Can yoga clear up acne?

Stress and Asanas
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.

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