If you’re going through a workout, chances are your outfit has absorbed quite a bit of sweat. But that sweat brings with it other contaminants, like skin oils and bacteria. So if you keep your workout gear on for hours or wear it for several days, you’re exposing your skin to less than fresh conditions.
When they get back into your skin through dirty clothes, trapped bacteria can multiply and cause irritation, rashes, and sweaty acne breakouts. Bacteria can even cause infection in your follicles or open cuts or scrapes. “Dirty, sweaty gym clothes are breeding grounds for pathogens like bacteria and viruses, and using them can increase your risk of surface skin infections,” dermatologist Deanne Mraz Robinson, MD, tells The Healthy.
In some cases, this trinity of sweat, heat, and bacteria can also cause conditions like heat rash, by clogging your sweat glands, or intertrigo, a form of skin inflammation (via Runner’s World). And for anyone who has a vagina, there’s another infamous consequence of bacterial imbalance: yeast infections. Re-wearing dirty sweatpants or underwear can be particularly dangerous in the naturally humid and high temperature conditions around the genitals, triggering an uncomfortable bout of bacterial vaginosis (via Health Shots).
All in all, the situation is pretty bad. So the next time you do laundry, how can you make sure you’re washing the right workout clothes to keep your skin clean, dry, and protected?