Before wiping the sweat off your body, you might want to understand why it is there in the first place. The reason why humans sweat is to aid in heat dissipation (getting rid of heat). This allows the body to maintain its thermoregulation, or keep its core temperature steady regardless of the external environment. Sweating is extremely important in the process of thermoregulation because it is one of the body’s only ways of getting rid of heat. So, there are times when it is good to let your sweat drip and times when it is better to wipe it off.
Anhidrosis, also known as hypohidrosis, is the inability to produce sweat or deliver it to the surface of the skin. It is one of the most serious sweating conditions. There are several potential causes of anhidrosis and its effects can be severe, and in some cases, life threatening. All people who have anhidrosis will experience the inability to sweat, but the other symptoms they may experience are usually related to the type of anhidrosis they have.
When Not to Wipe
When people are exercising or in an environment with a high temperature sweating is essential to keep the body’s temperature from getting too high. In these circumstances, it may be best not to wipe you sweat away. This is because sweat transfers heat from your body to the environment when it evaporates off of the skin. During the sweating process blood vessels dilate and hot liquid from the vessels is pumped onto your skin by your sweat glands so that the heat can be transferred to the air around the body. By wiping sweat away, you are hindering that process and preventing your body from cooling off like it needs to. This could allow your body to overheat and hinder you from performing or feeling your best. On the other hand, wiping your sweat away is not likely to cause you to overheat, so don’t worry about it if you do. So, when in hot temperatures or during exercise refrain from wiping your sweat away if you can resist the urge.
When to Wipe
There are some times when it is important to wipe your sweat off. This applies if you have been sitting in sweat for a long period of time. It is standard hygiene practice not to sit in sweat for long periods of time. This is because there are bacteria on the surface of the skin that digest the proteins and fatty acids in odorless sweat and produce isovaleric acid and androsterone which are unpleasant smelling. This is especially true of sweat produced by apocrine glands, which is thicker and tends to smell worse. Apocrine glands are primarily located in your armpits and groin areas, so be sure to keep them clean. It is always advisable to wipe off sweat after a workout is completed or after being in a hot place for an extended period of time. It won't hurt to take a shower and put some fresh clothes on either.
Some people suffer from hyperhidrosis or bromhidrosis, conditions that can make people sweat too much or have especially stinky sweat, and it is important for people with these conditions to maintain their skin cleanliness. Hyperhidrosis causes people to sweat excessively even in the absence of sweat triggering stimuli, so they need to wipe away sweat frequently to prevent skin breakdown and irritation. For those with bromhidrosis, which causes sweat to be excessively stinky, keeping skin clean is imperative. The longer sweat sits on a person's skin the more time bacteria will have to break it down and create a foul odor.
So, if you are actively engaging in exercise or stuck in the heat resist the urge to wipe! However, if you have hyperhidrosis, bromhidrosis, or easily irritated skin then make sure to keep your skin clean and fresh after you are done with a workout and during normal daily life.
- Shibasak, M., & Crandall, C. G. (2010). Mechanisms and controllers of eccrine sweating in humans. Front Biosci (Schol Ed), 292-296. Retrieved March 5, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2866164/.
- Eshini, P., & Sinclair, R. (2013). Hyperhidrosis and bromhidrosis: A guide to assessment and management. Australian Family Physician, 42(5), 266-269. Retrieved March 5, 2019, from http://ezproxy.co.wake.nc.us/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1430424903?accountid=14867
- Pariser, D. M. (2014). Hyperhidrosis (4th ed., Vol. 32). Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier.