Find out the link between sweat and skin sensitivity here. By Dawn Chen
Photo: ammentorp / www.123rf.com
You love hitting the gym or lacing up to go for a run, but you’re often plagued by itchy, red skin afterwards. Could you possibly be allergic to your own sweat? Well, the answer is (unfortunately) a resounding “yes,” says Dr Mark Tang, consultant dermatologist at The Skin Specialists and Laser Clinic, Mount Alvernia Medical Centre.
As much as sweating is a natural bodily function, some people’s sweat actually irritates and causes inflammation to their own skin. If that sounds like you, don’t worry. It doesn’t mean you’ll have to give up on exercise. Dr Tang explains how sweat and skin sensitivity is related below. (Also Read: 6 Ways to Keep Your Skin Acne-Free While You Work Out)
Why does sweat lead to more sensitive skin?
Dr Tang: Sweating is a well-known and well-recognised factor that can cause skin irritation in some people. In fact, there is good medical evidence that some individuals, especially those with atopic eczema, are truly allergic to their own sweat!
Skin irritation can be caused by the body heat that is generated during sweating. Sweat also contains a sweat “protein” that can induce an allergic or inflammatory response in some susceptible individuals.
Finally, persistently moist, sweaty areas around our skin folds – such as the inner thighs and armpits – are predisposed to bacterial or fungal infections of the skin, which worsens skin irritation.
Why are eczema sufferers more prone to sweat sensitivity?
Dr Tang: Ceramides, which are naturally occurring lipids, are one of the key components of the ‘cement’ that holds our skin cells together. This ‘cement’ provides structural integrity to the skin barrier and also forms a waterproof ‘seal’ over the skin, protecting us from external elements such as germs, dust and allergens. In many patients with eczema or inflamed skin, there is a decrease of ceramides in skin, leading to a disrupted skin barrier that is prone to water loss and increased irritation from outside elements.
Does sweat actually cleanse the skin or detox the body?
Dr Tang: The main function of sweat or perspiration is to regulate body temperature, which has to be kept constant at all times. So, as long as your core body temperature is increased, sweating will kick in to help us reduce our body temperature through heat loss via evaporation.
Sweat also contains some anti-microbial substances that protects us from skin infections, but it does not actually ‘cleanse’ the skin per se. It also does not detox the body as sweat does not break down or excrete toxins. Nonetheless, nothing beats the endorphin high after a good, sweaty work out!
Photo: ammentorp / www.123rf.com
What can someone do if their sweat stings their skin after working out?
Dr Tang: Moisturising is actually important before and after exercise. During exercise, especially long distance running or cycling, use a thick waxy moisturiser over sites of high friction, like the inner thighs, armpits or soles, to prevent skin abrasions.
To prevent irritation from sweat, wear light, breathable sportswear that facilitates quick evaporation of sweat. Gel-based moisturisers are less occlusive and more effective for active sporty individuals.
Additionally, avoid prolonged exposure to sweat on the skin by wiping off sweat regularly and taking a shower immediately after exercise. Post-shower, use a good moisturiser to maintain and protect your skin’s natural barrier.
Does prolonged sun exposure lead to more sensitive skin?
Dr Tang: Yes, ultraviolet (UV) light rays from the sun causes cellular DNA damage and inflammation of our skin which can affect the integrity and function of the skin barrier. There will be redness, irritation, dryness and itch.
Sun -related rashes tend to affect prominent exposed areas such as the cheeks, front of the nose and V of the neck. So, we should always try to minimise unnecessary UV exposure – and definitely avoid getting a sun burn at all cost!
Find out more about skin sensitivity at the “Combat Skin Sensitivity with Experts” talk organised by Curel and Laurier Ultra Gentle happening on April 1, 2017. A panel of experts and dermatologists will be sharing professional advice and useful tips on various sensitive skin issues afflicting both children and adults. Click here for additional information, or to sign up.