Embrace Your Sweat: The Science of Sweat + Why Sweating Is Healthy
While it may be an unpopular viewpoint, we love sweating. In fact, we can’t get enough.
Time and again, we find more studies, stats, and proof that sweating IS healthy for you! Some health benefits of sweating might even surprise you.
We want to set the record straight on why sweating is healthy so you can embrace your sweat too. Especially in the sun-blazing months when sweat is just plain unavoidable.
Let’s say it together: Sweating is HEALTHY!
Science has told us that if we say something out loud enough times, we’ll start to believe it. So let’s say it together, look at the health benefits of sweating + dig into the science behind sweat.
Sweating Is Healthy: How Sweating Works
Sweating is a pretty fascinating (and useful) function that our body activates all on its own through our nervous system.
Let’s dive deeper into why sweating is healthy.
First things first: Did you know you have two kinds of sweat glands?
→ Eccrine glands cover most of your body and are directly exposed/linked to the surface of your skin.
→ Apocrine glands are different because their path to the surface of your skin goes through a hair follicle (think armpits, scalp, groin).1
You also have two different kinds of sweat: temperature-activated sweat and stress sweat.
Here’s How Temperature-Activated Sweating Works:
Step 1: Your nervous system constantly monitors your body’s temperature. When your internal body temperature rises, it signals your hypothalamus (located in your brain) to trigger the eccrine glands to produce sweat.2
Step 2: As your sweat glands create sweat, beads of sweat are pushed onto the surface of your skin.
Step 3: As the sweat sits on top of your skin, the heat of your body creates the energy needed to evaporate the sweat off your skin, effectively cooling you down and lowering your body temperature.2
But What About When You Sweat for Other Reasons?
“Emotional/stress sweating” is another type of sweat our body produces.
We’ve all experienced stress sweat at some point – it’s the worst! Stress sweat comes (mostly) from your apocrine sweat glands.
The sweat production is triggered by a flight or fight reaction in your body. (Like when you can’t remember if you turned the oven off before leaving home or narrowly avoid a wreck on the interstate.)
Ever wondered why your stress sweat smells so much worse?
It’s because of the location of these glands. Apocrine glands are connected to hair follicles which produce different oils and fats that mix with your sweat. Once on the surface of your skin, mixed with bacteria, these oils break down into “odorous fatty acids.”2
Then you’ve got a recipe for nose-pinching disaster.
Why We Need to Sweat + Health Benefits of Sweat
Sweat gets a really bad rep. We’re told it’s gross, and that we should keep it in check. Yet we’re also told to sweat – confusing, right? All things considered, sweating is a natural process, literally designed to keep you alive and healthy!
That’s why we believe in celebrating (and embracing) the health benefits of sweat.
Sweating Is Healthy Because It Regulates Our Body Temperature
The biggest (and most common) argument for why sweating is healthy: It’s the only way to effectively and uniformly cool down the body when it overheats!
Our bodies are so capable. They naturally help us thrive – if we let them do their thing and support them well!
Without sweat to regulate body temperature, it’s unlikely our ancestors would’ve survived. They would’ve died from excessive overheating. So as we love to say, let’s take a page from our ancestral wisdom and follow their example – to allow our bodies to carry out their natural processes.
Our bodies are extremely sensitive to temperature changes. Just think how going from 98 degrees to 103 (an increase of only 5 degrees) can be life-threatening! Regulating body temperature is not something we can do for ourselves – at least not at the level we need for survival.
→ For example, when you’re extremely hot, you turn on the fan to cool you down, right?
But you only feel like you’re cooling down because the sweat on your body is evaporating faster than normal.3 You still depend on the essential bodily function of sweating to cool you off.
Sweating is essential for our body to release heat.
Sweating Is Healthy Because We’re Sweating Toxins Out
Though statistically our sweat is mostly made of water, studies have shown that we are sweating toxins out whenever we get a good sweat on.
At Primally Pure, we preach the power of detoxing our bodies any chance we get. And if you’re on the fence about eliminating toxins through sweat, there’s science behind this claim about sweating toxins out. It’s been proven that you can sweat out known carcinogens that could be wreaking havoc on your body. Sweat is part of your body’s natural detox pathways.
Speaking of detoxing, here’s a fascinating fact we found that supports this claim:
Medical professionals commonly accept urine as a source of toxin elimination that helps lessen our overall toxic load. But urine was actually ranked LOWER than sweat's ability to eliminate toxins – in multiple studies:
→ A study focusing on heavy metals in sweat found that sweat exceeded urine concentrations of several dangerous heavy metals like:4
→ A similar study examining how the body eliminates phthalate compounds measured blood, sweat, and urine.5 They found that the phthalates eliminated through sweat were more than double the concentration of urine levels.
And have you heard of BPA? The secret little plastic that’s everywhere and leaches toxins into our products, food, and drinks?
→ We even found a study that suggests sweating also helps release BPA from the body.6
Sweating is healthy because it helps us release all kinds of toxins that could be quite dangerous if left undisturbed in our bodies. Who knows what other toxins you might be able to clear out with a little sweat session!
Our bodies have a natural process of eliminating toxins every. single. day. Even if it’s only releasing small amounts, we don’t want to get in the way of our body’s cleansing process.
Let’s embrace it! Say it with us: sweating is healthy!
