The Secret of A Hippo’s Silky Skin Regime

While most people cool off under a high-powered fan or equip themselves with umbrellas to fight the mighty sunrays, the hippopotamus, Hippopotamus amphibious has its own way of shielding itself – and in it lies the secret to their silky skin regime.

This picture would give you a sneak preview of what the hippopotamus actually ‘apply’ on their skin.

Yup! It is this deep red blood-like substance.

Gross but true, this thick red substance, which oozes from glands over its skin not only helps to control the body temperature of these 2,300 to 3,600 kilogram animals, it also acts as a potent sunscreen and antibiotic.

This substance would appear as a colorless viscous secretion at first, it is only after a few minutes that its color will turn red, and then gradually brown after a few hours.

It is no surprise why many have mistaken and termed this as the hippopotamus’s “blood sweat”. In fact, a hippopotamus has no oil or sweat glands on its entire body; it does, however, sport a gland that only kicks into action when it gets excited or nervous.

Two important ingredients in this sticky substance are hipposudoric acid, which is red, and norhipposudoric acid, which is orange.

Benefit #1: Sunscreen properties

Both of these acids strongly absorb ultraviolet rays – acting as a sunscreen, making sure that any skin exposed to the sun is not sunburned. This also helps to regulate their body temperature.

Benefit #2: Anti-bacterial properties

Hippopotamus often fight, gaining some nasty open wounds, which are prone to infection. The red hipposudoric acid has strong anti-bacterial properties that can inhibit the growth of bacteria.

Ahh, how I wished my sweat had such cooling anti-bacterial properties as well. That would save me a lot of money on buying sunscreens and antiseptic lotions!


Hashimoto, K., Saikawa, Y., & Nakata, M. (2007). Studies on the red sweat of the hippopotamus amphibius. 79(4), 507-517. doi: 10.1351/pac200779040507

Nature Publishing Group. (2004, May 27). The red sweat of the hippopotamus. The red and orange pigments in this secretion account for its protective properties., 429, 363.

Harness, J. (2011, June 22). Six seriously strange animal adaptations. Retrieved from

Picture used

Hippopotamus blood sweat. Uploaded on March 8, 2013 by Mihai Andrei at Accessed 22 March 2013 from