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Sweat Pimples: Does Sweat Cause Acne?

Bacteria: The Link Between Sweat And Acne

Sweat itself does not cause acne but it can worsen acne prone skin and existing breakouts. Sweat is not inherently dirty - it is a liquid made up of mostly water, followed by trace elements of salt, fat, protein, urea and uric acid, ammonia and metabolic waste. In fact, one of the components that is secreted in (eccrine) sweat is the protein Dermcidin (DCD), a broad-spectrum antibiotic and antimicrobial peptide that helps to fight off pathogenic bacteria or fungus that are present on the skin. Studies have proven the integral role that dermcidin plays in the epithelial innate defense system against skin infection and tissue injury. Acne bumps and blemishes are triggered when sweat comes in contact with existing acne-causing bacteria, dirt, dust, atmospheric pollution, pressure, friction or trapped heat (from headbands, hats, clothing, or backpack straps).

When Sweat Meets Friction

Sweating - whether from temperature increase (hot weather or exercise) or from emotional and physical stress - may contribute to a specific type of acne breakouts commonly referred to as sweat pimples, and medically termed as 'acne mechanica'. Sweat pimples are a minor skin condition due to the skin's response to excessive heat, sweating or exercise and can develop anywhere on the face or body. While sweat and dirt play a role in acne mechanica, the key contributing factor is friction. The irritation caused by the combination of sweat, friction, and bacteria that gets trapped under your skin (holding heat and sweat against the skin) causes the the pores to become blocked thus triggering acne. The friction creates micro-trauma or mini-abrasions that cause acne lesions and inflammation, allowing acne to worsen, deepen and enlarge with continuing pressure and heat. Because acne mechanica triggers are rooted in our daily routines and lifestyle, and exacerbated during the summer months, the treatment to completely remove these offenders are not practical nor realistic. Instead, focus on proactive measure and implement preventative practices by maintaining proper hygiene to thwart breakouts from forming in the first place.

How To Spot Sweat Pimples

Anything that traps heat and sweat, rubs, stretch, squeeze or puts pressure against the skin for a prolonged period of time can trigger acne mechanica. Sweat pimples presents itself as inflammatory skin lesions with red, inflamed or itchy rash-like appearance and may also consist of inconspicuous comedones (blackheads or whiteheads), pustules (red, tender bumps with white pus at their tips) and papules (small raised, tender bump on the skin with no pus). In the early stages, the skin may just feel rough or bumpy with no visible pimples, but as acne mechanica progresses, these tiny breakouts can continue to become irritated and progress to more obvious, inflamed blemishes. Acne mechanica can occur anywhere on the body where skin is frequently exposed to friction or pressure, most commonly the face (forehead, scalp, nose, chin, cheeks, brows), neck, arms, legs, torso and buttocks. Common aggravators include rubbing and wiping away of sweat with the hands or a cloth, sunglasses, hats and headbands, face masks, bra and handbag straps, tight-fitting clothes and undergarments, athletic equipment, pads, and helmets and even resting the phone on your face for long periods of time.

Precautions To Help Prevent Sweat Pimples

  1. Cleanse before and immediately after: Reduce the chance of acne by maintaining proper hygiene before, during and after sweating. Wash your face in the morning before your daytime activities and immediately after a sweaty activity like a workout, hike, or simple adventures in the sun. Use a facial cleanser and body wash with antibacterial, antimicrobial and antifungal properties.

  2. Resist touching your sweaty face and skin: Most people touch their face as a reflex without any conscious control. Realize that you're doing it and then take measures to stop touching, rubbing or picking at the skin or existing acne. This can prevent transfer of bacteria from your hands to the site and eliminate infections and irritation.

  3. Pat, don't wipe: The friction from wiping away the sweat with your hand, shirt, towel, etc., along with potential transfer of bacteriacreatesopportunity for sweat pimples to form. Instead, lightly pat away the sweat with a clean soft, antimicrobial towel or allow the damp area to air dry naturally. Patting won't tug or pull at your skin, reducing irritation.

  4. Add a physical barrier: Creating a physical barrier between the irritating item and your skin will reduce friction and prevent the spread of bacteria and secondary infection. We recommend hydrocolloid patches to protect wounded or troubled area from getting worse while helping to support the healing process of existing pimples.

  5. Avoid wearing tight, rough clothing or accessories: Synthetic fabrics can worsen acne because it traps heat against the body. Opt instead for natural fabrics, like breathable cotton. Avoid things that rub against your skin. Don't wear sunglasses, hats, tight-fitting caps, or headbands for long periods of time.

  6. Use non-comedogenic non-acnegenic products: Incorporate skincare and makeup products that are formulated in such a way that is safe to use on all skin types, including acne-prone skin and are not likely to cause pore blockages (comedones) and breakouts and are . As much as possible, avoid wearing makeup in the summer as it is a big contributor and aggravator for pimples.

Skincare Products That Help Prevent Sweat Pimples

Fight and prevent acne mechanica with Purity from 302 Professional Skincare, a gentle yet effective sanitizing gel that can be used as a waterless cleanser to or excellent for acne as a refresher during the day to keep skin bacteria and pimple free. Helps prevent and reduce acne and is an effective natural substitute for damaging antibacterial products such as benzoyl peroxide.

TIP: Apply just prior to or post workout or sweaty session to eliminate sweat pimples on forehead, hairline, nose, chin, cheeks, brows, back and body.

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