Given the copious amounts of mattifying powders and antiperspirants we use on any given day, it’s clear that our society has been conditioned to think of sweat as something undesirable. A problem to be fixed. But rather than fret over the occasional damp armpit, there are actually numerous reasons why you should be sweating *more*, especially if you want glowing, healthy skin.
Intrigued by the call for more sweat? Founders of HigherDOSE, Lauren Berlingeri and Katie Kaps, and naturopathic doctor and founder of Well BYND Wellness Clinic, Dr. Erica Arcuri gave us the tea on sweating and its many health and skin benefits.
Why Do We Sweat?
To determine why exactly sweating is good for us we must understand why the body sweats in the first place. Dr. Arcuri explains that, “Sweating is the best way to assist the skin in eliminating wastes. Sweating helps us detoxify environmental toxins and heavy metals from the body, increase circulation and lymphatic drainage, and helps us maintain clear skin.” In short, sweating is a way for our body to excrete all the bad stuff we don’t want. By eliminating waste, our bodies can better carry out their various functions.
How Can We Benefit From Sweating?
You may remember vigorously washing your face after track practice in high school to avoid acne from surfacing, which might make you believe that sweating causes acne. On the contrary, sweating is crucial for maintaining clear skin. Says Kap, “The pores on our skin open up [when we sweat] and allow for a protective barrier to form against pathogens, thus reducing the skin’s bacteria. This can benefit many skin problems such as acne.”
Additionally, sweat contains more than just water. Dr. Arcuri explains, “Human perspiration contains an antimicrobial peptide called dermcidin, which has the ability to fight disease-causing bacteria on the skin. Sweat also contains small amounts of urea, which is used in many cosmetics to help smooth and moisturize the face,” meaning that not only will you have clear skin, but you’ll be glowing, too.
We all know that a good workout increases heart rate, but do you ever ponder what an increased heart rate means? Berlingeri reveals, “When your heart gets pumping, it gets the blood circulating throughout the body, which gives your skin a healthy glow from the inside out.” Additionally, a proper blood flow allows for your body to circulate more oxygen and nutrients to the cells all over your body, including the skin, hair, nails, internal organs, and brain. Also, since your heart is beating faster and harder than usual, the cardiovascular system strengthens, resulting in better health overall.
We can’t help but think about Elle Woods’ iconic line in Legally Blonde: “Exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy. Happy people don’t kill their husbands!” If we were judges instead of beauty fiends, this evidence would surely hold up in our court, and here’s why. Sweating releases endorphins in the brain, which is the feel-good chemical that puts a little pep in our steps throughout the day. Kaps explains that endorphins cause people to feel “More energetic and more relaxed throughout the day. [Additionally, people tend to] have sharper memories, and sleep better at night.”
Dr. Arcuri adds that sweating is a great way to train the brain to deal with high stress levels. She states, “Sweating usually means our heart rate is up and cortisol (our stress hormone) is pumping. Once we complete our sweat session, the body regulates itself by slowing our breathing, decreasing our heart rate, and reducing those cortisol levels. Not only does this lead to a calm and relaxed feeling, but it also improves mental health by training the brain to be able to cope better with stress (aka high cortisol).”
We cannot confirm or deny the allegations against aluminum-based antiperspirants (and their role as potential endocrine disruptors) because there simply isn’t enough research linking antiperspirants and diseases like breast cancer. But what we can say is that our underarms contain the body’s highest concentration of lymph nodes, making it one of the main places we sweat regularly, to release the body’s toxins. It’s important not to plug these sweat glands because in doing so, we’re also creating a blockage for lymphatic drainage to take place.
As Dr. Arcuri says, “The job of the lymph nodes is to move the body’s toxins and waste products to be detoxed from the body. So, when we aren’t regularly exercising or working up a sweat, our lymphatic system can get ‘clogged’ with a buildup of too many toxins leading to issues such as acne, cellulite, weight gain, sinus issues, pain, etc.” To remedy this, opt for a natural or aluminum-free deodorant, or try out an acid-based formula to kill the odor-causing bacteria.
How Should We Sweat?
Sweating is sort of like a mathematical equation in that there are infinite ways to get to the same answer. Whether you are sweating from a workout, going for a hike, having sex (with a partner or with yourself), or sitting in a sauna, the important thing is that the act of sweating happens for 20-30 minutes at least five times per week. If you live in a cooler climate, or don’t have a sauna in your apartment (it’s ok—neither do we), consider a sauna blanket or a hot bath as your mode of release. And make sure to drink plenty of water to replenish what you’ve lost through your pores.