While it is often thought that excessive sweating can cause seborrheic dermatitis, this is not the case. However, when you sweat, your pores produce more sebum. Leaving sweat on your skin also encourages bacterial growth and causes an imbalance of your skin bacteria and fungi eco-system. This is how sweating can aggravate seborrheic dermatitis and make the condition worse.
Let’s look into how you can prevent sweating from aggravating seborrheic dermatitis:
Can sweat cause seborrheic dermatitis?
There are many risk factors for seborrheic dermatitis including genetics, oily skin causing Malassezia overgrowth, skin flora dysbiosis and impaired skin barrier. Sweating in itself is not a cause for seborrheic dermatitis if you have no other risk factors which would have caused you to suffer from SD anyway.
If sweating caused seborrheic dermatitis, half the world’s population who live in tropical countries would have SD. However, sweating can aggravate SD if you already suffer from it.
Does sweat make seborrheic dermatitis worse?
Sweating is a natural process that is essential for health. However, for people with seborrheic dermatitis, sweating can be a trigger for itchiness and irritation. Sweating automatically triggers more sebum production, leading to oily skin. You can feel your skin after you’ve come in from an exercise session. It often feels cold and clammy, and oily. Yucks. Oil, as you know, encourages Malassezia growth and proliferation.
Allowing sweat to sit on your skin over a longer period of time also encourages bacterial growth. The balance of good and bad bacteria as well as fungi on our skin is delicate. When there is an overgrowth of bad bacteria, you get more inflammation and damage to your skin barrier.
So yes, sweating almost certainly aggravates seborrheic dermatitis. In fact, a Thai study showed that seborrheic dermatitis flares were particularly associated with a warm and humid climate.
How to prevent a seborrheic dermatitis flare after exercise?
If you have seborrheic dermatitis, regular exercise is still important for your overall health. Just make sure you bring a towel to wipe the sweat off your face and neck at regular intervals.
And the moment you get home, shower as soon as you can after exercise to help reduce the chance of sweat and oil buildup leading to a flare-up.
Some people use dry shampoo to prevent oil build-up on their scalp after exercise. If you absolutely can’t bring yourself to wash your hair after exercising, you can use dry shampoo as an interim measure. However, with dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp, dry shampoo often doesn’t cut it. I definitely recommend you wash your scalp and hair out properly as soon as possible to get rid of the sweat and grime.
This is the only dry shampoo I use:
How to prevent a seborrheic dermatitis flare if you live in a warm, humid climate?
The key to preventing seborrheic dermatitis flare-ups is to figure out what triggers them and avoid them. However, if you live in a warm and humid climate, you can’t change that. It’s not like you can just up and go to a cooler country.
Here are a few things I’ve found helped to keep myself cool and sweat-free when I was living in a hot and humid tropical climate:
- wear breathable, light clothing made of natural fibers like cotton, linen and bamboo.
- stay out of the sun, especially in the afternoon. (Read: Does sunlight help seborrheic dermatitis?)
- exercise in gyms (or in the comfort of your own home) instead of outside.
- choose cold or lukewarm baths or showers. The moment you get out of a hot baths or shower, you’re already sweating again.
- Avoid roughly scrubbing your face too hard or use cleansers that are abrasive. This can dry your skin our and cause rebound sebum production, leading to oilier skin than before.
- Stay in the shade when it’s hot outside. Wear sunscreen and protective clothing when outdoors.
- Stay well-hydrated.
- If you’ve been outdoors, shower and change into clean clothes the moment you get back in-doors.
- Have the fans turned on all the time and the windows open for ongoing air-flow and ventilation.
- As counterintuitive as it is, use a good moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated.
How to prevent a seborrheic dermatitis flare if you sweat a lot?
What if you live in a nice, cool environment but still sweat a lot? Whether it’s genetics or due to hormones, some people just do. Then, the same tips for people living in warm, humid climates also apply to you. The main thing you need to remember is to always keep cool by having good airflow in the home and wearing breathable fabric.
Make sure you have a hankerchief or towel to dab at sweat that forms so it doesn’t sit on your skin. Shower and wash your hair often to get rid of sweat and grime.
And avoid oily food. Read more about the link between oily food and seborrheic dermatitis.
To wrap up
Excessive sweating does not cause seborrheic dermatitis, but sweating can aggravate the condition. If you suffer from seborrheic dermatitis, be sure to keep the affected areas clean and dry, and try to avoid situations that will make you sweat.