How to Look Fresh After Working Up a Sweat

smiling after workout
Keep your cool, even when you're sweating.

Sometimes sweating is unavoidable. After a workout, or when you're under more stress than usual, you'll feel wetness in areas of your body that have the highest concentrations of sweat glands. Your upper lip, scalp, forehead, underarms, groin and the soles of your feet are likely to sweat the most. You may think of sweat as the enemy, but it's important for your overall health. Spicy foods are particularly popular in regions that experience hotter climates because they encourage sweating and make people feel more comfortable when the temperatures soar. That jalapeno or habanero pepper may be tasty, but it's also an aid that helps the body feel cooler through its ability to sweat [source: Brody].

A little sweat is a good thing. It contributes to a slightly acidic environment on the surface of the skin that normally retards bacterial growth, and the little bit of oil in sweat creates a film that helps keep skin soft and naturally moisturized. Think of it this way: Sweat is good. It's the burgeoning bacterial colonies that grow in abundant sweat that can be a problem.


The eccrine glands produce a majority of the salty sweat that keeps the skin cool as a kind of natural air conditioning. It's not the only type of sweat the body produces, though. The apocrine glands produce sweat, too. They're located near hair follicles, so where you have lots of hair, you have the most apocrine glands. Beyond keeping you cool through sweating, the apocrine glands also remove impurities from the body in sweat. Apocrine gland sweat can have a sour odor sometimes, but it isn't the sweat itself that smells unpleasant. Bacteria feed on expelled fatty acids and proteins in apocrine gland sweat, and their waste has that distinctive "sweaty" odor that smells like the inside of a dirty sock.

Just because sweat is a natural bodily function doesn't mean that you can't work with your body to stay fresh and keep odor under control. Let's take a look at a few ways you can work up a sweat and still look and smell fresh.


Tips for Looking Fresh After a Workout

Sweat is inevitable, but it doesn't have to be embarrassing. You can deal with the wetness and potential odor that accompanies a good workout a number of ways:

  • Wear the right clothes. Sweat that stays on your body generates odor. Look for clothing that pulls moisture away from your skin and evaporates it quickly. Cotton is a natural fiber that has some wicking action, but sweat can stay in cotton fibers for quite a while, making the fabric moist, heavy and uncomfortable. Newer, synthetic materials and blends made with polypropylene are lightweight and comfortable because they draw moisture away from you but don't absorb it like cotton does. They're usually sold as "breathable" fabrics and are common in sports and warm weather attire [source: Rodriguez].
  • Cool down. Your body doesn't stop perspiring immediately after a workout. Take a few minutes to cool down before you freshen up. That way you'll be removing most of the perspiration.
  • Kill odor causing bacteria.Use a deodorant that contains Triclosan, an antimicrobial used in personal care products like toothpaste and soap, as well as textiles, carpeting, plastics and other goods. It's very effective at killing bacteria that can lead to underarm odor [source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency].
  • Reduce wetness. To help keep wetness under control, choose antiperspirants that contain aluminum salts like aluminum zirconium tricholorhydrex glycine or aluminum chloride. Aluminum salts block the ducts that carry sweat to the surface of the skin. An aluminum salt should be one of the top couple of ingredients on the antiperspirant label.
  • Refresh without water.To freshen up when you can't indulge in a shower, there are wet wipe products on the market designed to deal with adult perspiration. They feel wet to the touch and may even lather somewhat on contact. They're large enough to handle a quick cleanup and typically contain antibacterial agents, moisturizers and a light fragrance.
  • Consider underarm shields. Using underarm sweat pads or shields is another way to control unwanted perspiration. Apocrine sweat glands are densely clustered in the underarm area, which makes armpit perspiration a common problem. Using a localized pad to trap moisture will protect clothing and limit or eliminate embarrassing underarm stains. Underarm shields are available as disposable pads or washable inserts. There are also cotton varieties that can be sewn permanently to the underarm areas of a garment. For the best protection, look for underarm shields treated with triclosan or another antimicrobial agent that will kill bacteria as well as trap wetness.


Lots More Information

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