4 Reasons Why Sweating Is Actually Great for You (Besides Cooling You Down)

That salty water from your pores is more than a summertime nuisance.

We get it—sweating may not be your favorite thing to do, but it's necessary. Sweating, also called perspiration, is a natural bodily function that helps regulate your body temperature, explains dermatologist Corey L. Hartman, MD, founder and medical director of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, Alabama, and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Alabama School of Medicine. Without it, your risk of overheating increases.

Eccrine sweat, the sweat we're talking about here, is the salty kind sourced from the watery parts of blood and is released from the 2 to 5 million eccrine sweat glands across your skin's surface. "This is the stuff that floods out when our body temperature rises to help cool us down," notes Sarah Everts, a science journalist and journalism professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, and author of the new book, The Joy of Sweat: The Strange Science of Perspiration. (The other kind of sweat is produced in the armpits from sweat glands that become active at puberty.)

While the ability to keep your body temp in check is impressive, it isn't the only natural and healthy benefit of eccrine sweat. Here are four other research-backed ways that this salt-based fluid can benefit you.

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Sweating Is Good for Your Skin

Sweat is known to cool the skin, bring toxins to the surface (some but not all, since detoxing is your liver and kidneys' job), and give the skin a glow, according to Dr. Hartman. That luminosity is due to the fact that those water droplets seeping from your pores act as a moisturizer (and for much less money than your favorite beauty buy). Research shows that sweating can increase and maintain skin hydration, preventing some inflammatory skin diseases. Also, sweat contains traces of urea, a known humectant (a substance that retains or preserves moisture).

Despite its benefits, leaving your skin drenched in sweat for a long time can have a detrimental effect. "Allowing excess sweat to sit on the skin, or worse, on the skin and [blocked] by sweaty clothing; can cause acne breakouts, encourage infection, and worsen folliculitis or inflammation of the hair follicles," Dr. Hartman says.

"Skin bacteria love a warm, wet environment, and thrive when your skin is hot and wet. These bacteria then accumulate in hair follicles and can cause pus bumps and inflammation that can be itchy, irritating, and lead to hyperpigmentation if not treated aggressively."

Long story short, sweating is good for skin, but be sure to wash your face and body as soon as you can post-sweat to avoid breakouts and other skin irritation.

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Sweat Makes You Happy

No, seriously! When you're hot, your heart picks up its pumping pace. "Hot blood from the interior can swoosh past the veins near the skin, get cooled down by sweating, and then circle back to cool the interior," Everts explains. "This workout for your heart releases happy hormones, like endorphins, that give you a biochemical rush of joy and catharsis."

Your sweaty self can also make those around you feel happier, too. In a 2015 study, men watched video clips intended to induce fear, happiness, or a neutral emotional state. They collected sweat samples afterward, and then exposed women to them. The result: "happy sweat" sniffers exhibited traits of happiness, such as a genuine or Duchenne smile, which is marked by the upward turn of the corners of the mouth, the lifting of the cheeks, and the crinkling of the skin around the eyes in a way that creates crow's feet. Those who sniffed the fear-soaked sweat pads exhibited facial characteristics associated with terror.

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Sweating Supports Your Heart

Sitting in the dry heat of a sauna—which can range in temps between 150°F and 195°F—is without a doubt a sweat-inducing event. As the sauna raises your body temperature, your body works overtime to cool itself down by sweating. In fact, during a sauna session, you can secrete about 1/2 kilogram of sweat. And you'll be better for it.

Here's why: A 20-year Finnish study published in Jama Internal Medicine found that people who sweated it out regularly in a sauna (think four times a week) not only had lower sudden cardiac death, but lower fatal coronary heart disease, fatal cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality. Bonus benefit: A study in the Journal of Human Hypertension revealed that as little as 30 minutes spent in the sauna was also linked to a decrease in blood pressure.

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Sweating a Lot Means You're Fit

If you're working out and your sweat is on the heavier side—we're not talking excessively, though, because that type of sweat is a sign of hyperhidrosis—give yourself a pat on the back. "Athletes active typically sweat sooner and more voluminously than inactive people, and more than the athlete would have prior to starting training," explains Everts. "That's because athletic bodies learn that when this individual gets active, they really get active and it's best to start the cooldown strategy pronto."

A PLOS ONE study confirms this. When researchers evaluated a group of long-distance runners along with sedentary folks by having them engage in cycling sessions, the runners in the bunch not only got sweatier sooner, but they also activated more sweat glands, resulting in a more profuse outpouring than their nonactive counterparts.

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  1. Shiohara T, Mizukawa Y, Shimoda-Komatsu Y, et al. Sweat is a most efficient natural moisturizer providing protective immunity at points of allergen entry. Allergol Int. 2018;67(4):442-447. doi:10.1016/j.alit.2018.07.010

  2. de Groot JH, Smeets MA, Rowson MJ, et al. A sniff of happiness. Psychol Sci. 2015;26(6):684-700. doi:10.1177/0956797614566318

  3. Laukkanen T, Khan H, Zaccardi F, et al. Association between sauna bathing and fatal cardiovascular and all-cause mortality events. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(4):542-548. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.8187

  4. Laukkanen T, Kunutsor SK, Zaccardi F, et al. Acute effects of sauna bathing on cardiovascular function. J Hum Hypertens. 2018;32(2):129-138. doi:10.1038/s41371-017-0008-z

  5. Lee JB, Kim TW, Min YK, et al. Long distance runners present upregulated sweating responses than sedentary counterparts. PLoS One. 2014;9(4):e93976 doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0093976

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