Regular Sweating Is Excellent for Skin Health
When you sweat, your skin is able to purge by pushing out dirt + impurities – naturally. No need for painful extractions or intense exfoliation to cleanse your pores.
Here are just a few of the major benefits for your skin health:
- Supports glowing skin – ever felt like you glowed after a good hard workout or hot yoga session? Pairing a routine of natural modalities like facial gua sha or facial dry brushing with sweat is an excellent well-rounded way to maintain a clear complexion.
→ One study even cited that the process of sweating supports skin health because sweat delivers moisturizing components that form a natural moisture barrier.7
- Clears out acne-causing bacteria and inflammation – sweat has salts and electrolytes that are acidic. This creates an acidic barrier on the skin that makes it more resistant to bacteria known to cause inflammation and breakouts.7
- Improves circulation – increased blood flow from sweating results in more nutrients being delivered to the skin, similar to the facial dry brush or the gua sha stone’s effect on your lymphatic system!
Sweating Is Healthy for Your Heart Too!
Sweat induced by your body temperature rising (whether from exercise or physical heat) gets your heart beating faster.
An article in Harvard Health Publishing talks about how increasing your heart rate protects against heart disease because it forces your heart to:8
- Work a little bit harder
- Dilate blood vessels
- Lower your blood pressure
- Build muscle strength
(However, if you have low blood pressure, you should take extra precautions against overheating.)
And like we mentioned, your heart workout doesn’t have to be physical exercise!
A Japanese study on the correlation between cardiovascular disease and regular hot baths studied participants over 20 years. Those who took a bath twice or more per week had a 28% lower risk of heart disease and 26% lower risk of stroke.9
Wow. Hot baths for the win!
Sweating Regularly Can Support Breast Health
According to BreastCancer.Org’s research news, “Six or more hours of strenuous exercise per week can reduce the risk of breast cancer.”10
Okay, we’ll admit, six hours is not realistic for most of us. And look, we aren’t doctors, but there’s got to be some benefit for breast health still, right? Surely it’s safe to assume that routine, sweaty exercise is good for breast health, even on a smaller scale than this study suggests.
Benefits of Sweating From Exercise-Induced Sweat
Speaking of sweat related to exercise, we know sweating is healthy for your body, but it’s not just physical health. Here are a few ways exercise-induced sweating can benefit your quality of life on a daily basis:
- Weight loss – though we should note that this might be water weight. Still, it could be helpful if you want to feel your best for a special event or kick some bloat around your menstrual cycle.
- Mood-boosting (can even lower depression) – moderate or high-intensity exercise is proven to decrease depressive states.11 These two quotes from an Elite Daily article sum it up perfectly:12
“When your mental stress starts to affect your physical body, it’s an ugly cycle that’s likely going to put you in an even worse mood. Working up a sweat can reduce those stress levels, ease anxiety, lower blood pressure, and slow down your respiratory system… So, not only will you feel a physical sense of relief after you’ve worked up a sweat, but your mind will, too.”
“Sweating can also be extremely cathartic… Because a lot of people associate sweat with a difficult workout, when a routine leaves you doused in a puddle of your own perspiration, it can almost feel like your body is patting you on the back for a job well done. I know myself, and on my worst days, sometimes I need that little boost of encouragement, even if it's coming from my own body, to let me know everything is going to be OK.”
With the Knowledge That Sweating Is Healthy, How Can You Embrace Your Sweat More?
With all the proven health benefits of sweating, we can’t stress enough: sweating is good for you! Armed with this knowledge + the right non-toxic deodorant, let your concerns of smelly sweat melt away, and embrace the beautiful gift of sweat. Even if you struggle with extra sweaty pits (or palms, or feet, or chest…), know that it’s TOTALLY normal. You’re not weird or gross.
Getting your sweat on regularly is essential for whole-body health: mental, physical, and emotional. You do your body + mind a favor when you make time for a cleansing sweat session.
How can you reset your outlook on sweaty activities and find a sweat routine that works for you?
We’d love to hear your favorite ways to sweat, whether it’s exercise-induced or heat-induced!
P.S. Stay tuned for part 2 later this month where we’ll be sharing our favorite tips for sweating more + how to gain all the health benefits of sweat.
- Mayo Clinic | Sweat Glands
- Houston Methodist | How Sweat Works: Why We Sweat When We're Hot, as Well as When We're Not
- CBC Radio | Why Do Fans Make the Air Feel Cooler?
- National Library of Medicine | Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead, and Mercury in Sweat: A Systematic Review
- National Library of Medicine | Human Elimination of Phthalate Compounds: Blood, Urine, and Sweat (BUS) Study
- National Library of Medicine | Human Excretion of Bisphenol A: Blood, Urine, and Sweat (BUS) Study
- National Library of Medicine | Functions of the Skin Microbiota in Health and Disease
- Harvard Health | Hot Baths and Saunas: Beneficial for Your Heart?
- BMJ Journals | Habitual Tub Bathing and Risks of Incident Coronary Heart Disease and Stroke
- BreastCancer.Org | Working Up a Good Sweat Lowers Risk
- Science Direct | Sweating Away Depression? The Impact of Intensive Exercise on Depression
- Elite Daily | Here's Why It Feels SO Good To Be Drenched In Sweat After Your Workout
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