HYPERHIDROSIS, DEODORANTS AND ANTI-PERSPIRANTS

Unlike my other posts, this one is not going to be so glamorous. As we all know, beauty isn’t just about a flawless complexion, blended eyeshadow and winged eyeliner sharp enough to cut a biatch. Sometimes, beauty is about those things which are in our minds, not so beautiful. We all fight battles with conditions that can lead us to think our imperfections are not ‘beautiful, and that these don’t deserve to be talked about and shown off on our blogs. Truth is, I want to talk about these things because I feel like these battles and imperfections are what make us relatable. We can learn a lot from other people experiencing similar issues, and we can seek comfort in the fact that we aren’t alone. So I want to talk about a condition that plagued me in my teenage years, and to a certain extent even today. It’s not pretty, it’s not glamorous, and it’s not pleasant. I want to talk about sweat.

Let’s talk about sweat baby, let’s talk about you and me…

Ew, but this is something I’ve really struggled with in the past and have learned to manage today. I suffer from hyperhidrosis. Just a fancy word for excessive sweating, hyperhidrosis is the condition of overactive sweat glands that produce a tonne of sweat without the usual stimuli such as mental, thermal or physiological triggers. Although sweating is essential for the regulation of our body temperature, sometimes our glands go into overdrive for no obvious reason and this can be isolating both professionally and socially. There are two forms of hyperhidrosis that exist: primary hyperhidrosis, and secondary hyperhidrosis. Primary hyperhidrosis occurs usually with an age of onset less than 30 years old, and with no apparent underlying medical conditions. It typically presents in childhood or adolescence, and there appears to a genetic basis to the observed familial tendency to increased sweating (thanks Dad). Secondary hyperhidrosis is when the excessive sweating is linked to infections, endocrine diseases or other catabolic conditions. This is generally easier to manage, as treatment targets the underlying causes or medical conditions, whereas with primary hyperhidrosis the cause is unknown. I suffer from the primary form.

It all started back when I hit puberty. Hyperhidrosis wasn’t something that was apparent in my life until weird things started happening to my body around the age of 13-14. Basically, as soon as I would wake up my armpits would become a fountain of sweat, for absolutely no reason. I could just be brushing my hair, or eating breakfast. At first I didn’t think much of it, but after I endured this day after day where the usual antiperspirant was ineffective, it really got me down. Think back to your teenage years when there was birthday parties, music festivals, sleep overs, trips out to the beach. Think back to your life at school, walking past hundreds of other kids your age, hanging out during breaks, and raising your hand to ask or answer questions in class. Those activities to me were not so easy and comfortable, especially in a time where your social life was basically the most important thing to you. My school uniform shirt was a lemon yellow colour, and my large sweat patches would be so obvious. I would have to replace my shirts quickly because the sweat would stain my clothes. So I limited myself in the number of times I would ask or answer questions. Usually, it would be after I discreetly checked my armpits to see how big my sweat patch was before I ever dared raise my hand to expose them. I would wear dark jumpers to disguise the sweat patches that would eventuate. I would try and keep my distance from my friends when I knew that I was sweating profusely. Yet I never talked about it to anyone except my Mum, because I was embarrassed and ashamed. I thought people would think me dirty or unkempt. It doesn’t seem like much of an issue, but in those times when you are at your social peak and most conscious about your personal appearance, it really got me down.

I eventually took myself to the doctor and asked if there was anything I could do to help and they gave me three options: botox, surgical excision, or using a highly concentrated aluminium antiperspirant. At that age, botox was out of the question for both financial and pain-related reasons. And no way in hell was I getting surgery to remove my sweat glands from my arm pits, that just seemed excessive. There are other options, but none of which are practical or easy to maintain. So I decided to pick up Driclor. If you haven’t heard of Driclor, its a topical antiperspirant that contains around 20% of aluminium chloride with 70% alcohol. The idea is to use it at night before bed and wash it off in the morning. What it actually does it ‘clump’ the sweat together from underneath the skin to form plugs that block the pores and therefore doesn’t allow further sweat from entering these pores and perspiring out into the world. While it was actually really effective (like amazingly effective – stopped my sweating altogether), it’s super drying and very irritating. Don’t even think of shaving your arm pits when using this! Plus, it’s only an antiperspirant, meaning it inhibits the release of sweat, but doesn’t do anything to counteract the odour should any sweat remain. So I had to come full force and treat my hyperhidrosis with both Driclor and a deodorant.

Don’t know the difference between antiperspirant and deodorant?

There’s a big difference, yet people use the terms interchangeably when they shouldn’t.

