The Good (and Not So Good) Effects of Sweat on Your Skin

Learn about the effects of sweating, both good and bad, and get five tips to reap the benefits and avoid breakouts and rashes.


Walk down the cosmetic and facial care aisle of any retail store and you'll be bombarded with messages telling you that sweat, oil and pH factor are enemies of your skin. But sweat is essential to your body's ability to regulate core temperature and purge the skin of harmful substances. If you're not sweating, you're not working out.

If you understand the pros and cons of sweat, you'll have a better idea of what's best for your skin. Here's a primer, along with some tips.

The Good

  • Sweating is a signal during exercise that the warm-up phase is over and you are entering the performance zone. Once you are in the performance zone, sweat regulates your body temperature and signals your body's ability to hydrate.
  • Sweat is good for the skin. Water hydrates, minerals and salt naturally exfoliate, and urea and uric acid combat dry skin and dermatitis.
  • Sweating purges the skin of bacteria, dirt, oils and impurities. The optimal pH factor for the skin is the same as the pH factor of sweat.

The Bad

  • The impurities that sweating helps flush out can stay on your skin. When the skin begins to re-absorb them, pH factors change and can lead to irritation and rash.
  • The sweat expelled through the apocrine glands in the skin is responsible for that familiar post-workout body odor.

Tips for Great Skin

By following five simple practices, athletes can capture all the benefits of sweating and avoid the potential for breakouts, rashes and irritation:

  • Hydrate during a workout. The higher the water content in perspiration, the lower the chance of skin irritation. Water adds minerals, acids and proteins to sweat, reducing the skin's pH imbalance.
  • Wash your face before you work out. That will help reduce impurities on your skin as you work out. If you are outdoors, apply a sunscreen with an SPF of 45 or higher.
  • Wear moisture-wicking workout clothing.¬†Wicking moisture away from the skin reduces chafing and discomfort. Some brands even offer anti-microbial fabrics, which help reduce bacteria-induced rashes and irritation.
  • Shower and cleanse shortly after your workout. It's important to reduce the amount of impurities that could be reabsorbed by the skin. Focus on parts of your body where sweat accumulates (e.g., under your arms and between your toes), not just your face. Use natural products and exfoliate dead skin with a loofah sponge or a natural bristle brush.
  • Use a pH-balanced antiperspirant, lotion and/or moisturizer after you shower.¬†This will help restore the pH balance to your skin. Showering alters the skin's natural pH balance, and soap removes essential moisture and oils. A pH-balanced deodorant or lotion helps restore it.

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