Are Sweaty Workouts Actually Good For Your Skin?
by Freya Drohan
Depending on who you get your advice from, it seems like many would agree that there’s nothing more cleansing or cathartic in this life than a good sweat.
It’s not just fitness professionals or models harking on about the importance of breaking a sweat either. Releasing sweat is a ritual as equally ingrained in ancient cultures as it is in our modern world. Think about it; Native Americans have always incorporated hot rocks into Sweat Lodge Ceremonies chambers, and Aztecs built Temazcal (‘calli’ meaning house and ‘temas’ meaning vapor/steam) structures in which chanting and meditation are just as important as being surrounded by herb-infused steam. In fact, from Turkish hammams, Finnish saunas, and Russian banyas to Korean jjimjilbang and Japanese onsen — sweat as an aspect of mental, spiritual, and physical healing has been around for centuries.
Flash-forward to today’s fitness trends: devout Yogis swear by Bikram performed in temperatures of 108 °F; there are heated spin, TRX, and barre studios across the country; and infrared sauna selfies are the latest staples amongst the wellness crowd.
But what does all this excessive perspiration mean for our skin? Is it really a case of “better out than in”?
After weeks of hitting my local heated pilates studio hard, sweating profusely amongst the many, MANY models who seem to call Los Angeles home, the state of my inflamed, pimple-ridden skin and irritated, dry scalp had left me feeling pretty hopeless. Between the profuse amounts of sebum production in class, and walking to-and-from the studio in blistering sunshine, I began questioning the cost of this obsession with sweating it out.
While I tackled my own breakouts, I asked Dr. Costi (aka Dr. Constantin El Habr – a cosmetic dermatologist as popular amongst celebrities as he is on social media) to give me the dirty little deets on those pesky beads of sweat.
“Sweating is crucial to maintaining inner body temperature. When sweating, the blood circulation increases in all body organs, including the skin, which helps it get rid of all the toxins and metabolites,” he informed me.
‘UGH! TOXINS,’ I first thought. Will they ever not be f-ing us up behind our backs? But wait — at least sweating is removing them from the equation:
“Pores in the skin get cleaned up when sweating, which prevents the accumulation of dead cells in the pores, hence preventing the formation of blemishes, blackheads, and whiteheads,” Dr. Costi said.
Dr. Costi’s answers alluded to why sweat has become synonymous with a glowing post-workout complexion. But don’t be deluded, sweating isn’t your one-way ticket to achieving a glowing complexion. Alas, it seems that similar to extended happy hours with work colleagues and texting your ex, there are often repercussions of those sweaty sessions at the gym.
“Sweat contains mainly water, sodium, potassium, and chloride. If sweating profusely, the build-up of the latter can increase the risk of getting bacterial, fungal, and viral infections. Sweat can also make the skin dry and cause a rash,” Dr. Costi warned.
GULP. Just like I don’t want to waste my precious ClassPass credits, I don’t want to be punished after a HIIT class with a massive zit or a dry patch worse than my stint on Bumble in summer 2017.
“Cleaning the skin right after workouts would minimize this risk,” Dr. Costi promised. “Using a non-drying soap and cleanser when taking a shower will also hydrate the skin, as will a good moisturizing cream to maintain post-shower skin hydration.”
Because there should be a little treat waiting for you at the finish line of each workout, we’ll take the WORK OUT of post-session skincare for you. Consider these your new Sweaty Skincare Commandments™.
*Thou Shalt… always take your makeup off before class. Don’t counteract the naturally detoxing effect of sweating by blocking your pores with product; breakouts are the quickest way to ruin the endorphin high.
*Thou Shalt… cleanse thoroughly after-the-fact.
*Thou Shalt… be as kind to your ‘pits as you are to your face. The argument between natural deodorant-versus-
*Thou Shalt… nourish your skin with the ingredients it deserves. Vitamins A, C, and E (as found in Watermelon Serum) work together like a winning Olympic team to boost skin health, increase cell turnover, and produce collagen. With all those antioxidants in one swipe, it’s like eating a salad – for your face!
*Thou Shalt… not save boujee things like Matcha just for your diet.
*Thou Shalt… treat your skin for a job well done.