health

Sorry, but here are 5 gross things that happen if you re-wear your sweaty workout clothes.

You've smashed out a HIIT workout or got the old legs pumping on a lengthy coastal walk, and you're feeling all good and nice about yourself (go you!). You go home, peel off your tights and bra and leave them draped over a chair to kinda air out... cause they'll be right to re-wear for tomorrow's sweat sesh, right? You've never noticed anything shady, so it must be okay... right?

Watch: Speaking of exercise... check out our chat with Sam Wood. Post continues below. 


Video via Mamamia

Whether you're secretly notorious for re-wearing your tights, or you're the type of gal that works out then ends up staying in gym clothes for coffee, brunch or lounging, please prepare yourself for some impending grossness. Soz. 

Because we hit up some experts to find out everything that could go wrong when you re-wear workout clothes - and it's... a lot. Ranging from acne breakouts to rashes and yeast infections, it might make you think twice before wearing the same workout clothes on repeat.

1. You'll smell stanky.

What? I smell fine! We hear you say. No... you don't, friend. Fact: if something smells after you worked out in it once, it's still going to smell until you wash it. 

That's because moisture mixed with bacteria equals odour. And since you already have bacteria coating the surfaces of your entire body (if you didn't already know this, surprise!), re-wearing sweaty gym clothes means you're really ramping things up and basically adding fuel to the fire. 

2. You'll have irritated skin.

This kinda goes without saying, but stewing in your sweaty clothes can irritate the hell out of your skin. 

Basically, if you wear clothing and sweat in it and that clothing stays wet/damp, more yeast is going to thrive on it. If you then put that same clothing back on, you are introducing a higher level of yeast to your skin (especially in areas like skin folds, groins, under your boobs etc.), which can lead to nasty bouts of irritation and a heap of other not-so-good issues, including painful, itchy rashes. No good.

ADVERTISEMENT

"Irritated skin tends to present with itch, dryness and sensitivity. Skincare products and even water may sting or burn if the skin barrier is compromised and the skin can become very itchy or sore. Sweaty clothing will cause increased discomfort and worsen the problem," said dermatologist Dr Cara McDonald from Complete Skin Specialists Dermatology.

Sound familiar? "If the skin is irritated after exercise, it is important to wash it straight after with soap-free wash to remove the sweat from the skin. This should be followed by a gentle fragrance-free moisturiser to support the skin barrier and help with repair," said McDonald.

3. You might experience chafing and dermatitis.

Yep - both are not ideal.

"The thing about our skin is that when healthy, it is resilient and robust. It can tolerate variable temperatures, microbial contamination, blunt forces, prolonged water immersion and extreme stretching! The role of the skin barrier (the waterproof protective mechanism of the outer skin) is to allow us to live in diverse environments and keep us safe," explained McDonald.

Go skin!

However, when your skin is not healthy, or the skin barrier is compromised, you're in for a bad time if you're re-wearing dirty exercise clothes. "The moisture and other components of sweat can cause significant irritation and inflammation, resulting in further skin breakdown. This may present with chaffing or dermatitis. Compromised skin may also be more prone to infection and congestion, resulting in acne."

4. You'll probably notice breakouts on your body.

"When you re-wear workout clothes without washing them, sweat, bacteria, dead skin cells (we lose millions per day) and dirt combined, stick to your clothing and rub onto your skin," said Sarah Hudson from Skin by Sarah Hudson.

"This can trigger the skin's inflammatory response, leading to a condition called folliculitis. This occurs when hair follicles become inflamed by a bacterial or fungal infection and may commonly be seen on the thighs, buttocks and arms," said Hudson.

Listen: Want to learn more about folliculitis? Of course you do. Listen to Mamamia's podcast for your face, You Beauty, where we talk about what it is, why you get it and how to get rid of it. Post continues below.

So, when you see those red, acne-like spots pop up on your butt, it's a good sign that you've been wearing your tight workout clothes too long. 

"Buttne (butt acne), which is a form of folliculitis, is the result of bacteria infecting the hair follicle and may be caused by re-wearing sweaty gym clothes or wearing your gym clothes all day without showering."

If you're prone to body acne and butt spots, Hudson suggested using an anti-bacterial face cleanser (with AHAs) in the shower to help prevent the bacteria from infecting the hair follicle. And obviously, don't re-wear your sweaty gym clothes.

5. You might get thrush.

If you go about your day in your sweat-drenched clothes, fungi can multiply quickly and cause a burning or itching sensation where you absolutely do not want a burning or itching sensation - your vagina. We're talking about your vagina.

"Exercise clothes get a unique mix of perspiration and warmth that can act like a culture medium for the growth of bacteria and fungi. Most modern forms of exercise clothing are made of synthetic fabrics with high levels of elastase or other materials to make them stretchy and body hugging," said Associate Professor Gino Pecoraro from the National Association of Specialist Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (NASOG). 

On top of this, there’s just generally way more friction in this area (your groin) when you’re moving, which increases the risk of pathogens moving deeper into the skin and causing a lot of other issues. 

*Shudders*.

"While many of the sports companies advertise abilities of these fabrics to wick away sweat, they may not allow the underlying skin to breathe as easily as less fashionable and formfitting cotton garments," explained Prof. Pecoraro.

So when you wear tight clothes, clothes that aren't breathable, and moist or wet clothes, this can trigger yeast infections, according to Prof. Pecoraro.

"It has long been known that the wearing of tight-fitting synthetic undergarments can promote the growth of candida in a woman’s vagina, as they trap both heat and moisture making the perfect environment for thrush to thrive. Other perineal bacteria can include coliforms (from the bowel) like E. coli and staph which can cause significant skin and even deeper infections."

Eww!

To avoid this, make sure you change out of your gym clothes after working out and jump in a shower straight after (or at least wipe yourself down with a body wipe).

The short answer: It's gross.

While the above warnings will depend on a lot of different factors, such as your skin type, how sweaty the clothes really are, where they are sweaty and how long you'll have them on, it kinda seems like re-wearing your gym clothes is still a bold move. 

"Gyms are full of sweat and bacteria, showering and washing your clothes ASAP after your workout will help to prevent folliculitis, chaffy and skin irritation. Most importantly, this will help to stop the spread of bacteria," said Hudson.

While we're all for minimal effort, some things you just can't skimp on (read: washing). "It just makes sense to have a clean set of exercise clothes before every workout," said Prof. Pecoraro. That it does Prof. Pecoraro. That it does.

Feature: Getty

What's your stance on the topic? Do you ever re-wear your workout clothes? Share with us in the comment section below.

00:00 / ???