Sweat: How To Avoid It & How To Deal

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Do you know anyone who likes to sweat? Like, really enjoys the sensation of sweating outside of a hot yoga room? You don’t — namely because sweat has a habit of totally destroying our makeup and cute summer outfits.
Once clothes start clinging, the sweat collects in our eyebrows, and it feels like our underthings have become a wetlands preserve, our moods go as limp as our blowouts. But, staying in a climate-controlled environment all summer isn’t a solution — we’ve got picnics, cookouts, pool parties, and music festivals that beer commercials tell us we should be enjoying.
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Since summer activities demand we be outside for these events and the average person has about 2 million sweat glands, we’ve got to find a way to deal. So, we spoke with researchers and top derms and found products to help you do just that.
Click through to find ways to keep your inner thermostat on a much less swampy setting — plus, gather tips for how best to clean yourself up when the heat wins in that never-ending sweat battle.


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Start With Your Pits
The first thing you need to know is that all sweat is not the same. “There’s apocrine sweat from glands in your armpits and groin, and there’s eccrine sweat from glands that cover most of your body,” says Joshua Zeichner, an assistant professor of dermatology at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

This distinction matters because the apocrine glands are larger and ooze sweat high in lipids and proteins that bacteria feed on — and that’s what causes B.O., Dr. Zeichner explains. This stink combined with underarm sogginess makes this the first perspiration zone we’ll want to get under control.

The most trusted line of defense is an antiperspirant-deodorant combo. Antiperspirants use an aluminum salt to form a plug in your sweat gland that prevents perspiration from escaping. You dissolve or sweat out the plug over time — how long it lasts depends on how much you sweat, Dr. Zeichner says.

Deodorants, on the other hand, simply mask odor, typically with fragrance. Some formulas, like Secret Clinical Strength Stress Response, contain molecules that encapsulate odor, much the way Febreze works. Others, like Degree Motion Sense, release fragrance when they experience friction caused by movement.

Look for clinical formulas, suggests Elizabeth Tanzi, a dermatologist in Washington, D.C. “Most contain the metallic salt aluminum chloride in 20%,” she says. The most powerful perspiration fighters are the soft-solid formulas, says Susan Biehle-Hulette, PhD, a biochemist at Procter & Gamble who works on Secret. “The soft solid acts like a conduit, making it easier for the active ingredients to get into the sweat gland.”

Waiting until high noon to apply these products won’t help your efforts to stay dry, though. “I tell my patients to apply antiperspirant at night,” Dr. Zeichner says. “In the evening, your baseline sweat rate is lower, so you can more effectively form a plug in your sweat glands than you can in the morning.”
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Stop Sweat Wherever You Have Skin
While your underarms are typically the fall guy for problem perspiration, you have sweat glands covering most of your body. “Your sweat glands work the same everywhere, so you can apply antiperspirant everywhere,” Dr. Zeichner says.

Hit the most common offenders — your palms, soles, behind the knees, and under your cleavage — as a preemptive strike against sweat. DermaDoctor MED e TATE wipes are designed just for this purpose if your stick antiperspirant seems too messy for full-body application.

You can also create your own climate control with Coldfront. Designed for women dealing with hot flashes, the tiny inserts fit in your bra for instant heat relief.
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Your Best Defense Is a Good Offense
If you want your brain and vital organs to function, you do still have to sweat. Knowing this, you need to do a little prep work with your skin-care products on those days when the heat slaps you across the face.

First of all, you can wear makeup without it sliding off your face — you just need to build a foundation with products that won’t turn you into a sticky, hot mess. “Some products can make sweat worse,” says celebrity makeup artist Nick Barose. “Heavy moisturizers or an eye balm that is too rich can turn greasy, and anything with too much shimmer will make you look sweaty.”

Some lotions and sunscreens may make skin heat up and seem to increase sweat levels, says Dr. Doris Day, MD, clinical associate professor of dermatology at New York University medical school. “There could be some occlusion that may trap water and not let it evaporate as much,” Dr. Day says, adding, “It’s not something that’s been studied, but it’s not an uncommon complaint.”

But, face sweat can do more than make your mascara smear — it can also lead to pimples. “There are ingredients that can more easily clog pores while we sweat,” Dr. Tanzi says. “So, try to find those that are non-comedogenic to prevent breakouts along the forehead and hairline.”

Switch to a lightweight moisturizer, or try a serum like SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Gel. When it comes to sunscreen (which you wear all the time, right?), there are formulas including sprays, milks, and even gels that feel weightless. Try L’Oréal Silky Sheer Sunscreen, which absorbs without leaving a greasy residue.

