by Jeanine B. Downie, M.D.
Hello, summer! It’s the time of year when sweat shows up in all kinds of fun places—down our backs, under our breasts, between our thighs, and of course under our armpits. You’re probably wondering just how normal this all is.
Well, it’s no surprise you’re drenched. Sweat is your body’s air conditioning system. We all have about 2.6 million sweat glands all over our bodies and are capable of producing multiple pints of sweat per hour as needed to regulate temperature levels.
Related: Why ‘Stress Sweat’ Smells So Bad
Amounts of sweat vary from person to person, and each of us has a genetic family history that may predispose us to more or less sweating. It’s completely normal to sweat a lot on a hot or humid day and during physical activity. All of us will have to drink more water in these instances to ensure that our bodies continue to function in a healthy, self-sustaining way.
But here are some signs that you have excessive sweating.
Your clothes stain daily. Excessive sweaters perspire from the armpits down to the waistband of their skirts or pants, and all of this moisture can seep embarrassing stains through clothing. While this can certainly happen to everyone on very humid days or while working out, excessive sweaters experience it even in cool environments.
You stress sweat. If you’re about to give a work presentation and find your back totally soaked or your forehead literally dripping with sweat, it could mean you’re an excessive sweater who is triggered by stress—and this type of sweat smells worse than regular heat sweat. Your palms may also sweat when meeting new people, and when reaching out to shake a hand.
Your feet and hands are always wet. Patients tell me their hands and feet have sweated from the time they were infants, and that their mothers recall soaked baby booties and small chubby baby fingers that always felt damp. As an adult, your shoes may constantly slip off your feet because of excessive sweat.
The bottom line is that when sweat interferes with your quality of life, it’s a problem that should and can be addressed with the help of a board-certified dermatologist.
Here are some real solutions for excessive sweaters.
At home: Apply deodorant at night. Get in the habit of applying antiperspirant deodorant nightly before bed, when sweat glands are least active, so the ingredients can more deeply absorb for better results the next day. If you’re showering first thing the next morning, reapply again after you dry off.
Out and about: Avoid peak heat. If exercising outside, get moving before or after the sun is at its peak from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. to help your body regulate temperature with less sweat.
At the dermatologist’s office:
Apply prescription therapy. Drysol is a prescription 20 percent aluminum chloride solution that you apply at night to more effectively plug up your eccrine sweat glands. Think of it as a super antiperspirant. It can be applied to any problem areas, like feet, underarms, inner thighs and the scalp.
Try Botox. Injecting Botulim toxin type A under your arms blocks the nerve that turns on sweat glands. In my experience with patients, the first treatment lasts about three months and following treatments last six months or more. This can make a significant difference for a lot of people, though it’s a pricey option at around $2,000 per treatment.
Consider microwaves. Yes, you read that right. For severe cases, a microwave technology called MiraDry is the longest lasting solution for underarm sweating. Microwaves are delivered to the area, eliminating underarm sweat glands and sweat by up to 80 percent. Two procedures spaced three months apart is the typical protocol, and can cost an average of $3,000 for the treatments.
Here’s wishing you more comfortable days ahead!