10 March 2010

Beat the sweaty armpit blues

Are sweaty armpit stains the bane of your existence? Here are some solutions for men who suffer from excessive underarm perspiration.

Are sweaty armpit stains the bane of your existence? Here are some solutions for men who suffer from excessive underarm perspiration.

Cape Town is in the throes of a stifling late-summer heat wave and for those of us who can’t afford to spend most of their time by the pool or on the beach, it’s taking its toll. Working anywhere other than a thoroughly air-conditioned room is sluggish torture and venturing outdoors during daylight hours is sheer foolhardiness, but the most embarrassing effects are those damp and clammy half-moons of perspiration that stain the armpits of your shirt on most days.

For some guys it doesn’t even take a particularly steamy day to bring on these unsightly underarm sweats. The mere thought of having to give a presentation in a boardroom full of bosses ramps up the humidity under their armpits to levels rivalling those of a rainforest.

Women have it easy. They can wear breezy sleeveless tops and dresses, which, unless you’re a professional athlete, gym instructor or drag queen, is just not a realistic option for most men. So what are the most efficient ways to control excessive underarm sweating?

First steps

  • Find an anti-perspirant that works for you. Make sure it says anti-perspirant on the dispenser. A simple deodorant is only good at masking the smell, but won’t actually stop you from sweating.
  • Drink wheat grass – it contains a lot of Vitamin B, which can help reduce sweat production.
  • Wear a cotton undershirt which will mop up any sweat before it reaches your shirt on top. Try loose fitting tops that allow air to circulate under your armpits and go for light colours which tend to show up the stains less obviously.
  • Bath or shower regularly using anti-bacterial soap and don’t wear clothes you’ve sweated in previously.
  • Certain foods and beverages, including garlic, chilli, onions, red meat, fried food, coffee and alcohol, may stimulate sweating. Avoid them whenever you can.
  • If you tend to sweat excessively in situations that make you nervous or anxious, treat the cause of the problem. Try calming activities such as yoga, meditation or listening to soothing music.
  • Some people swear by rubbing vinegar, baby powder, lemon juice or rubbing alcohol into their armpits, while others bath in water mixed with a few cans of tomato juice, but we’re not so sure about these home remedies.

For more persistently sweaty armpits

If these measures don’t deliver results, you may be suffering from a medical condition known as axillary hyperhidrosis. Consult your doctor, who may:

  • Suggest a prescription anti-perspirant containing aluminium chloride hexahydrate solution or gel.
  • Prescribe one of several oral medications to reduce sweating. Beware that these may cause side effects such as a dry mouth and eyes and urine retention.
  • Recommend iontophoresis, a medical procedure in which a weak electric charge, delivered through sponge electrodes attached to your underarms, transports a chemical into the skin which will stop sweat glands from secreting sweat without damaging them. It may cause mild pain, but can be quite effective.

Bring on the big guns

More severe cases may be treated by more intrusive and expensive methods such as:

  • Botox injections, which need to be repeated every 6 to 16 months; or
  • Surgical treatments, including underarm liposuction and removal of sweat-inducing nerves or sweat glands.

Read more:

No sweat!

Excessive sweating

(Andrew Luyt, Health24, March 2010)


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