Sweat gets a bad rap. Whether it’s a virtual HIIT class, 30 minutes in an infrared sauna, or a brisk walk over lunch, working up a sweat benefits the body, mind, spirit, and *also* skin. Yes, we said skin. Contrary to what you may have been told, a regular sweat sesh can actually be good for your skin, with caveats, of course.
Before we dive in, let’s cover why we sweat. We sweat as a way to regulate body temperature. When our bodies heat up, the part of our brain that controls our temperature (the hypothalamus) lets our sweat glands know that they need to get to work. Sweat is produced, released through our pores, and then evaporates, cooling our bodies down and regulating our core temperature.
Next, what, exactly, is sweat? It’s composed mostly of water. Sweat (or perspiration -- you pick) also contains small amounts of salt, sugar, ammonia, and urea. It’s like a totally free and totally natural sea salt spray (so rock that sweaty hair!). But sweating out toxins? It’s not a thing. Also, while we’re on the topic, you can stop blaming sweat for any funky scents. It’s not the sweat -- it’s the bacteria on your skin that causes a smell.
Now that we’re clear on sweat and its function, let’s talk about sweat and your skin.
We’ve all heard it: sweat causes breakouts. So why, when you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror after a workout, does your skin look so good? Spoiler alert: it isn’t just that enhanced blood flow. Your sweat is also to thank for that coveted glow!
Here’s how sweat can be good for your skin:
- It hydrates (again, sweat = mostly water)
- It boosts the integrity of your microbiome and fights bad acne causing bacteria (thanks, antimicrobial peptides!)
- It has been shown to fight aging on a cellular level (this has to do with the mitochondria in our skin cells)
That post-sweat glow is real.
But, like most things, sweat isn’t all good. The ammonia and urea in sweat can dry out and irritate skin if it sits too long. And the salt in sweat can cause dehydration, which not only shows up in the body, but on the skin through dryness, dullness, and an overall sallow looking complexion (hence why staying hydrated while you sweat is so important).
So, sweat and your skin. You can reap its benefits. It’s really simple: be mindful of how long it stays on your skin. Wash your face (or better yet, hop in the shower) after working up a sweat. We’re not huge fans of facial wipes, but if that’s all you have, they’ll do for the time being.
Now all that’s left is to bask in your glow. You worked hard for it!