Is Sweating Harmful For Your Skin?

One dermatologist breaks down why we get breakouts after particularly sweaty runs.


Runners know that no matter the weather, things can get a little (or a lot) sweaty. Because it is a natural bodily response, sweat isn’t harmful to the skin, but mixed with other components—makeup, dirt and more—it could lead to breakouts.

So how you do beat those breakouts and prevent fungal infections? Dermatologist Christine Choi Kim, MD has some simple steps for runners.

“Sweating is a natural response to when your body’s temperature becomes too high,” she shares. “The release of sweat (which consists of mostly water but also lactate, urea and salt) moisturizes the skin and also cools it off as it evaporates.”

This natural moisturizer contains the antimicrobial peptide dermicidin, which Dr. Kim explains helps to protect you from both bacterial and fungal skin infections.

“Sweat mixed with the makeup, sebum and dirt already on your skin could make you more prone to breakouts,” she adds. “Ideally you should try to shower as soon as possible and change out of your sweaty gym clothing.”

For those who don’t have time to shower right after a workout—or those who need to freshen up after that lunchtime gym class—Dr. Kim recommends keeping moist cleansing towelettes handy to freshen up. For women prone to acne on the face, chest or back, she divulges your secret weapon: glycolic/salicylic acid pads or a spray. You can use this before you go home to take a shower for extra cleansing.

“Sweating can lead to a higher skin surface pH and hyperhydration of the stratum corneum, which are changes that actually stress the barrier function of the skin and leave it more prone to dermatitis and vulnerable to infections,” Dr. Kim mentions. “Don’t ignore early signs of skin irritation or infection and see your dermatologist to diagnose and treat conditions early.”

Besides being sure to shower as soon as you can after a sweat session, it is important to take note of the clothing you wear, as well. Fast-drying, moisture-wicking fabrics will always be the best as they help keep chafing, rashes and breakouts at bay. Be sure your clothing is aiding your workout—and clean skin—not hindering it.

Read More: 
4 Tips To Make Your Workouts Work With Your Skin
4 Tips To Keep Skin Healthy Post-Run