Summer’s here, and for some women who struggle to manage their excessive sweating it can bring a sense of dread.
It's estimated that 30% of people experience the excessive sweating condition known as hyperhidrosis but it's often considered embarrassing to talk about. Many women say that it seriously impacts their life and go to extreme lengths to conceal it.
As well as hyperhidrosis, hormones, the menopause and health conditions can all interfere with our temperature regulation, too.
Why do I sweat so much?
Aesthetics nurse and independent prescriber Nina Prisk from Update Aesthetics says that excessive sweating is relatively common and can appear in specific areas or across the whole body. She added:
"While it’s normal to sweat during exercise or when you’re hot, you may be experiencing excessive sweating if your body continues to sweat when it does not need to cool down.
"People suffering from hyperhidrosis will find that sweating causes an impact on their daily life. They might put on a top and in a few minutes it’s soaking wet. It’s not just under the arms, it can be under the boobs, the bottom and the hands, and it can really impact a person’s daily life. I’ve treated women with Botox for hyperhidrosis and it’s changed their life."
Besides Botox, there are topical products that can help to reduce sweating, like powerful roll-on antiperspirants containing aluminium chloride hexahydrate, such as Perspirex or Driclor. These work by reacting with water and keratin in the sweat duct, temporarily forming a gel-plug which prevents sweat from reaching the surface of the skin. They need to be applied regularly and can cause skin irritation.
Best topical products
Clare, 35, from Manchester uses this type of antiperspirant to manage her excessive sweating but says that her condition affects her face and scalp the most so it doesn’t solve the whole problem for her.
"I mainly sweat on my face and scalp, though my back and armpits can get sweaty when it’s hot. Humidity is the absolute worst for me. It even puts me off travelling to certain places where the weather’s hot and humid.
"I use a gel called Neat 3B Face Saver Gel to stop my face from sweating – it needs to be reapplied throughout the day and feels dry, like wearing deodorant on your face. It doesn’t totally stop me sweating but it definitely reduces it. I’ve tried wipes that are meant to do something similar as well but they didn’t work for me, I think because they don’t sit on your skin like the gel does. I think I’d have to get Botox for my scalp, which I’m not ready for just yet."
Others skip creams and deodorants, seeking out medical intervention to deal with their hyperhidrosis on the daily.
Katya, 28, from London visited a private dermatologist to find out her options and to seek treatment after her GP told her that her hyperhidrosis wasn't considered serious.
"I went to a private dermatologist about my hyperhidrosis and got a proper diagnosis. He prescribed me some medication called oxybutynin that’s usually used for people who have bladder problems. My sweating has basically stopped but [the medication] does make my mouth feel dry.
"It isn’t really meant for sweating so your doctor has to make a judgement call. Luckily I can get this medication on the NHS but I had to pay for the initial consultation. I only managed to arrange the private appointment because where I used to work had private medical cover as part of our benefits."
Other women are turning to injectables to deal with excessive sweating. Botox is licensed in the UK to treat excessive armpit sweat by blocking the nerve that activates the sweat glands, stopping the release of a chemical called acetylcholine.
Daisy, 26, from Cornwall, swears by Botox for her underarm sweating.
"I know everyone sweats but my sweating has always been heavier. Even if I was cold my armpits would be wet. I’ve tried different things but had resigned myself to the fact that nothing could really stop it. It made me so self-conscious.
"After doing some research I realised Botox could be used for this and made an appointment. The whole process took about 30-45 minutes and cost £400, plus they numbed my armpits so I didn’t feel it. After five days the sweating started to reduce and I couldn’t believe how well it worked. I feel like it’s changed my life. It lasts ages as well."
Another treatment for hyperhidrosis is iontophoresis. This involves sending a gentle electrical current through water to shut down your sweat glands temporarily. It isn’t a permanent solution and needs regular maintenance to keep up with results.
Steff, 34, from Manchester decided to try iontophoresis during lockdown as she had the time and budget available. She says that her sweating is worst on her hands, feet and face.
"Being sweaty honestly ruins my life, my mum is exactly the same. It’s worse if I have to rush to a meeting or date or something. By the time I arrive I just feel so sweaty and hot – especially on my hands, feet and face. If it’s a warm day, I’ll give myself extra time to sit with a fan and cool down before I meet up, which sounds crazy but when people see me in full sweat mode, they get it.
"Iontophoresis has stopped my hands and feet from sweating but I can’t use it on my face. Buying the machine was expensive but it’s worked for me. It’s annoying that it doesn’t make the problem go away forever. I can always tell if I need to do another session."
Best sweat-wicking accessories
Others take steps to conceal their sweating rather than stopping it from happening. This can mean using a portable fan at all times, wearing clothing that hides sweat patches, skipping makeup or choosing hairstyles that keep hair away from the face and neck.
Tarra, 28, from Buckinghamshire wears clothing that’s specially made to absorb the sweat from her armpits before it leaves noticeable sweat patches, whatever the temperature outside.
"I started wearing T-shirts that have built-in sweat-proof armpit pads last year. I don’t really sweat anywhere else but it’s so bad that I have to be careful what I wear. I don’t think I’ve worn a grey T-shirt in about 10 years. I feel like it’s not healthy to stop sweating altogether so I’d rather try and manage it afterwards. I do worry about body odour so I tend to swipe my pits with glycolic acid regularly, wear lots of deodorant and always carry perfume with me.
"I’ve seen women online who take bottles of water into shops to 'test' how much a fabric will show moisture before they buy it and I can totally see why you would. I kind of choose clothes based on how much I can disguise being sweaty. I’ve also seen women on TikTok with period pads in their armpits – the T-shirts seem a bit of a less extreme step for me."