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The Beauty of Sweat - How Perspiration Benefits Your Skin

Updated: Nov 7, 2018

Sweat it Out. When in doubt – go to the Korean Day Spa, buy at least 10 entry passes and then make up every excuse on the planet to get your naked self in there. If you are one of my facial clients, and you are experiencing breakouts or a lackluster complexion, there is no doubt that I have asked you if you exercise, take hot baths, sauna, practice hot yoga, speak in front of large groups of people, or are in menopause; basically, if you profusely perspire! Sweating helps to boost the immune system, flush out excess salt, reduce the chance of kidney stones, and keeps you from overheating. Sweat helps you get rid of toxins in your body. And with that being said, sweating, especially heavy, will cause you to lose water and electrolytes so for all of this to be beneficial, please drink, drink, drink; two to three liters to be precise. Freshly tapped coconut water, alkaline water or just plain filtered spring water are choice beverages. And remember, some of the heating practices described here are cultural practices that begin at an early age guided by experienced elders so always consult with your physician before trying out new wellness regimes.   

The traditional sauna can be traced back to Finland and may have originated as early as 7,000BC! It is like an oven that heats you from the outside in. There are also infrared saunas which heat from the inside out but yield similar results, so either sauna will do your body good. No surprise that the first sauna-skin study analyzed the regular use of a traditional Finnish sauna’s effect on skin versus not partaking at all. Measurements taken of participants’ skin demonstrated that regular sauna not only reduces skin sebum production as measured from the forehead, but also contributes to changes in skin pH regulation.[1] A drop in the skin’s pH observed with sauna could strengthen the skin’s acid mantel creating a more acidic environment making it more difficult for P. acnes to grow compared to the other bacteria on the skin.[1,2]  P. acnes being the main bacterial beastie for creating zits and the like. But wait, there’s more.  Dermcidin, an antimicrobial protein that prevents the proliferation of P. acnes, is commonly found – guess where – yup, in human sweat! Dermcidin reduces this bad bacteria’s ability to create RNA and proteins necessary for survival.[3,4] Research has also revealed that patients with acne had a significantly lower amount of this P. acnes pulverizing protein in their sweat.[4] But even if you run low on dermcidin, there is still a solution! A salt solution. The salt in your sweat is also toxic to these naughty bacteria. And with increased circulation and hydration[5] from your self-induced saun-ic heat wave, the healing times of any pimple party boo-boos will most likely decrease while the moisture content of your stratum corneum, the most top layer of your skin, should increase. Plump, clear, glowing, balanced skin. Win, win, win, and win.

Sweat also washes out all that clogged up debris hanging out in your pores. While simultaneously warming the skin, it allows excess oil to be flushed out when it is still in the liquid state. If you have not broke a heavy sweat in a few months and you have not been extracted by a licensed esthetician in a while, start with the extractions. Those big old plugs of oxidized, solidified oil, salt and dirt are like giant boulders that need to be removed from the stream before the river runs through it. You think they are going to gently lift out with a Biore® strip? Think again my little friend. They are going to have to be evicted with great force and conviction and skill, possibly a jack hammer, electric drill and blasted out with a small amount of TNT. Ok – just kidding (sort of) but if they have been lodged in there for months, years, decades, you know it is going to take a tenacious, highly experienced professional working under a magnifying lamp to get them out. Next, hit the gym, jump some rope, bust out some Bikram, steam in the sauna or soak in a hot tub but do something – do anything – to dump a deluge and enjoy the skin clearing benefits of sweat.

Now for the piece de resistance, saunas increase your metabolism! Research confirms that getting hot (sauna, steam room, hot tub) after a workout not only ramps up calorie burn but has a beneficial effect on blood sugar levels. A study conducted by exercise physiologist Steve Faulkner, PhD showed that soaking in a tub of water at 104 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour increased energy output by 80% and burned 140 calories per hour; comparable to a brisk 30 minute walk. They also tested the participants’ blood glucose level after eating a meal and then soaking or exercising for one hour. The bathers had a 10% lower post-meal glucose level than the exercisers, probably due to the presence of heat shock proteins released when, well, you get really hot! Shocking, I know. Heat shock proteins probably move the glucose out of the blood and into your skeletal muscle reducing blood sugar levels and improving insulin sensitivity[6]. Exercise, eat, soak, then sleep. Yes, in that exact order. An amazing way to end the day and prepare yourself for a glowing tomorrow!

  1. Kowatzki D, Macholdt C, Krull K, et al. Effect of regular sauna on epidermal barrier function and stratum corneum water-holding capacity in vivo in humans: a controlled study. Dermatology.2008;217(2):173-180; PMID: 18525205

  2. Korting HC, Lukacs A, Vogt N, et al. Influence of the pH-value on the growth of Staphylococcus epidermidis, Staphylococcus aureus and Propionibacterium acnes in continuous culture. Zentralbl Hyg Umweltmed.1992;193(1):78-90; PMID: 1503605

  3. Csosz E, Emri G, Kallo G, et al. Highly abundant defense proteins in human sweat as revealed by targeted proteomics and label-free quantification mass spectrometry. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol.2015;29(10):2024-2031; PMID: 26307449

  4. Nakano T, Yoshino T, Fujimura T, et al. Reduced expression of dermcidin, a peptide active against propionibacterium acnes, in sweat of patients with acne vulgaris. Acta Derm Venereol.2015;95(7):783-786; PMID: 25673161

  5. Kowatzki D, Macholdt C, Krull K, et al. Effect of regular sauna on epidermal barrier function and stratum corneum water-holding capacity in vivo in humans: a controlled study. Dermatology.2008;217(2):173-180; PMID: 18525205

  6. Can you get the benefits of exercise by having a hot bath? - BBC News (2016).  BBC News. Retrieved 20 July 2016.

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