The next time you’re at the gym, you’re bound to see tons of men wearing compression gear. There’s a reason tight workout clothes are trendy: not only do they look great, but they also prevent any loose material from getting in the way of doing burpees or lunge jumps. But can wearing constrictive shorts and pants all day negatively affect your health? As it turn out, it can, particularly if you like to lounge around in your gym clothes while they’re still sweaty form that intense Crossfit circuit.
Hanging out in your sweaty gym wear for too long after your workout can lead to a host of skin and bacterial conditions, including yeast infections. Yup — men can get yeast infections, too. In fact, balanitis, or inflammation of the head of the penis, is pretty common (though it’s much more so among uncircumcised men). Here’s what you need to know.
What causes male yeast infections?
The most common cause of male yeast infections is having unprotected sex with a woman who has a yeast infection. So don’t do that. A sneakier way to come down with balanitis, however, is poor hygiene in the groin area, which includes letting sweat from your workout fester below the belt.
According to Dr. Mikhail Varshavski, wearing tight as opposed to loose workout clothes can “increase the likelihood of sweating and buildup of fungus.” Varshavski adds that dermatophytes, or fungi that feed on dead skin cells, as well as hair and nails, can cause jock itch or other types of fungal infections. Sweaty, moist environments are also playpens for candida, the fungus that causes yeast infections.
“Fungi like dermatophytes and yeast thrive in dark, humid, and warm environments,” explains Varshavski. “They need the moisture to reproduce and feed themselves, as they are very simple organisms and are unable to adapt well to other environments.”
If you have a compromised immune system, you might also be at risk. As with any skin condition, there can be multiple causes and links for a yeast infection.
What are the symptoms of male yeast infections?
In short, redness, itchiness, or swelling around the head of your penis.
The longer you stay in your tight workout gear, the higher your chances are of developing these symptoms. After you finish a workout be sure to hop in the shower stat, or at least change out of your dirty clothes.
How can I prevent a male yeast infection?
Again, don’t have unprotected sex with a woman who has a yeast infection. That’s a big one. Also: Make sure you’re washing yourself downstairs with regularity. If you’re not near a shower after you work out, you should still carry cleansing wipes with you to freshen your skin and avoid bacterial growth. (An additional tip: Make sure to clean your sweaty workout clothes thoroughly before wearing them again.)
Though tight workout clothes increase the risk of contracting a yeast infection, it’s still OK to wear compression gear in the gym, though it might not improve your workout — despite claims otherwise, the link between compression gear and increased athletic performance is tenuous at best. But try to be vigilant about how long you stay in your clothes, especially if they are dirty or moist.
It’s best to wear cotton whenever possible, Varshavski suggests. “Some fabrics can cause an allergic rash often related to their dyes, which is called contact dermatitis,” he says. Cotton leggings like the Under Armour Men’s ColdGear Armour Compression Leggings or this cotton compression crew neck T-shirt are safe bets.
“Cotton is an excellent fabric for reducing the chance to get a fungal infection,” he explains. “It is breathable, which will allow your body not to overheat, and it is moisture wicking so it will absorb the water away from your skin, therefore reducing the fungi’s ability to grow on your skin.”
How do I treat a male yeast infection?
It’s best to get an accurate diagnosis from a doctor, but if you suspect you have a yeast infection, it can usually be cured with an over-the-counter cream like Lotrimin.