The Surprising Reason Sweating Can Clear Acne (Nope, It Doesn't Cause Breakouts)

November 12, 2019


I love sweating. Anyone else? Specifically, I love how oddly cleansing it feels (even when looking like a sticky, red-faced mess). But there’s truth to sweat’s cleansing effect, particularly for skin health. Here’s a perhaps shocking PSA for you: sweat does not cause acne. In fact, it can actually help clear your skin. How, you might ask? There’s a whole lot more to sweat than meets the eye (or nostrils).

What is sweat?

Too-often regarded as an “icky” thing our body does, sweat serves an important role in our body’s functioning. Sweat primarily functions to balance body temperature through its cooling effect. But the act of sweating also has positive side effects that can improve skin clarity. And no, it doesn’t involve sweating out toxins.

Why sweat can help clear your skin

Bacterial Cleansing

Did you know that millions of microorganisms live on our skin? Before you go scrubbing your face with harsh antibacterial soap, know that these microorganisms can protect us from pathogens and infection. While many of these microorganisms are harmless, an overgrowth of some can lead to infection or breakouts. And guess what? Sweat can cleanse infectious bacteria. Compounds in sweat bind to microbes on our skin and then literally washes them off. Sweat also contains dermcidin, a natural antibiotic that fights bacteria on our skin.

Fun fact: Sweat itself doesn’t have a smell. Body odor is actually due to sweat combining with certain bacteria that live on our skin.

Keeps Skin Acidic

Healthy skin is slightly acidic (pH=5.0) in order to prevent infections. Sweat can supply adequate acidification of the skin, helping prevent growth and colonization of microorganisms that could lead to infection.

Clears Out Pores

Sweat can purge our pores of dirt, oil, bacteria, and makeup residues. When we sweat our pores relax and open, releasing pore-clogging buildup that can be wiped or washed away.

Important note

While sweat can be good for our skin, it’s important to wash it off too. The purged particles and bacteria can irritate our skin after too long, so remember to clean your skin after sweating!

Healthy ways to induce sweating

  • Exercise
    • Good ol’ fashioned exercise my friend. The cheapest option to getting our sweat on, exercise can generate internal heat that leads to perspiration. Sweat-inducing exercise ideas include:
      • [On cold days] Indoor workouts on gym equipment (i.e. treadmill, stationary bike)
      • Running
      • Sprints on track
      • Stair workouts
      • Burpees
  • Hot yoga
    • A form of exercise that deserves its own category due to its astronomical sweat-producing abilities. I don’t think I’ve ever sweat as much in my life than I have in a Bikram (hot) yoga class. Hot yoga involves a flow between different yoga positions in a room set to 90-108°F. Something about the combination of body movement and a hot room really gets that sweat pouring.
  • Sauna
    • A nice option for those of us in colder climates. Whether they be infrared, steam, dry, or wet, saunas are a great option if you can afford a session at your local spa or gym. I like to use my gym’s sauna after workouts, often using it as good time for meditation or light stretching.

In summary

Sweating is a natural and healthy body process that can keep our skin clear of breakouts. Make sure to re-hydrate and stay away from antiperspirants, especially when working out. Let your pores do their thing!

What’s your favorite way to sweat?

Also by Lindsay: How To Create New Neurons In Your Brain (Neurogenesis) & Get Smarter Than Ever

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Photo: Linus Schütz from Pixabay

Lindsay Brave
Lindsay is a writer, researcher, and self-proclaimed vegan introvert. Lindsay spends her free time reading, making up dance moves (when no one’s watching), and upping her self-care routine. Connect with Lindsay on Instagram @lindsbrave or via email at [email protected].


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