We all know exercise is good for us. Not only can it help control weight, but it has also been proven to reduce stress and anxiety, boost energy, improve memory, and much more. It’s safe to say sweating is really good for us. But it can be bad for your skin.
From rashes to infections, sweat and skin problems can go hand in hand. Here are seven things that could happen — and what you can do about them.
Ever finish an outdoor workout and realize that you’re covered in a rash? Blame it on the heat. “Sometimes, sweat glands can actually become blocked when you become overheated, leading to a heat rash,” says dermatologist Joshua Zeichner. “The skin often feels itchy or prickly, which is why the rash is called prickly heat.”
In order to prevent a heat rash, sufficiently hydrate before, during, and after your outdoor workout.
Yes, acne can happen to women over 45. And if you’re wearing makeup to the gym, you may be exacerbating the issue. Sweat, plus oil from your skin, plus dirt from the environment, plus makeup equals a film that can block pores.
It may be a good idea to wash your face pre-workout as well as post. “Try a salicylic acid cleanser to remove excess oil and help keep the pores clear,” Zeichner says.
“Bacne” is acne on the back. It’s not so much sweat that causes it but sweat mixing with your skin’s oil, blocking the pores, Zeichner says. It can be made worse by tight clothing, like sports bras that don’t have much breathability.
To help prevent bacne, get out of your sweaty, tight clothing immediately after a workout. Zeichner’s suggestion? A cleansing towelette, which can quickly clean a large area even on the go. “Topical acne medications are particularly useful for bacne, too. I recommend Aczone 7.5%, as it doesn’t beach fabrics and treats both inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne.”
Athlete’s foot is a form of ringworm that can develop between toes. The cause? “Warm, moist climates and heavy sweating,” says Zeichner. “This can increase your risk of developing athlete’s foot.”
If you’re showering at the gym, wear sandals.
Yup, you read that right. If you’re noticing bumps in your bikini area after workouts, they may be small pimples. It happens more often to women who shave or wax. “Often, hair removal can lead to folliculitis, an infection of the hair follicles in which you develop puss pimples,” says Zeichner. “This can be made worse in warm, sweaty environments, like in the bikini area.”
Be sure you’re washing adequately, with a pH balanced cleanser. If the problem doesn’t go away, ask your doctor if there is a topical you can use in such a sensitive area.
If you’re suddenly noticing flakes when you brush your hair, don’t just chalk it up to cold and dry weather. Sweat from your workouts may actually be causing it. “Sweat and oil in the scalp allows yeast to grow, which can cause inflammation and flaking in the scalp, also known as dandruff,” says Zeichner.
Zeichner suggests using a dandruff-specific shampoo to treat the issue. Dry shampoo may also help as a temporary fix, but be sure if you’re sweating several times per week that you’re washing your hair with real shampoo and water on the regular.
If you’ve never had one, you should feel lucky — they’re very uncomfortable. Yeast infections are caused by candida, a common fungus that usually lives harmlessly on the skin. In certain conditions, though, the fungus can grow more rapidly than usual, resulting in a yeast infection, explains Dr. Jacqueline Mayo, assistant professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medical, and physician at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.
“Candida multiply best in warm, dark, damp places, so anything that encourages this sort of environment will be a very friendly place for the fungus to multiply,” she says. “Therefore, remaining in tight-fitting, sweaty clothing after a workout or in a damp swimsuit for a prolonged period may result in frequent yeast infections.”
The best advice: Promptly change out of damp clothes when you finish working out.