Antiperspirants will usually contain low concentration active ingredients to block the perspiration of sweat from your pores. Some have the double purpose of being both a deodorant and antiperspirant. There is some controversy surrounding the use of aluminium in antiperspirants (the cancer link again), but for me nothing else works like aluminium does. The only verified risk of using aluminium-based products is the irritation. There is a fantastic article written in Science-based Medicine covering information and the myths of aluminium in antiperspirants which talks about the issues better than I could! But, if you are someone who wants to use natural alternatives, you may want to avoid antiperspirants altogether, as natural forms only act as deodorants. Some people say making a paste with baking soda and water makes your sweat ‘evaporate’. It does not work for me, but it still may have some properties to help reduce odour (so, a deodorant basically).

Deodorants however, are specifically designed to neutralise the odour produced from the bacteria in sweat (think of bacteria farting), but do nothing to actually treat or inhibit sweat from perspiring. They contain acids or salts which inactivate the bacteria in sweat. Which is why deodorants do diddly-squat for those who suffer from hyperhidrosis. They are useless in helping to reduce sweating. Many companies are now using alternatives (ie sodium bicarbonate) or mineral salt crystals to help counteract the odour from sweat.

Black Chicken Axilla: an example of a natural-based deodorant

In any case, these type of products can come in many forms. There are roll-ons, pastes and sprays, or in the mineral deodorants, in solid crystal form which are essentially roll-ons anyway. Sprays do absolutely nothing for me, even if they are labelled as antiperspirants. For best results, I’ve always had to stick to using roll-ons to make sure the sweat glands and pores are coated effectively.

My hyperhidrosis today

At present, my condition still exists but is much less intense than it used to be. Still, at times (even when I am writing this very post at my desk on a Sunday afternoon), I am sweating much more than I should be. Some days are good, but some days are really bad no matter how much antiperspirant I applied or how much I try to avoid sweating and odour (eg loose, dark clothes, washing my armpits throughout the day). I know sweat is a normal physiological process of the human body, but I also know I shouldn’t be sweating as much as I do. So don’t think I am whinging about something that is ‘normal’ because my sweating is definitely in overdrive. Even in Winter, on the coldest days I still manage to leave sweat patches on my clothes.

Still, it’s easier to manage these days than it used to be. A good thing (or bad thing) is that my social life is definitely not anywhere near as vibrant or frequent as my teenage years, nor is it central to my life. I sound anti-social, but I promise I’m not! I guess being cooped up in my house means I don’t have to worry as much about exposing my condition to people.

Of course my hormones are much more regulated now than before and puberty isn’t wreaking havoc on my body as it used to. Seeing as their could be a link of hyperhidrosis to developmental stages, it makes sense that my hyperhidrosis has slowed down in the past few years. So while I still suffer from it, it is a more mild form now which makes my life a little easier.

Tips for managing hyperhidrosis

1.Choose fabrics and colours that work with your sweating habits

The thought of tight fitting clothes which would encourage the production of sweat and bacteria releasing odours makes me slightly anxious. Wearing loose fitting clothing that not only allows my armpit to breathe but also isn’t in close enough contact for sweat patches to be obvious is one trick. Darker colours are also better for masking the appearance of sweat patches. And obviously, materials such as cotton are much better to wear than say, polyester or nylon which bring on sweat like nothing else for me.

2. Timing of product application means everything

If you don’t want to use high-strength aluminium antiperspirants, stick with your normal one, but apply it at night before bed. Why is this important? Overnight, our sweat glands are sort of dormant and are able to absorb more of the active ingredient. Also, it leaves ample time for the actives to work their magic and block your pores, so that when you wake, you’re good to go. Any sweat that is present in the morning when you apply can dilute the product and can make it less effective. For extra security though, apply both at night and in the morning which is the habit I adopt. But I always keep an emergency antiperspirant that also has deodorant properties on my work desk for times in need.

3. Hair removal helps

One thing that seems to make a difference with my sweating is arm pit hair removal. Yes, I know you are meant to do it regularly for personal appearance, but I always find that either I sweat less or the odour isn’t as strong. I can’t seem to find any evidence to suggest why this happens, but it is thought that removing the arm pit hair allows the antiperspirant to penetrate the skin better, thereby making it more effective against sweat. Another reason proposed is that the arm pit hair can trap moisture and bacteria and add to the damp environment where bacteria thrive. Whatever the mechanism is, I always notice a big difference to my sweating after I remove arm pit hair.

4. Choose an antiperspirant with generous actives but with a gentle formula

I’ve moved away from using Driclor because it was just way too drying and irritating. The Mitchum deodorants were working well for me, but left a really gross smell on the arm pit area of my clothes and started to lose effectiveness the longer I was using them. The Rexona Clinical Protection range is one I keep going back to because, while the aluminium content is the same as Driclor, the formula is much more gentle on my skin and I experience no irritation and very minimal dehydration of my armpits. Sounds weird considering that dry armpits is what I am aiming for, but not to the point of flaking and cracking skin. So, I get the same level of sweat reduction but with a more desirable formula.

