Are you embarrassed by how much you sweat? It’s normal to sweat when you get nervous or exert yourself. However, if you sweat easily or to the point where sweat is visible on your clothing when you aren’t exerting yourself, you may have a condition called “hyperhidrosis,” or excessive sweating. Without treatment, say experts, hyperhidrosis can interfere with everyday activities and may even cause other skin conditions to develop.
“Many people who excessively sweat do not realize that they have a treatable medical condition,” said board-certified dermatologist Jenny Eileen Murase, MD, FAAD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology, University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center. “If you think you might be sweating too much, ask a board-certified dermatologist if it’s normal. Dermatologists are one of the few doctors trained in the diagnosis and treatment of hyperhidrosis and can tell you what type of hyperhidrosis you have and the best ways to treat it.”
In addition to seeing a dermatologist, Dr. Murase recommends the following tips:
1. Use antiperspirant rather than deodorant. Although deodorants mask or stop body odor, they still allow you to sweat. Antiperspirants available over-the-counter or by prescription help reduce sweating by plugging your sweat glands when you start to sweat. This signals your body to stop producing so much sweat.
2. Apply antiperspirant as directed. Since antiperspirant is most effective when applied correctly, follow the directions on the packaging. Many antiperspirants require you to apply it at night to dry skin and then reapply in the morning. Antiperspirant can also be applied to any area of the body that sweats, including the palms, back and behind the knees.
3. Keep a sweat journal. For many people who sweat excessively, certain situations can trigger sweating. Keep a log of when your sweating occurs and use the knowledge to help you avoid triggers. Common triggers include heat, feeling anxious and certain foods, such as caffeine and hot sauce.
4. For sweaty feet, change your footwear often. Wet or clammy feet can increase your risk for foot odor and skin infections, such as athlete’s foot. To help manage sweaty feet, wear shoes made of natural materials like leather, as this allows air to circulate. In addition, avoid wearing the same shoes two days in a row, as you’ll want your shoes to dry completely before wearing them again. It also helps to wear socks that wick moisture away from your skin. Avoid cotton socks, as cotton traps moisture. In addition, wear sandals or slip off your shoes whenever you can.
“If you feel anxious or embarrassed by sweating, talk to your dermatologist,” said Dr. Murase. “It’s possible to find treatment that effectively controls your sweating and improves your quality of life.”