Will Exercising in Headphones Cause Acne?

Woman Working Out Gym Headphones


We all know what acne is: a chronic skin condition where blocked pores cause spots and pimples. Most commonly associated with puberty and teenagers, acne can often be a problem for those regularly working out in headphones.

Talking to Shape magazine, Dr Debra Luftman – a dermatologist for Simple Skincare said, 'Wearing over-the-ear headphones during and after exercise can increase acne breakouts and skin infections. They collect sweat and moisture, which encourages bacteria and yeast to multiply.'

Sweat doesn't cause spots BUT if you're exercising and moisture gets trapped between your skin and the cushion of your headphones, then it's an ideal breeding ground for bacteria – which does. Headphones fit snugly either on or over-the-ear and the ear pads absorb sweat. This may not be a big deal when you wear them in an open-plan office during a workday or on public transport, but if you're wearing them regularly for working out then it quickly could become one.  Once moisture starts accumulating, it's not just acne you'll have to contend with either. Sweat can wreck the internal components of your headphones, and it doesn't matter whether you're wearing Beats or Bose, Sony or Sennheiser; sweat is corrosive and it's probably going to ruin them.

After a few workouts, you might also notice an aggressive odour developing in the cushions. Ever left a sweaty sock or running shoe in the bottom of a zipped up gym bag? It's a similar principle but you can throw a shoe or sock in the washing machine. You can't do that with headphones. If the bacteria have penetrated into the cushioning, then it's not always an easy smell to remove. Some headphones like the Bose QuietComfort 35's do have replacement cups that you can buy but that can be an expensive way of keeping your sound (and your cushioning) fresh.

All of this may sound disgusting but it's easy to see how it happens. Being laissez-faire about headphone hygiene is actually pretty common.  Your first thought after an intense workout probably isn’t going to be the state of your headphones (much beyond wiping them down with a towel or t-shirt).  It’s hard to imagine there’ll be a problem until one starts forming but by then it could be too late. Until you can see the damage, then you’re less likely to be proactive in stopping it. Maybe that’s why people only seem to notice what’s happening after the spots start appearing.

There might be an assumption, too, that because of the price tag these headphones are hardier.  Noise-cancelling technology can retail at more than three hundred pounds a pair. Sound quality might be better and design sturdier but they’ll all have a very simple Achilles heel: sweat.

Athletes parading around stadiums, athletic tracks and swimming pools wearing Beats headphones might inspire the idea that they're designed to for exercise but they can break as well as the rest of them.

How Can You Stop Headphones Causing Acne?

A simple online search reveals a staggering number of results where people have asked: is using headphones during exercise causing my spots?  Reddit seems to have a sizeable community of people who’ve suffered headphone induced acne so at least their advice comes with the benefit of experience but often the answers aren’t solutions, they’re alternatives or they’re half-measures.  We’ve listed two of the most popular answers below because it might be helpful to you. Additionally, we’ve added our own solution which will solve the problem simply and effectively: EarHugz will not just stop the bacteria that causes spots but it will protect your headphones from moisture damage, too. 

Earphones cause less sweat

Switch from Headphones to Earphones

Swapping out headphones for earphones is the piece of advice that's offered most frequently, and it's a good idea. Earphones have many practical uses in exercise.

They're often cheaper, too, so replacing them isn’t such a big deal.

The problem is that earphones don't work for everyone. Some people find them uncomfortable or painful. For others, it's the difficulty of keeping them in the ear during exercise. Manufacturers approach earphone design with a one-size-fits-all approach, but every ear canal is different. It's hard to focus on your workout if you're having to push them back into your ear every five minutes. And if it's bacteria that causes spots, then aren't earphones just as bad as headphones? Cushioning might help grow bacteria but earphones are far more likely to rub up against other sources of bacteria: at the bottom of dirty gym bags, wiped against towels, emptied onto tables, dropped onto the floor; they're easier to share with other people, too, which is a whole other state of NASTY. Earphones might have the smaller surface area but without practising good hygiene, you could be risking more than just spots – a build up of bacteria inside the ear could cause infection.

Wipe down the cushions with Antibacterial Wipes.

Wiping down your headphones with an antibacterial wipe after exercise isn't a bad idea. Certainly, it's something we should all be doing post-workout. We've already established that bacteria is the real culprit behind the odour in your cushioning and the spots on your face but bacteria isn’t what’s going to ruin your headphones from the inside —  the moisture from your sweat will.  Wiping down the leather will only deal with what's on the surface. The real damage is being done behind the scenes albeit with less of the noticeable pre-cursive odour and acne. Wiping down your cushions with alcohol rub is good practice even if you never work up a sweat in them BUT for those of us determined to work out, it's not enough to protect them from damage and that’s why this “solution” is only half good enough.


But there’s a solution that is ALL good, that will 100% allow you to work out in the gym in your headphones without the worry of developing acne. EarHugz are a two-fold solution because they’ll also protect your headphones from sweat damage.

Earhugz uses Ultra-Stretch, MAX-DRI + machine washable fabric which wicks away sweat to keep your face clean and your electronics dry.

There’s no reason why you can’t enjoy the superior sound quality of your headphones in the gym, using music to help enhance your performance and workout without the worry of replacing premium quality headphones years before their time.

EarHugz are machine washable, too, and they’ll fit snugly around the cushions of your headphones, packing down super small in gym bags, pockets and suitcases.

In a range of awesome designs, EarHugz will colour your sound as easily as they protect it. Fully reversible and compatible with both wired and wireless headphones, EarHugz fit almost all the major branded headphones including ALL Beats, Bose, Sony and Philips.

And when you buy a pair of EarHugz headphone covers, you’re not just protecting your sound, you’re also helping to protect the valuable work done by the Mental Health Foundation —  for every purchase £1 is donated to the charity to help better understand mental health and support the many people living with mental health issues.


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