sweating in the sun

Summer Heat, Sweat, and your Skin

It’s been 90°F this week, with extremely high humidity levels. I’m sweating. It must be summer in Louisville.

Sweating is the body’s best defense against heat. Liquids absorb heat when they turn into vapor, so when sweat evaporates, it takes the warmth on your skin along with it. On high heat and humidity days, researchers say that your sweat glands can emit up to about 16 ounces of sweat if you’re sitting and up to 2 ½ gallons if you’re running a marathon. As the skin cools, so does the blood circulating beneath it and, in turn, the internal organs.

Skin feels coolest when you optimize sweat evaporation while shielding it from the blazing sun. That’s why when you sit outside on a hot, sun shiny day you’ll feel better in light, loose fitting clothing or other breathable materials, like athletic wear. These breathable clothing options can cut both the radiant and heat from humidity rates in half.

Blocking evaporation from the skin can make you feel hotter and even cause heat rash. Heat rash looks like your skin is covered in tiny red bumps that oftentimes causes itching; it emerges when sweat clogs the pores in your skin. If you are prone to heat rash because of overheating, the best advice is to stay indoors in an air-conditioned room or well that has air circulating from fans.

If your skin is uncovered and you’re still breaking out, you may have sun rash. Sun rash may look the same as a heat rash, but is more common in early summer when your skin isn’t desensitized by increased sun exposure. Experts from the Mayo Clinic believe that sun rash may be triggered by an allergen inside the body that is activated by ultraviolet (UV) rays. You can prevent this condition by wearing a sunscreen to protect your skin, soothe it with a topical steroid cream, or use a cold compress. These OTC (over the counter) options should help it disappear within a few hours.

So what’s the most important take away from this little lesson on sweat? Keep your skin cool and dry by wearing breathe-able fabrics and both absorb and evaporate the moisture. If you’re prone to overheating, stay indoors. And if you haven’t been out in the sun for an extended period of time, say at the beginning of summer, make sure to apply sunscreen to protect yourself from harmful UV rays and overheating as a result of sunburn. Last but not least, sweating is good! If you’re not sweating, that’s when you should worry about your body’s excretory process.