Packaged as a roll-on, this is more a creamy paste formula that literally feels like nothing on your armpits. The formula is incredibly smooth and does feel like it has a certain element of hydration. It doesn’t contain the high concentration of alcohol like Driclor, instead using a silicone derivative for skin conditioning and delivery. Capric Triglyceride, a mixed tri-ester from coconut oil and glycerin also acts as an emollient and I feel is the other star ingredient of the formula. The only thing is, like with other high strength formulations, it can be expensive with an RRP of around $15. But for me, a small price to pay for the results.

But you NEED to sweat!

If you’re worried that you’ll be interrupting the processes of detoxing your body, it’s largely a myth that sweat eliminates toxins from your body. The function of sweating is purely a temperature regulation tool. The release of water through our skin, which then evaporates is the mechanism by which the hypothalamus tells our body to cool down. Sweat is made up mostly of water, and small amounts of salts, proteins, carbs and urea. Interestingly, environmental toxicology and dermatology experts say that while sweat does contain trace amounts of substances considered as toxins, only less than one percent of our body’s toxins are released through sweat. Instead, our kidneys and liver are the main detox organs. So I’m not that worried about using high strength antiperspirants to eliminate sweating, because if my body was trying to regulate it’s temperature that badly, I would sweat elsewhere as well. For me, my hyperhidrosis is localised to armpits which leads me to think it’s not my body screaming at me to cool down, otherwise I’d sweat profusely elsewhere too right?

The bottom line

To many, applying deodorant is one of those tasks you automatically do every day like brushing your teeth or hair, without thinking too much about it. But for me, as a sufferer of hyperhydrosis, the whole thing is much more important and I have to carefully think about the ways in which I manage it on a daily basis. Even clothes shopping is a different experience for me because some colours, fits and fabrics just don’t work well with my condition. I guess that’s the beauty of hyperhidrosis, whilst inconvenient it is manageable. I hope that if you’re in the same boat, my post has made you feel a little better about it, or at least given you some tips you haven’t thought about before about other ways in which you can deal with it.

That completes this post! Are you a hyperhydrosis sufferer? Pleeeease let me know in the comments! I want to hear about other experiences and ways in which people manage it.

Until my next post, you can catch up with on Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest. Or, to make sure you never miss a post from me, subscribe to my blog via email!

Until then,

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*The Beauty & the Geek AU is no expert in the field, so please seek professional advice for more information

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29 Comments

  1. I have the same problem, though generally not as severe these days. Like you, mine was at its worst when I was a teenager – to the point where I stopped wearing colours all together. I found Mitcham doesn’t work for me either, but I do use the Rexonas regularly. I also often switch between Rexona and Dove if one stops being effective for a while. That seems to do the trick for me (unless I wear polyester – which is a bummer because the shirts which hang best on me are made of it!) but it’s still a pain. Half my shirts end up ruined with white stains from the antiperspirant rather than the sweat – can’t win! It’s a lot better though than back in the day when those options didn’t exist and those strong prescription options were the only way. Just as well you didn’t go botox – I’ve heard that it risks the sweat actually coming out from other parts of your body instead. I was also reading an insta post from the account KindofStephen recently and he suffers from this in more than just his armpits (including on his face) and he seems to be having success with an oral pill of some sort. It’s just good to know there are options around now!

    1. Oh really? I’ve never heard of an oral pill for it! Although, I’m already on the pill, not sure I want to pump something else in my mouth because I like the way my body functions at the moment haha (despite the sweating). And my sweating is much more manageable now, so perhaps I would have considered it as a teen!

      And yes, my shirts have to get thrown out fairly regularly because the sweat and anti-perspirants stain them and seem to ingrained into the fabric! Annoying!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing lovely. While I don’t tend to sweat too much a friend of mine does and I am already forwarding him your post link to read so he can see what options are available! I personally really like the look of that Rexona Clinical Protection though so I will need to try that out šŸ™‚ x

    1. Ohhh tell him they have a men’s range too! That might help him out. I hope he enjoys this post! It seems more socially acceptable to sweat heaps if you’re a male as opposed to a female though which is a little bit sad (but at the same time I’m not dismissing his battles with sweating!).

  3. This is a very interesting ready. I’m very fortunate to have never really had a problem but this would be great info for people who are struggling. It sounds like a very frustrating and confidence debilitating condition šŸ™

    Emma | Rosy Disposition

  4. Thank you for being brave enough to share this. It’s important that we all talk about uncomfortable topics as the more of us who do it will benefit those who might be struggling, as well as reducing any stigmas surrounding those subjects.

