In this Article
Ah the sweaty, humid heat of summer, how we love you. How we love going from the frostiness of spring to the scorching heat of early June to the torrential rain of September following a scorching heatwave and possibly even an Indian summer.
Despite the same, unpredictable, can’t-plan-anything-outside weather that falls upon us every year without fail, we still never fail to believe it.
But, let’s assume that in the height of summer, that it’s at least hot (even if it is raining). Let’s also assume that, unless we’re in an air conditioned office building, we’re sweating a little bit, or a lot.
We can also assume that even if it’s not hot outside, there are still times when we’ll sweat. During exercise, on a steamed up bus, squished between other passengers on the train in a huge winter coat, preceding a big interview or hot date, during the menopause… We sweat. All year round.
If you’re female and of a certain age, you probably would’ve been told by an elder at some point in your life that ladies don’t sweat, they glow. But we can tell you, we. all. sweat.
So, ladies who are perimenopausal, menopausal, pregnant, juggling a wriggling toddler or are simply too hot, let us get a hello and a fan, please. There’s no mistaking it, we, and all other human beings, sweat.
But what is sweat and why do we do it? In particular, is sweating good for our skin? What about the other effects of sweat on our skin, the good, the bad and the ugly?
We took it upon ourselves to find out if there are any benefits of sweating on the skin. And the results certainly made us a little hot under the collar…
What Exactly is Sweat?
Amazingly, the human body has around 3 million sweat glands. So that’s 3 million reasons to sweat.
Of these 3 million, they’re mostly of two types - eccrine sweat glands and apocrine sweat glands. Our eccrine sweat glands are found all over the body, such as on the skin of our arms and legs. They produce lower levels of sweat that has no smell associated with it.
Apocrine sweat glands, on the other hand, are located in the areas that we associate more with sweating, including our feet, scalp, armpits and groin area.
The sweat produced from these areas tends to have that familiar smell (body odour, or BO) that’s produced when this oilier sweat mixes with the bacteria that love to hang out on these warm patches of skin. (It’s the bacteria that makes us smell, not the actual sweat.)
Around 99% of our sweat, from both types of sweat glands, consists of water. The remaining 1% is made up of oils, sugars, ammonia, urea and salt.
What Makes Us Sweat?
Obviously, being in a situation where we’re hot, such as lying on a Spanish beach, being in a hot room or on stuffy public transport will make us sweat. Exercise can also make us sweat, and being overweight or obese can also mean that we tend to sweat more as we move about.
But it isn’t just the outside temperature that makes us hot, and therefore sweaty. There are many other reasons why we might sweat. If we’re feeling stressed, upset, nervous, anxious, excited, embarrassed, fearful or angry, we can become sweaty.
Our hormones can also play a role too, such as if we’re perimenopausal or menopausal. Our temperature also tends to go up when we’re having a period.
Some medications, such as those prescribed for chronic pain, infections or low blood sugar can also mean that we’re prone to sweating. Having an infection or a fever will also have the same effect.
Finally, sweating can also be caused by eating certain foods - most notably hot or spicy foods but drinking alcoholic, caffeinated or sugary drinks can also have the same effect on some people. Having an overly acidic diet can also cause us to sweat.
Why Do We Sweat?
What does sweating do for your skin? We actually have no control over whether we sweat or not. Sure, we can use an antiperspirant (as in, a substance that temporarily stops us from sweating), but essentially, part of our nervous system controls the release of sweat.
We sweat primarily as a temperature control mechanism. When we sweat, due to whatever reason, the body needs to cool down. It releases sweat as a liquid that then evaporates from the surface of the skin, helping to regulate our finely tuned core body temperature.
(Incidentally, dogs pant and have their tongues hanging (ridiculously adorably) out to cool down, because they don’t have sweat glands in their skin like we do. Presumably even if they did, their fur coats would prevent them from doing much. So if your dog is panting, they’re simply switching on their natural cooling mechanism.)
But aside from regulating our body temperature, are there any other plus points to this ‘glow’ we experience when we’re hot? In particular, what does sweating do for our skin?
What Are the Benefits of Sweating?
A much contested benefit of sweating is thought to be the fact that sweating helps to rid the body of toxic heavy metals. So, why is sweating good for our skin? It might be an annoyance, but sweating actually helps us to detox.
Consuming an alkaline diet, drinking plenty of water and having a healthy liver is the best way to keep the body healthy by allowing it to detox itself. But pollution, eating fried, processed foods, drinking excessive alcohol and smoking can all allow heavy metals such as mercury, lead and cadmium to enter the body.
When researchers have investigated bodily fluids, they’ve found heavy metals dissolved in the water content of sweat, suggesting that it is indeed a mechanism by which the body detoxifies itself.
The same can also be said for bisphenol A, or BPA, a chemical found in certain plastics that’s been linked with various health concerns.
Why else is sweating good for our skin? Sweating is also linked with other benefits, including an improved cardiovascular performance during exercise, quicker muscle recovery and a well supported, healthy immune system.
So let’s all hear it for sweating!
What Are the Skin Benefits of Sweating?
And the benefits don’t stop there. In terms of our skin, sweating actually helps to cleanse the skin, by forcing dirt, bacteria and stale makeup out of the pores.
If this dirt and debris is allowed to build up in the pores, then it can cause blockages and then lead to spots, acne breakouts, irritation, inflammation and dull skin.
So, sweating for glowing skin is a thing, right? Sure! But this skin clearing, brightening effect of sweating (which could actually be where the glow thing comes from) is only of any benefit if we clean away the sweat regularly, taking all the dirt and debris with it…
Is Sweat Bad for Your Skin?
Sweating has its benefits, but like anything, if we don’t do things properly, then there’s a downside.
After we’ve exercised, finished our sweaty commute or have cooled off from a nerve wracking job interview, the sweat we’ve released will mainly evaporate away from the skin. But there will still be some left behind.
This will leave a very fine film of stale sweat, which also includes dirt and toxins, on top of the skin. If left, this can then both irritate the skin itself and trap other particles of dirt, makeup, oil, bacteria and dead skin cells in the pores.
Is sweat bad for our skin? If it isn't removed, yes it is. Because stale sweat can then lead to spots, acne breakouts and irritated skin. In fact, it can be common to suffer itchy skin after exercise, and this in part could be down to stale sweat trapping everything in.
So, it’s important to wash the skin, especially on the face or anywhere else that you're prone to skin irritation and breakouts, such as the chest and back, as soon as possible. Obviously, it isn’t always possible to wash straight away, especially if you’re at work or otherwise out of the house.
But cleansing the skin twice a day (we sweat overnight, so cleansing it away in the morning is a good idea) helps to make sure we’re purging the skin of all its spot causing nasties as soon as we can.
Looking After Your Skin All Year Round
If you happen to be looking for an amazingly gentle, but effective skin cleanser, then look no further! The Sönd Rebalance & Reset Cream Cleanser (which in a past life was our Clean Slate Cream Cleanser, but has only changed in name, not nature) is your new cleansing BFF.
Made from super gentle shea oil and cocoa butter, it's gentle enough for all skin types and rids the skin of all makeup, sweat and dirt. Our Refreshing Essence Toner is also great as an added cleansing step or on its own in the morning.
So go ahead and embrace that sweaty glow, just make sure you clear it all away before you go to bed tonight!
This article is not meant to treat or diagnose. Please visit your doctor for advice about any health concerns you may have.