, I wouldn’t recommend this pre workout if you suffer from acne.

Does Total War Pre Workout Cause Acne?

Redcon1’s Total War Pre Workout is one of the strongest pre workout supplements on the market.

A single dose provides a whopping 320mg of caffeine!

To give you some perspective, a cup of coffee contains just under 100mg of caffeine. So a serving of Total War contains more caffeine than 3 cups of coffee.

Also, Total War contains 2 artificial sweeteners – sucralose and acesulfame K.

And therefore, I would stay well clear if you’re type of person who gets acne.


In summary:

  • Pre workout contains many ingredients which can cause acne and make it worse.
  • Just because you have acne while taking pre workout, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the pre workout which is causing your acne.
  • There are many pre workout supplements out there which don’t include the problem ingredients, so these are great options if you have acne-prone skin.

That’s all for pre workout causing breakouts, but what causes a pre workout crash? Or should you be taking pre workout at night?

Hope this helped!