Can yoga clear up acne?

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For many, yoga brings to mind stretchy pants worn by stretchy people, but this ancient practice is much more than that. Practitioners of yoga twist, contort and stretch their bodies into poses called asanas while using focused breath patterns to achieve a state of exertion, control, meditation and oneness between mind and body.

Yoga has physical benefits for practitioners beyond increased strength and flexibility, however. Research has shown that yoga is better for treating lower back pain than other forms of exercise. And although most forms of yoga don't put the body into an aerobic state, middle-aged people -- prone to creeping weight gain between the ages of 45 and 55 -- who regularly practice yoga stay fitter and trimmer than those who don't [source: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center].



That's not even counting the psychological benefits. Yoga helps send insomniacs to dream land, gives migraine sufferers relief and boosts the brain's production of the neurotransmitters responsible for feelings of happiness. It also bolsters energy levels and reduces feelings of anxiety [source: Smith]. Clinical studies have demonstrated that practitioners of yoga are less excitable, less aggressive, and more emotionally stable than people who don't practice yoga [source: Schell]. Yoga -- which emphasizes mindfulness through controlled breathing and movement -- also produces a meditative state that boosts the immune system by increasing antibody production [source: WebMD].

What's more, these benefits seem to be achievable whether you're practicing low-impact hatha yoga (an umbrella term for different types of yoga exercises) or intense Bikram yoga, a form practiced in a room preheated to at least 105 degrees Fahrenheit with 40 percent humidity.

So this brings us to a new question: Do yoga's bountiful benefits extend to acne? Though many purported (and oft-proven) benefits of yoga have been put to the test by researchers, its effect on acne hasn't received much in the way of scientific scrutiny.

Yoga enthusiasts for the most part don't hesitate to claim it does in fact improve skin appearance and help prevent or diminish acne breakouts. However, others experience even more pronounced problems with acne after trying out yoga for a few weeks.

For more information about acne remedies, read Acne Remedies: Fast Facts.

So what gives? Can yoga clear up acne? Keep reading to find out.

If your mat's not clean, this pose isn't going to be kind to your pores.
If your mat's not clean, this pose isn't going to be kind to your pores.

Though no direct link between yoga and the disappearance of acne has yet been made, there's good reason to believe one does exist.

First, let's talk a little bit about how acne forms. Glands in the follicles of your skin produce sebum, an oil that lubricates your skin. As sebum works its way to the surface, it carries with it dead skin cells. Occasionally, the sebum and skin cell mixture clogs a pore. Then, bacteria shows up, which ultimately leads to inflammation and acne.



What does this have to do with yoga? Well, yoga has been shown time and again to be an effective way of relieving not only stress, but the hormone that goes hand-in-hand with feelings of stress: cortisol [source: West, J.; et al].

When you experience stress, your adrenal glands release cortisol. The presence of cortisol then triggers numerous changes throughout your body, one of which is increased production of sebum, which contributes heavily to blockages and acne. Because yoga lowers cortisol, and cortisol is a contributing factor of acne, it stands to reason that yoga can help clear up acne. So what's with the yoga-related breakouts?

Most yoga-related acne is the result of several controllable factors. Some tips:

  • Wash your hands and face both before and after performing yoga.
  • Though sweating is good, it leaves behind salt that can clog pores, so shower afterward.
  • Stay away from yoga clothes that are too tight -- especially those made of synthetic fibers. Constant friction against your skin can cause acne mechanica, which is common among athletes and physically active people.
  • Make sure your yoga mat is clean, as an unwashed mat will be a welcome home for bacteria.
  • Don't use your hand to wipe hair or sweat away from your face.

When first starting yoga, the increase in sweating may exacerbate blockages that have already formed, bringing those problems to the forefront at once. Many report that it takes about a month for skin to show benefit from yoga.

Yoga can clear up acne -- for some people. If you practice yoga regularly, have accounted for factors such as makeup and cleanliness, and continue having problems with acne, it's possible that heredity plays a larger role for you. Yoga will, however, help improve your skin tone and texture overall, and can be just one part of a larger campaign for healthier looking skin.

