Hello, summer. Cue hot days at the beach, the pool, the park, or a classic backyard barbecue. Another unforgettable and less enjoyable staple of summer? More sweat. You may feel like those sweat-drenched shirts and sweat stains are an embarrassment, but sweating actually serves a purpose. “The primary reason we sweat is thermoregulation, the control of body temperature,” explains dermatologist, Dr Brian Ginsberg. “When we get too hot, sweating helps to cool the body down,” he says. While sweating also helps to hydrate the skin and maintain our fluid-electrolyte balance, according to Dr Ginsberg, the end result – those wet patches all over your body – can cause embarrassment and discomfort.
General practitioner, Dr Shahinaz Soliman, explains that “The body has two to four million sweat glands in the underarms, feet, palms, groin, and forehead. When you sweat and it evaporates, it takes the heat with it.”
Deodorant and anti-perspirant might be thought of as interchangeable, but they each have distinct uses. “Deodorants alone are merely fragrance, whereas anti-perspirants serve to reduce sweating,” explains Dr Ginsberg, adding, “Specifically, anti-perspirants contain an ingredient that forms a plug in the sweat glands. Prescription-strength anti-perspirants do this more effectively.”
Dermatologist, Dr Nikhil Dhingra, agrees, saying, “Anti-perspirant! Use it; it’s inexpensive and highly effective at decreasing the odour-causing apocrine sweat. This does require the use of aluminium in your anti-perspirant, which essentially interacts with sweat to create a salt that physically blocks the exit point for sweat, and this can last a number of hours.”
In order to get the most from your anti-perspirant, apply to dry skin at night. “Your anti-perspirant (with or without deodorant) should be applied at night-time when your sweat production is lowest so it has the best chance of actually blocking those sweat glands,” explains Dr Dhingra, who also recommends those with sensitive skin avoid fragrances due to the thinness of underarm skin. “The use of deodorising fragrance-rich products is generally best avoided as the alcohol-based fragrances are usually the main culprit of itchy irritating reactions from deodorants.”
Especially sweaty? Dr Ginsberg recommends using a hairdryer after applying deodorant – using the cool setting. He adds, “High-strength antiperspirants should be applied at night time, at first every night, and then spaced out to the needed frequency. A non-medicated deodorant can be added in the morning if desired.”
While a frosty beer or chilled glass of rosé might seem like a perfect drink for a hot summer day, neither is the best choice for people prone to sweating. “Alcohol is a common trigger of heavy sweating,” explains Dr Dhingra, advising the avoidance of both alcohol and caffeine (which can also stimulate sweating), and recommending drinks with electrolytes, instead.
Spicy foods are another category to avoid. “Alcohol, caffeine, and spicy foods are the trinity of sweat-inducing foods to minimise if you sweat heavily,” says Dr Dhingra. “Alcohol and caffeine stimulate adrenaline production which will quite quickly amplify your sweat production; this is definitely most pronounced for those diagnosed with hyperhidrosis,” otherwise known as excessive sweating.
Dr Ginsberg doesn’t worry as much about food – with certain exceptions. “Diet does not tend to have a significant impact on sweating, except in the case of gustatory sweating: the small drops of sweat on the forehead, nose, and lip after eating hot, spicy food,” explains Dr Ginsberg.
Think Botox is only for wrinkles? Think again. The popular injectable is approved for the treatment of hyperhidrosis.
“Botox can be used effectively for excessive sweating in certain areas including the underarms, groin, scalp/hairline and in skin folds such as under the breasts,” explains dermatologist, Dr Nancy Samolitis. “It is injected into the affected area and starts to work within one to two weeks and can last about four months. It is very safe when used for sweating, but it is important to be examined by a physician prior to having treatment.”
One note: make sure you’re getting Botox and not an alternate injectable.
If over-the-counter (OTC) methods aren’t working to help get rid of sweat, you might consider visiting your doctor. “You may have hyperhidrosis, which is sweating in excess of what is deemed an average normal amount,” says Dr Dhingra.
“A misconception regarding this diagnosis is that people with hyperhidrosis have perennial excessive sweating,” explains Dr Dhingra. “This excessive perspiration can definitely be exacerbated or intolerable in summer months compared to the cooler months where OTC products are sufficient,” he says. In other words, just because you’re sweating excessively in the summer doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a year-round problem, even if you occasionally do require medical intervention. Of course, it could be another medical condition – such as pregnancy, menopause, an infection, or even heart disease or certain cancers – causing the excess sweat, too, adds Dr Soliman, making a doctor visit a good bet for safety’s sake.
Options run the gamut, from topical wipes to prescription topicals to pills to help reduce sweat. “Oral medications (glycopyrrolate and oxybutynin) can be prescribed to reduce sweating, especially when excessive,” says Dr Ginsberg. While the remedies are usually effective, it’s possible they might come with side effects, including dry mouth, dry eyes and headache, says Dr Ginsberg.
New remedies also show promise. “There is also a relatively new topical called Qbrexza which delivers medication that blocks the stimulation of sweat glands by acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter that Botox prevents the release of,” explains dermatologist, Dr Dan Belkin. And, as a last resort, surgeries to remove underarm sweat glands also exist to treat hyperhidrosis, adds Dr Soliman.
Yet another reason to visit the doctor: lasers could be an effective remedy for summer sweating. “There is a very effective laser procedure called Miradry which destroys both sweat (eccrine) and odour (apocrine) glands in the underarm in a permanent or semi-permanent fashion,” says Dr Belkin.
Unlike certain other methods, Miradry is only designed for the armpits – however, it has added bonuses, including hair removal, “This is only for the underarms where many people have excessive sweating – more sweating than one needs for temperature regulation. It also reduces hair in the area,” says Dr Belkin.
While it might seem obvious, one of the easiest ways to keep from sweating in the summer is by staying cool in the first place. “Since sweat is triggered by heat, the easiest way to avoid sweating is to avoid overheating,” explains Dr Ginsberg. “This includes wearing light-weight and breathable clothing, finding shaded or air-conditioned environments, and not over-exerting yourself.” Look for fabrics that promote airflow, such as cotton, linen, or blends, and avoid fabrics such as nylon, polyester, or denim. (Swap your denim pieces for chambray, instead.)
“Sleeveless clothing like dresses, if you’re comfortable doing so, will keep you much cooler than occlusive, warm clothing,” says Dr Dhingra, adding, “Also allow the feet to breathe; cooler feet can decrease your overall body temperature efficiently, so avoid thick socks and bulky shoes during the warm months.” (Also find sun-protective clothing that really works).
This article originally appeared on Reader’s Digest.