Look, there’s a fine line between “glowing” and a hot, sweaty mess—so if there are ways to figure out how to sweat less, we’re all about it.
It’s super hard to find a downside to beautiful summer days—but excessive sweating that ruins your makeup and a cute outfit is certainly on that list. That gross, sticky feeling? Yeah, we’ll pass on that. But short of moving to the North Pole, what can you do about it? Our experts have advice to stay dry on even the hottest days.
Face it, we all sweat
Let’s be real: everyone perspires, especially in summer. It’s a normal physical process that serves an important purpose, so eliminating it altogether is impossible.
“Sweating is the body’s way of regulating its temperature,” explains Unilever Senior Scientist Alyssa Kowcz, who specializes in deodorants. “Sweat is mainly caused by physical or thermal triggers. Normally our body is in a state of heat balance, when the heat entering our body is the same as the heat going out. However, if the heat input increases, for example during exercise or when we are in a hot environment, the evaporation of sweat from all over our body cools us down and helps us return to a state of equilibrium.”
It’s hard to measure excess sweat
Since everyone sweats, how do you know when your perspiration situation goes from normal to excessive?
“Sweat isn’t something that is comparable because everybody is different,” explains Dr. Ellen Marmur, dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon. “Factors such as how hard you may be exercising, weight and level of anxiety can each contribute to how much a person sweats. As each of our bodies are inherently different, it’s only natural that they will react differently to exercise and temperature.” But, she adds, if you feel really sweaty, you don’t have to just deal with it. “If you really feel uncomfortable, seek out a doctor. Also… sometimes, rarely, lymphoma presents with night sweats,” says Marmur.
You can pretty much sweat anywhere
“Everyone is different, so there is no one specific common place for people to sweat,” explains Dr. Marmur. “Any place there is a sweat gland—hands, feet, underarms, chest, back, etc—is prone to perspiration. Sweating is more common in the summer because it’s our body’s way of regulating body temperature and keeping us cool.”
Sweat doesn’t smell, but you do
“Sweat itself does not actually have an odor,” explains Kowcz. “When bacteria in your underarm combines with a specific type of sweat produced in the underarm area, this leads to odor.”
Who knew, right? So how can we fight the dreaded summertime smell?
“Odor can be reduced by using anti-perspirant or deodorant products,” she explains. “These types of products contain anti-microbials that kill the odor-causing bacteria.”
Deodorant vs. anti-perspirant
Though the terms are often used interchangeably, deodorant and anti-perspirant are two different products—and knowing the difference can save your summer life.
“Deodorant helps cover body odor, while antiperspirants prevent the sweat ducts from perspiring to limit wetness,” Dr. Marmur tells us. “The aluminum active in anti-perspirants is a salt that dissolves once you start sweating. The dissolved salt forms a protective layer over the mouth of the sweat ducts, which in turn reduces the amount of sweat emitted. Anti-perspirant is an OTC (over-the-counter) drug that is regulated and deemed safe by the FDA.”
Select the right formula
We live in a world where there are literally thousands of deodorant choices—so how do you choose between gels, sprays and solids? Our experts say that you should let your heart (or your armpits) be your guide.
“Each deodorant and anti-perspirant format can offer its own pros and cons based on protection and feel—it’s truly a personal preference,” Kowcz says. “A solid or soft solid tend to have a drier feel on application, while gels and roll-ons can feel quite wet, and sometimes sticky when you first put them on. Dry sprays offer a unique sensory experience that is instantly dry on application and leaves no residue.”
Apply effectively and accurately
As for when and how to apply your product? It turns out that there is a right way—and overdoing the application is not it.
“Look for a deodorant that offers up to 48 hours of protection, like Dove Advanced Care Anti-Perspirant Deodorant that will minimize how often you need to apply,” Marmur says. “You can apply your deodorant in the morning or evening—choose the time that works best for your routine. You may also want to reapply after working out or showering. Just make sure you’re putting on the right amount. I generally recommend three swipes: up, down, and up. If you’re applying after your shower, it’s best to let the area dry completely and then apply your deodorant.”
Cool Off Quickly
While there are products that promise additional cooling effects, Kowcz says that these don’t always work the way they’re advertised.
“Alcohol and menthol can provide a cooling sensation on the surface of the skin, but the magnitude of this effect depends upon the individual,” she tells us. “You could also go into a cold room or stand in front of a fan.”
We all know it’s crucial to get enough beauty sleep—but it’s pretty hard to catch sufficient zzz’s if you’re sweating like crazy.
“Cold sweats in the middle of the night can result from hormones, anxiety, nerves or even low blood sugar,” says Marmur. “Additionally, if your body temp gets too warm at night you may begin to sweat, so it’s always a good idea to sleep with fabrics that help regulate your temperature.” We love an excuse for new pajamas—so what kinds of things should we be looking for? “Natural fabrics such as cotton and linen breathe better, which will help your body feel cool so you may not notice the sweat that has been absorbed into the material,” Dr. Marmur tells us. “However, if you’re sweating excessively, especially if it leads to unwanted weight loss, please let your doctor know right away.”
Botox = A last resort
By now you’ve probably heard that botox is the trendy answer to how to sweat less—but it turns out that this ‘miracle cure’ isn’t for everyone.
“Botox is a specific treatment that is normally used in only extreme sweating cases and can be a costly procedure that needs to be redone,” Kowcz says. “The injection of botulinum toxin (Botox) under the skin—a technique becoming particularly popular in Hollywood—prevents nerve signals from reaching the sweat glands.”
Sounds pretty hardcore—and Kowcz says it is.
“Unless you suffer from a condition known as hyperhidrosis or cannot control the sweat by the use of antiperspirant products, this can be a rather drastic method for stopping underarm sweat,” she tells us. “In this case, it would also be advisable to speak with your doctor or dermatologist to fully understand all the potential side effects and risks involved in this procedure.”
Originally published July 2015. Updated May 2017.