How Sweating Is Good for Your Health

A little sweat plays a big role in keeping you feeling and looking great. 
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We try to mask, stop and prevent sweating. But even though perspiring is seen as gross and sweaty pits are thought of as dirty and smelly, doctors say a little dewy glisten now and then could be good for your health.
Here's a look at why a little sweat plays a big role in keeping you feeling – and looking – great.
1 of 9 Group of adults on a crowded subway train (© Getty Images)

It keeps you cool

"Sweating is best known as the body's built-in mechanism for regulating its temperature," says dermatologist Adam Friedman, M.D., FAAD, attending physician at the Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic & Laser Surgery at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. In fact, the main function of sweat is to cool your body as your core temperature rises while exercising, sitting in a sauna or working in the garden on a hot day. "Sweating helps your body can get rid of the excess heat so you don't boil over and overheat," says Friedman.
Sweating is so important to the body's natural cooling process that an inability to sweat could be life-threatening. "There is a condition called ectodermal dysplasia that leaves a person unable to sweat," says dermatologist Joel Schlessinger, M.D., immediate past president of the American Society of Cosmetic Dermatology and Aesthetic Surgery, and president of LovelySkin.com. "These people typically are unable to participate in sports because they overheat during intense exercise, which could have adverse effects on the heart and other body functions." Be thankful for your ability to sweat.
2 of 9 Man holding a water bottle (© Dave & Les Jacobs/Blend Images/Getty Images)

It keeps your face clear

Got a sweaty face? If so, you've probably got a clear one, too.
Schlessinger says that not only is sweat good for keeping you cool, but sweating from your face can also lead to a decrease in blackheads.
That's because sweating opens up your pores, which may help curb acne. "In healthy skin, oils travel to the skin's surface via hair follicles. If dead skin cells, excess oil, etc., plug pores on the surface, oil production continues, swelling the hair follicle and causing acne," says Freidman.
You can 'fake' a good exercise-induced sweat with a steam facial: Hold your face about six to eight inches above a bowl of hot, steamy water. Drape a towel over your head and around the bowl and 'chill out' for two to three minutes. "Steam facials are one way of prepping the skin for deep cleaning," says Friedman. Just make sure to complete the process by washing your face after you sweat (whether via steam or exercise). Letting sweat linger or dry on your face can have the opposite effect and cause more harm than good. "Prickly heat or heat rash can occur when the sweat glands get blocked, so it's important to follow up a good sweat by washing your face and body soon after," says Friedman.
3 of 9 Close-up of a woman looking away (© rubberball/Getty Images)

It promotes healthy circulation

When you sweat, your heart rate accelerates and circulation increases, particularly in the skin, says Kara Rogers, biomedical sciences editor for Encyclopaedia Britannica. "The base of each sweat gland lies deep in the layer of skin located very close to tiny blood vessels," she says. As activity in your sweat glands ramps up, blood flow increases in the skin, which helps spur on your circulatory system. "Regular exercise and occasionally sauna visits can help improve your circulation through sweating," says Rogers.
4 of 9 Athletic man smiling after workout (© Marc Romanelli/Workbook Stock/Getty Images)

It fights infection

Doctors say that sweating helps fend off methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, better known as MRSA, a nasty bacteria responsible for several difficult-to-treat infections. "Sweat has been shown to play an important role in fighting off potentially dangerous bacteria and fungi on the skin," says Friedman.
That's because sweat contains nitrite, which upon reaching the skin's surface converts into nitric oxide, a potent gas with broad spectrum antibacterial and antifungal properties. "Perspiration also contains a natural antibiotic or antimicrobial peptide called DermIcidin, which can kill MRSA and other bad bugs resting on the skin's surface," says Friedman.
5 of 9 The structure of MRSA (© MedicalRF.com/Getty Images)

It helps you purge harmful toxins

Sweating helps your body naturally dump toxins. "Research has shown that sweat contains many different types of compounds, including small amounts of potentially toxic metals, such as cadmium, aluminum, and manganese. This is the primary reason why sweating is considered a detoxicant," says Rogers.
With between 2 million and 5 million sweat glands in the human skin, sweating can play a significant role in removing a lot of toxic substances from the body. "Most sweat is produced in sweat glands that open up directly into the skin," says Friedman. "The toxins removed are typically found deep in the skin. They're pushed to the surface and released through the pores, along with any dirt and oil trapped in the openings where the sweat comes out." All that purging of toxins can give your immune system a nice boost and help you fight off colds and the flu.
6 of 9 Perspiration on skin, extreme close-up (© PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou/Getty Images)

It helps you heal

Ever wonder why you sweat when you run a fever? Sweating is your body's way of telling your immune system to wake up and get to work fighting off whatever happens to be ailing you. "The same type of sweating process that occurs during exercise or when it's hot outside as a means to regulate temperature also revs up your metabolism when you're sick," says Christian Nix, M.A., L.Ac., a licensed acupuncturist and physician of Chinese medicine.
Not only is a stimulated metabolism helpful in maintaining a healthy weight, because it requires the burning of more calories to keep your body running, but Nix says it is also beneficial if you run a fever. "An increase in metabolic activity stimulates your immune system. So when you develop a fever, sweating is your body's way of trying to heal itself," says Nix. That's why if you do happen to come down with a cold, an infection or the flu, Nix says you can expect to "sweat it out."
7 of 9 Man sick in bed drinking a hot drink (© Paul Bradbury/OJO Images/Getty Images)

It curbs asthma

If you're a sweaty mess after you exercise, you could be less likely to develop asthma. Research from the University of Michigan says that sweating may help guard against developing exercise-induced asthma. And the more you sweat when you exercise, the better, because the more you sweat, the lower your risk. Even if your sweat drips in your eyes, you probably won't be gasping for air!
It turns out that people with this type of asthma tend to produce less sweat, tears and saliva than those who do not have breathing problems. Although researchers don't know for certain what the link is between sweat and asthma, there's speculation that the responses in the body that are responsible for regulating perspiration also control the amount of water secreted by the airways. As a result, individuals who sweat less also have drier airways. And those dry airways lead to exercise-induced asthma.
8 of 9 Woman exercising (© Brooke Slezak/Getty Images)