Curious about skin care? There are links to plenty of HowStuffWorks articles on the next page.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Acne Mechanica." (Aug. 31, 2009)
  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Dermatologists Warn Fitness Enthusiasts: Watch For Exercise-Related Skin Problems." Nov. 16, 2007. (Aug. 31, 2009)
  • American Academy of Dermatology. "What is Acne?" (Aug. 30, 2009)
  • American Academy of Sleep Medicine. "Meditation May Be An Effective Treatment For Insomnia." ScienceDaily. June 15, 2009. (Sep. 18, 2009)
  • Amirlak, Bardia, MD, et al. "Skin, Anatomy." Sep. 5, 2008. (Aug. 30, 2009)
  • Bikram's Yoga College of India. (Sep. 1, 2009)
  • Boston University. "Yoga May Elevate Brain GABA Levels, Suggesting Possible Treatment For Depression." ScienceDaily. May 22, 2007. (Sep. 13, 2009)
  • Bouchez, Colette. "Exercise Your Body -- and Your Skin: Lifting weights, doing aerobic workouts, and stretching into a yoga pose all benefit your skin as well as your body." (Aug. 31, 2009)
  • Carlson, L.E.; Speca, M.; Faris, P.; Patel, K.D. "One year pre-post intervention follow-up of psychological, immune, endocrine and blood pressure outcomes of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) in breast and prostate cancer outpatients." May 22, 2007. (Sep. 14, 2009)$=relatedarticles&logdbfrom=pubmed
  • Chudler, Eric, Ph.D. "The Skin." University of Washington Engineered Biomaterials. (Aug. 30, 2009)
  • De Raeve, L; et al. "Prepubertal acne: a cutaneous marker of androgen excess?" Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Feb. 1995.
  • Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. "Regular Yoga Practice May Help Prevent Middle-age Spread." ScienceDaily. July 21, 2005. (Sep. 16, 2009)
  • Harper, Julie C, MD.; Fulton Jr., James, MD, PH.D. "Acne Vulgaris." July 15, 2008. (Aug. 30, 2009)
  • Lee, Delphine J.; Shellow, William V.R. "Management of Acne." Primary Care Medicine: Office Evaluation and Management of the Adult Patient (5th edition). Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2006. ISBN 078177456X, 9780781774567. whiteheads+blackheads
  • Lynch, Brendan M. "KU research finds human emotions hold sway over physical health around the world." March 4, 2009.
  • Magin, Parker J.; Adams, Jon; Heading, Gaynor S.; Pond, Dimity C; Smith, Wayne. "Complementary and Alternative Medicine Therapies in Acne, Psoriasis, and Atopic Eczema: Results of a Qualitative Study of Patients' Experiences and Perceptions." The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. June 2006, 12(5): 451-457.
  • Mayo Clinic. "Migraines: Options To Prevent And Treat The Pounding Pain." ScienceDaily. Sep. 12, 2007. (Sep. 14, 2009)
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  • Michalsen, A. "Rapid stress reduction and anxiolysis among distressed women as a consequence of a three-month intensive yoga program." Nov. 24, 2005. (Sep. 14, 2009)$=relatedarticles&logdbfrom=pubmed
  • National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. "Yoga for Health: An Introduction." May 2008. (Sep. 1, 2009)
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  • Smith, R.; Mann, N.; Mäkeläinen, H., Roper, J.; Braue, A.; Varigos, G. "A pilot study to determine the short-term effects of a low glycemic load diet on hormonal markers of acne: a nonrandomized, parallel, controlled feeding trial." Molecular Nutrition & Food Research. 2008 Jun;52(6):718-26.
  • University Of Wisconsin-Madison. "University Of Wisconsin Study Reports Sustained Changes In Brain And Immune Function After Meditation." ScienceDaily. Feb. 4, 2003.­/releases/2003/02/030204074125.htm
  • Vadiraja, H.S. "Effects of a yoga program on cortisol rhythm and mood states in early breast cancer patients undergoing adjuvant radiotherapy: a randomized controlled trial." Feb. 3, 2009. (Sep. 15, 2009)$=relatedarticles&logdbfrom=pubmed
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