You can also apply antiperspirant to your face if you want a solid backup plan. Use a clear formula, and stick to the oilier areas like your forehead and nose, Dr. Day suggests. Other parts of your face might get irritated. Note: Those prone to acne or with extreme sensitivity should probably opt out of this one.
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Switch to Makeup That Won’t Melt
Of course, it’s also important to find makeup that will actually stand up to those high temps. Barose relies on a few items in his kit if he’s working on a tropical shoot: For one, Mally Evercolor Poreless Face Defender acts as a primer to diffuse pores and imperfections, but it glides on without getting cakey the way powder can once it combines with oil and sweat.

If you must wear foundation, Barose likes Make Up For Ever Mat Velvet. “Blend it with a damp Beauty Blender to get it sheer,” says Barose. Mist Kiehl’s Oil Eliminator Shine Control Spray Tonic over makeup to help keep it from dissolving in this scorching weather.

As for your eye makeup, it won’t stand a chance without a primer. Sweat and oil pool in the folds of your eyelids, so this is one major target for perspiration. Barose is a fan of Lancôme Aquatique Waterproof Eyecolour Base; Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion is a cult favorite among beauty editors.
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You Need Clothes to Stay Cool
When the temps hit triple digits, your first urge might be to pull a Rihanna, but less isn’t always more when it comes to sweat management. The New York Times reported on a British study measuring the sweat production of soldiers in the desert. Surprisingly, the subjects wearing the least amount of clothing actually perspired more than those in uniforms. The reason: Exposed skin absorbs more heat, so wearing even a breezy layer keeps you cooler.

Try throwing a lightweight button-down over your sundress or one of these ultra-thin UV-protection shirts from Uniqlo to help stay cool. Dr. Day suggests selecting light colors in cotton fabrics to allow skin to breathe and sweat to evaporate.

You should probably also forget about wearing Spanx. “Tight clothes can make you sweat more and inflame follicles to create a rash,” she explains. And, switch to cotton underwear to keep cool below the belt, or even consider going commando — we won't tell.
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You Might Need to Go Pro
Drugstore solutions might not always be the answer, especially if you have the condition hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating. For this, doctors may prescribe an anticholinergic drug like glycopyrrolate to decrease your sweat production.

For a long-term sweat stopper, Botox injections in your armpits can also work. “Botox blocks the nerve that stimulates the sweat gland,” says Dr. David Pariser, MD, professor of dermatology at the Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Virginia. “It’s the switch that’s bad — not the sweat gland — and Botox turns off that switch.” You’ll pay up to $2,000 for each session, but the results last up to nine months.

MiraDry is another lasting solution for pit sweating. The device uses microwave energy to heat sweat glands and can reduce perspiration by about 80%, Dr. Pariser says. However, it’s expensive, costing about $3,000 each session, and you’ll need two visits. That said, MiraDry does seem to offer permanent results.
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When Sweat Happens…
Sometimes, you can’t beat Mother Nature, and despite your best efforts, you end up looking like you’ve spent a week in the jungle looking for Colonel Kurtz. But, you don’t have to stay swampy until your next shower.

Once you’re sweaty, you can improvise a bath with Ban Total Refresh Cooling Body Cloths. They clean up sweat and smell fresh to combat a B.O. situation. As a bonus, they leave behind a silky, powder finish to help prevent the sticky, sweaty feeling from returning.

Dust swampy regions like feet, the area where thighs meet, and under your bust line with a moisture-absorbing powder like Zeasorb. Just avoid cornstarch powders, Dr. Day warns. The starch is food for bacteria and yeast, so you could end up with a nasty rash.

You have to be especially careful with products used around your crotch — as is always the case. Avoid anything scented or astringent. Baby wipes will gently remove offending sweat and help prevent any odor from developing.

If you’re battling serious foot odor, try wiping them with isopropyl alcohol, which you can find for $2 at the drugstore. The alcohol kills bacteria and leaves a cooling feeling as it evaporates. However, this can be harsh on skin, so avoid any delicate areas.

Of course, it’s ideal to go minimal with your makeup, but sometimes you have to wear foundation in August. Once you start feeling damp, soak up the moisture with blotting sheets like Clean & Clear Oil Absorbing Sheets or Shiseido Sweat and Oil Blotting Film. These papers are specially designed to absorb perspiration without wiping away your makeup. Or, if you want to go super thrifty, we've found great success with Starbucks napkins as oil blotters — really. If you need more shine control, Barose suggests a light dusting of MAC Loose Blot Powder.

Wearing your hair up in a top knot or ponytail will camouflage sweaty hair. But, if you must wear it down, dry shampoo can revive a style that humidity has destroyed. Spray it around the hairline and at the roots to soak up sweat and oil while also adding volume. If you can plan ahead, pile your locks in a loose bun on top of your head, and take your strands down once you reach your destination.

When you absolutely need to be high and dry all over, Dr. Zeichner recommends toting a travel hairdryer. You can use it to dry soggy clothes, and the cool-shot button can help turn your swampy skin into a more arid environment.
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