When we get too hot, the body's temperature centre in the hypothalamus sends a signal to the sweat glands to produce sweat, explains Dr Barbara J. Holtzclaw. And it's the evaporation of that salty liquid on our skin that cools us down. Essentially, perspiration acts as the body's A.C. unit and keeps us from overheating.
If that isn't reason enough to start embracing sweat, read on. Because there are plenty of other reasons to get comfortable with your beautiful, glistening self—plus a few ways to make sweating it out a bit more comfortable:
1. Most sweat doesn't stink.
Most people hate sweat because they think it smells. But guess what? Most perspiration is completely odourless.
Scorching, 30-degree days and intense yoga sessions activate eccrine sweat glands. And the sweat they produce is mostly made up of water and electrolytes, neither of which smells, Holtzclaw explains. (Though some synthetic fabrics can trap body heat and interfere with the evaporation of sweat and produce an odour of their own, she notes.)
Smelly sweat comes from apocrine sweat glands, which are only activated when we're feeling stressed, anxious, fearful or aroused. Because this type of sweat is thick and oily, it traps bacteria on the skin, resulting in an unpleasant odour, Holtzclaw explains.
2. You produce exactly as much sweat as you should.
Remember, your body has your back: it's automatically producing sweat to keep you from overheating, and it knows just how much perspiration you need. But each person is different. The amount of eccrine sweat you produce on a particular day depends on a lot of factors, including the weather and the amount of sweat glands you have. If you're used to hot climates, your body adjusts to sweat more efficiently. However, if your body is used to a cool climate, you may produce more sweat in the heat, Holtzclaw says. So whether you're dripping in sweat or merely glistening, know that your body is only doing what's best for you, which is actually pretty awesome.
3. Being totally sweat-free is risky.
You may have heard about people getting Botox injections or light wave treatments like MiraDry or MiraSmooth to help them sweat less. Though the idea may sound appealing, proceed with caution, says Dr James Mold. These treatments may cause burning, itching, swelling and bruising that can last for weeks. Not to mention, long-term side effects are not yet clear, Mold says. "It's generally not a good idea to mess with Mother Nature or to have treatments for purely cosmetic reasons unless the benefits clearly outweigh the risks."
Still not quite ready to embrace perspiration?
Don't sweat it! (See what we did there?) Try these natural and healthy ways to stay dry:
- Layer with cotton. Unlike synthetic materials that trap heat without wicking away sweat, cotton absorbs sweat and dries quickly, making it an ideal base layer.
- Find your zen. If you're more worried about body odour than actual sweat, consider taking up meditation, yoga or another calming practice. Stress tells the apocrine glands to secrete water and lipids, which is a feast for odour-causing bacteria.
- Avoid excess caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant, so when you have too much of it, it puts your body into flight-or-fight mode and causes your apocrine glands to go into overdrive. If you tend to get balmy after a few too many cups of iced coffee, take that as a sign it's time to dial back.
(Note: If you sweat excessively even when you're not overheated, or you feel you're not sweating enough, check in with your doctor. This could be a sign you have an underlying medical condition—and possibly a serious one.)