Sweating is a natural body process that is meant to help us cool off through the process of evaporation. When it works properly, as air currents flow over the sweaty skin, it cools it, carrying away heat from the thousands of tiny blood vessels just underneath. Sweating is essential, and if it stops, it can lead to overheating heat stroke, and even death.
However, on the other side of the coin are people who sweat too much. This condition is called hyperhidrosis, and for millions of people, excessive sweat causes body odor, stains on their clothing, and public embarrassment. Thankfully, there are ways to handle both normal and excessive sweating. To understand how to get it under control, it’s important to understand why you get so sweaty.
Where Does Sweat Come From?
Sweat is produced by glands that are found in the skin. There are actually two types of sweat glands in the human body and each produces its own variety of sweat. The first type of sweat comes from the eccrine sweat glands. These sweat glands are distributed evenly over the entire body and produce sweat that normally has zero odor.
The second kind of sweat is the one that can be a hassle. This sweat comes from apocrine sweat glands which are found primarily near hair. This means the scalp, armpits, groin and also feet. The sweat that comes from these glands contains fat and proteins. There are bacteria that live on your skin that then feast on these proteins. The bacteria produce waste that is responsible for the odor that is associated with sweat. Considering that there are nearly three million sweat glands that can produce up to 14 liters of water every day; that’s a lot of sweat to handle.
Your body produces sweat when there’s a temperature change of course, but also in response to stress hormones, certain foods – such as spicy foods or alcohol – and certain medications.
Controlling Sweat-related Odor
The first method of controlling sweat-related odor is to eliminate any other reasons that your sweat might have an odor. One of the biggest impacts on sweat odor is diet. Of course, if you eat a pound of garlic every day, you’re going to smell like a pizza shop; but it’s not just what you eat, it’s also what you don’t eat. For example, a study from 1928 linked magnesium deficiency with excessive odor. In other cases, a low-carb diet can increase body odor from sweat because of how hard the body has to work to digest protein.
Once you have eliminated diet-related causes for excessive sweat related odor, the next step is to deal with controlling how much you sweat. One of the most common ways to do this is by using an antiperspirant.
Traditional antiperspirants are a drug and classified as such by the FDA. These products use aluminum chloride compounds that combine with sweat to form a plug in the sweat glands. A secondary effect of the aluminum causes the sweat gland opening to constrict as well. The more glands that you plug, the less you will sweat from those areas. And because apocrine glands are most troublesome on the armpits, that’s where most people apply antiperspirants.
Antiperspirants work best when the area they’re being applied to is dry, so it’s best to use them at night before bed, rather than after you’ve freshly showered.
Antiperspirant doesn’t just come in plastic tubes. One popular method uses moist towelettes to apply the formula. This is advantageous because sweat doesn’t just come from the underarms. People who suffer from hyperhidrosis may excessively sweat from their palms or their feet. One towelette, manufactured by SweatBlock, promises to provide relief from excessive sweating for 4 – 7 days.
Keep in mind that when you use an antiperspirant, you’ll still want to pair it with a deodorant. Most deodorants don’t just have a flowery scent either. They use an antibacterial agent to kill the bacteria that cause the b.o. associated with sweat. So using both a deodorant and an antiperspirant is a great way to combat that sweaty funk.
The bottom line is that everyone sweats. If you’re worried about your sweating and the smells that go with it, there are several things you can try, from changing your diet to using antiperspirants and deodorants. You don’t want to stop sweating entirely, but you can get a handle on excessive sweating and restore your confidence.