What Can Happen If You Don't Shower After Exercise

by Isadora Baum, CHC

Getting in a workout during the day is a huge accomplishment. With life being so busy, it's easy to let the time slip away. Working out regularly is great for your health; however, not showering after a workout can definitely put you in a sticky situation. Washing your hair, blowdrying, and applying makeup are necessities, but lathering up with some soap and water within 2-3 hours of exercising can keep skin clean, acne at bay, and odors fresh (which everyone will appreciate, of course).

As a certified health coach, I encourage clients to squeeze in time for a sweat session, one that really gets their heart rates up and skin to perspire. Sweating is awesome; it means you're detoxifying the body, clearing the skin, and working your body to its fullest potential. However, sitting in sweat for the remainder of the day or night can be pretty gross, and it can lead to clogged pores, gross smells, and less hygienic habits that can negatively impact health if not addressed stat. Here are 11 disgusting things that can happen if you forget to shower within a roughly three hour window. If you're short on time, grab some face and body wipes or wash your skin with some water. Any little bit helps.

1. Body Odor

Over email with Bustle, Dr. Arash Akhavan, MD, FAAD, founder and owner of The Dermatology & Laser Group in NYC explains that not washing the body after a workout can lead to bad body odor. "Most people don’t know it, but sweat itself does not usually carry an odor. It’s only when we leave sweat on our skin and let it interact with our bodies natural flora, that we begin to smell it," explains Akhavan. Shower shortly after working out to prevent the stink.

2. Increase In Bacteria

Akhavan advises that a buildup of bacteria, which can be smelly and bad for your health and wellbeing, can come from a lack of showering or washing the body after a tough workout. The sweat will lead to bacteria, which can cause infections and gross smells. "When bacteria on our skin digest the contents of our sweat, they produce byproducts that release an odor. These bacteria are most prevalent in our underarms, groin, and feet making them the smelliest areas of all," says Akhavan. Make sure to really wash these areas in the shower.

3. Acne

Bacne (back + acne) is real. Akhavan explains that cleaning out pores post-workout is key for clearer skin. "Although sweat itself doesn’t usually cause the most typical forms of acne, sometimes our sweat can mix with bacteria such as staphylococcus aureus (staph bacteria) and certain types of yeast called pityrosporum and cause inflamed follicles that can appear as acne-like lesions on our face and torso," Akhavan says. Shower or wash your face post workout to avoid acne at the gym.

4. Decreased Immunity

Akhavan warns that not showering shortly after working out can lower immunity, leaving you exposed to contracting diseases and bacterial infections. "Even the cleanest gyms and studios can have yoga mats, stretch areas and other equipment that can become colonized with viruses, fungi, and bacteria. Infectious diseases such as ringworm, bacterial infections, and viral warts are more easily transmitted in moist environments making showering off the sweat and drying off even more critical," says Akhavan.

5. Brown Spots On Skin

Gross, right? A condition called dermatitis neglecta can cause a cumulation of dirt on the skin when the body is too sweaty and doesn't get washed in enough time. Of course, it takes weeks or months for this condition to really set in, but think of it as a warning that without showering, your skin can get pretty discolored and stinky.

6. Stinky Scalp

If exposed to too much bacteria from sweat after working out, and left unwashed, your hair and scalp can start to smell bad, explains New York City dermatologist Jules Abadi in Cosmopolitan, and reported again in Livestrong. Abadi recommends using shampoo with zinc, tar, or sulfur to soak up the oils or to meet with a dermatologist for a prescription.

7. Increased Sunburn Exposure

Oddly enough, when your body is drenched in sweat, its UV protection is lower, and this can cause you to be more exposed to sunburns. If you live in a sunny area, this is especially important (looking at you, Florida and California). Wearing SPF when working out (especially if you're working out outdoors) will help, as will showering soon after exercising.

8. Skin Rashes

According to Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM over interview with MedicineNet, a heat rash can occur when there's excess bacteria and sweat on the body. If you forget to shower within two or three hours, you're amping up your risk of contraction to these types of skin infections. Wash with cool water to avoid irritation.

9. Yeast Infections

As explained by Cynthia Haines, MD on Everyday Health, wearing gross gym clothes for too long and forgoing a nice, clean shower right after working out can put you at risk of getting a yeast infection (which obviously isn't too pleasant). Shower asap to protect your goods. Soap is great, but water is the most necessary.

10. Dirty Sheets

"If you go to bed without showering after you work up a sweat, you are rubbing that dirt and salt into your bed sheets, which means the next time you climb into bed when you have showered (or worse still, someone else climbs into your bed), your stinky sheets will be there waiting, and you will rub that dirt and sweat back on to your (or their) clean body," explains Tina Muir, an elite runner for Saucony, and the Community Manager for Runners Connect over email with Bustle.

11. Increase In Saltiness

"In the summertime, the sweat sits on our skin for a lot longer than it does in the winter, and those first few hot weather runs leave salt all over your face," explains Muir. Here's a funny way of thinking of it, too, adds Muir, "The next time someone goes to kiss you on the cheek or forehead, they are going to be greeted with grainy, salty powder on their lips. If you are in the early stages of a relationship, they might suddenly stop returning your calls."

Not showering after working out can be fine for a few moments, but waiting a couple hours can be pretty gross. It's important to have good hygiene for better health (and friends), as those around you will certainly appreciate your dedication to cleanliness.

Images: Pixabay (12)