Why do we sweat so much in the summer, and what does it mean for our microbiome? We we suggest all that perspiration might be more biome-friendly than you think, and how natural deodorant and skin care products can help.
We're deep in the "dog days" of summer, and for much of the United States, that means lots of heat and humidity. This inevitably causes us all to sweat, no matter how many layers of natural deodorant we apply. But is this really such a bad thing?
Even though everyone perspires, most of us don’t really know why. It turns out, sweat serves a very specific (and helpful!) purpose. So before you spend your summer cursing this natural process, you may want to learn about all the good things sweat is doing for your body every day.
We’ll break it down for you.
So, what is sweat?
From our own sensory experience, we know that sweat looks a lot like water, and tastes a lot like salt. That's a good start.
Sweat is indeed 99 percent water and 1 percent...other stuff. That “other stuff” depends on where in the body the sweat is coming from.
All-over sweat: From birth, your skin is covered in active sweat-producing glands called eccrine glands. These glands open up into the top layer of the skin and produce clear, odorless sweat that is secreted constantly at low levels and at higher levels when you get hot. The non-water-1 percent of this type of sweat consists of sodium, chloride, ammonia, urea, potassium, magnesium, lactate, bicarbonate, iron, and a variety of proteins.
Localized sweat: At puberty, another type of sweat gland becomes active: apocrine glands. These are only in certain parts of the body, namely our genitals, armpits, and breasts. Sweat from these glands is slightly milky in color and its 1 percent of non-water consists of the ingredients above as well as a collection of steroids, proteins, and lipids. As apocrine glands open into a hair canal, the sebum found there also mixes in that 1 percent. Unlike in the eccrine sweat glands, this sweat is released intermittently.
The apocrine glands give sweat a bad rep. The proteins found in these localized glands attach to odor-causing molecules. When certain bacteria found on your skin interacts with the sweat, the molecules are released and voila, BO. You read that right: It’s not actually sweat that’s causing a smell!
You can see a pretty cool video explaining this process here.
How much sweat do we (and should we) produce, on average?
Everyone's capacity to sweat is different, based on the individual's body size, fitness, and number of sweat glands. For reference, these range somewhere between 2 million and 4 million! So if you’re perspiring a little more than a coworker or peer, well...don’t sweat it. It’s not your fault.
On average, people sweat 0.7-1.5 liters per hour when exercising. Extreme athletes can sweat up to 4 liters in the same amount of time.
That’s a lot of liquid. Though many of us will be happy to see these sweaty days of summer come to an end, there are some secret benefits to sweat at play…
Why should we love sweat?
You read that right. Sweat is so much more than a social and physical annoyance.
Perspiration has a specific purpose: it cools us down in the heat, and cleanses our bodies of toxins. After all, Mother Nature pushed us to evolve with this key function. It’s an important part of our functioning as humans!
Moreover, Nitrosomonas, the Ammonia-Oxidizing Bacteria found in our biome-friendly skin spray, thrive on sweat. They eat it to convert irritants into beneficial byproducts for the skin. Sweat, then, actually helps keep your skin clean! That’s why we’re more “know sweat” than “no sweat” at Mother Dirt.
All this knowledge begs one question: Why did we start seeing sweat as gross, when it’s actually helping to keep us clean? Moreover, why do we think over-cleaning and over-showering will make it any better? While it’s tempting to blame sweat for skin problems, it might be time to time to re-think that anti-sweat, ultra-clean attitude.
We urge you to consider a more natural and biome-friendly regimen for sweat control. If you keep your biological sweat-control systems in place instead of scrubbing them away, who knows? You might notice your perspiration is way less bothersome...or you’ll stop noticing it altogether.
It’s time we reconsider what it means to be healthy and clean, and in turn, rethink sweat!