    I don’t suffer from hyperhidrosis, but I can sympathise with those that do as excessive sweat must surely be embarrassing, especially during your teen years when you’ve got other things to worry about. I am currently using a Mitchum deodorant which is working well for me (I can get a bit sweatier than I’d like at times, although not to an excessive point), but I’m finding that my left armpit gets irritated whenever I apply it. I want to use it up & then find an alternative, so I might look at the Rexona ones instead. I do hate how those sorts of antiperspirants leave white marks on clothing though!

    Shell // The Novice Life

    1. Thank you so much for commenting Shell, and thanks for the support! And I agree! I know I talk a lot about skincare and makeup on my blog, but it’s important for me to talk about issues that don’t really make me feel beautiful. I’ve talked about my fine/thinning hair, and now my hyperhidrosis, and hope to explore topics of body issues more in the future!

      I do have to agree with you on the white marks. Unfortunately these type of products do leave marks on clothes, however Driclor doesn’t as it is a clear formula! But, the irritation was not something I was willing to put up with.

  5. Thanks sooo much for sharing your story. I didn’t know this what a thing. I’m now considering getting checked out too because I feel like I suffer from the same thing. I never really bothered wiht antiperspirants because like you it never really worked on me. But I do have very sensitive skin and I’ve been transferred into to only using natural deodorants.

    Rochelle || http://www.simplesocialsister.com

    1. Thanks Rochelle for your support! Yep, it’s a thing haha. Unfortunately I don’t think it’s something that can be detected easily, it’s more about your own body awareness. For me it was a self diagnosis at first, and then when I went to the doctor I explained my condition and how I’d sweat even just waking up in the morning or standing around, and revealed my sweat patches and they confirmed I had overactive sweat glands.

      Unfortunately naturally derived products just do not work for me, and I only ever use them as an extra defence on top of my antiperspirant.

  6. I love that I always learn so much from each of your posts! I had never knon about this condition until today. So amazing of you to share and help others with the same challenge. <3

    Tahana x

    1. Thanks Tahana! As always, that is what I hope to aim with my blog, to put a little more knowledge out there so I’m glad you have learned something! To be honest, bloggers like you who are willing to share personal issues in the hope to help others on your blogs have inspired me to share my own personal battles! So thank you šŸ™‚

  7. This is so informative post, I appreciate you for sharing this. I have never heard of hyperhidrosis before but did hear about excessive sweating, I didn’t know there was a specific term for this. As usual, your post is so informative about the whole topic of sweating and then coming to the difference in antiperspirants and deodorants which are the products used daily by most of the people. I am glad the Rexona deodorant is working well for you.

    1. Thanks Preet, I’m happy it’s working too! And yes, there is a medical term for it and there has been quite a bit of research into it! I think we’ve just grown up thinking antiperspirants and deodorants are the same thing, I know I did until I started to realise some formulas were working for me and some weren’t!

  8. I’m an anxious sweater (which is most of the time haha) and the summer strength is the only product I’ve found which helps me. Great blog really really interesting xx

    1. Oh that’s so good to hear Grace! Anxiety was proposed to me as a reason, along with the fact that my heart naturally beats a lot faster than usual (I have heart arythmia too), but to be honest I don’t feel like I am an axious person so I dismissed it. But I wonder, can you suffer from anxiety without knowing it?

  9. Thankyou for such an informative post, I do know about your condition but now understand it a lot more. It’s good you are able to control it better now with age but also without drastic measures, Botox is costly and you need to keep doing it and surgery seems extreme.
    A great post to share as it will help many and teach others what it is and have an understanding. Luisa @ lulus_palette

    1. Yes! I am just keen on the whole botox idea for my arm pits at all! But I am happy that age has helped with it, one thing I like about getting older I guess! Haha but thank you so much for stopping by and commenting x

  10. I just started using this deodorant myself , the price point had me a little on the sceptic side but I was able to pick it up in special and have to say I quite like it I have noticed such a difference my white shirt don’t have that stain and no smell of course and it really does last all day for me

  11. very elaborative read. Though I don’t sweat much. I know a lot of people who suffer from it. Especially, during the teen years. I switched to natural oils and fragrances and this can help with body odours a lot and you can be sure about the ingredients too. Especially when the market is flooded with chemical ladden products that can cause lot of side effects.

    Not many people out there will discuss on these topics. Really appreciate you for blogging this topic.

    1. Natural oils and fragrances do absolutely nothing for me unfortunately. I don’t get any side effects from using these type of roll on deodorants except for Driclor and it’s irritation and that’s the reason why I stopped using it. Natural products would be nice, if they actually worked. But they just don’t do anything to help me at all!

  12. Love how detailed this post is…and some really fabulous clicks! I do not sweat much but am from a very sultry and humid city…I opted for underarm laser that helped me get rid of most underarm sweat and soiled clothes

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