How Sweat Affects Your Skin Health


We produce the most sweat during exercise, but this is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if we shower soon after and change out of out workout-clothes. Sweat indicates that we have moved past the warm-up session and are in the throes of an intense workout. This process is meant to adjust body temperature and sends signals regarding the hydration required by the body to recover. 

How does sweat positively affect skin? 

Sweat is a natural way to exfoliate and treat dry skin, as well as other skin conditions. This happens because sweat contains minerals, salt and urea. Sweating also rids the skin of bacteria, oil and impurities, detoxifying the body. 

According to New York-based board certified dermatologist, Dr. Whitney Bowe, “Sweat contains natural alternatives to antibiotics called antimicrobial peptides. The specific antimicrobial peptide in sweat, dermcidin, is pumped onto the skin via the sweat glands and coats the skin, thereby providing protection against infection from other microbes and harmful germs.”

What happens when sweat is left unwiped for long?

However, Bowe warns that sweat causes skin-irritation if not immediately washed off after a workout. “Specifically, the ammonia and urea in sweat can cause irritation and inflammation if left on skin too long. The sodium in sweat can dehydrate skin if left too long on the surface, and the evaporation of sweat from skin can aggravate people prone to eczema,” Bowe said. 

Experts advise changing out of sweaty clothes to avoid fungal infections that could show up as a result of skin type. “The problem is the moisture. Sweat and bacteria can get trapped in the fabrics and, in turn, irritate skin,” Whitney High, dermatopathology specialist at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital, said. 

There is also the problem of sweat accumulating in areas where the skin folds. This is referred to as intertrigo. Another factor is a change in temperature to hot weather that can produce heat rash, which occurs as a result of ducts clogging up and the sweat being unable to evaporate as it remains trapped. 

How to protect your skin from sweat?

For people who have sensitive skin, shower immediately and remove clothes that you wear while working out. For best results, experts suggest using antibacterial soap and shampoos to wash the sweat off skin. 

“Shampoos with the active ingredient pyrithione zinc are very effective at controlling growth of vectors and yeast on the skin, and can be used as a body wash,” Heather Goff, associate professor of dermatology at UT Southwestern Medical Center, said. 

sweaty Are you sweating a lot? It could signal a serious health risk. Photo courtesy of Getty Images/Spencer Platt

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