Excessive underarm sweating is an embarrassing problem, leading to stained clothing, body odor, anxiety and even social isolation. In some cases, underarm sweating is easily controlled with the correct application and use of antiperspirants. However, if the excessive sweating is an ongoing problem which has affected you for more than 6 months, your doctor may use the term hyperhidrosis -- which may require different options. If over-the-counter antiperspirants won't control the sweat, your doctor can address other treatments, including prescription antiperspirant or medications, Botox injections or other procedures or surgery to reduce or stop sweating.
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While deodorants help control the odor associated with underarm sweating, they do not reduce or stop sweating. Make sure your underarm product is an antiperspirant, and if preferred, also a deodorant. Antiperspirants stop sweating by temporarily blocking the sweat glands in the underarms, which prompts your body to reduce or stop the flow of sweat.
Make sure you are using the product correctly. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends antiperspirants be applied to dry skin -- at night. Because most people sweat less at night, applying the underarm product before bed allows the active ingredients to plug the pores and stop underarm sweating before you wake up in the morning. Even if the antiperspirant washes off with morning bathing, these active ingredients work for at least 24 hours.
If your antiperspirant is not doing its job to stop sweating, try a clinical strength product. These products contain a higher amount of the active ingredient, which is usually an aluminum-based compound. If this doesn’t work, ask your doctor if you can try a prescription antiperspirant. Follow the directions on use, as these stronger products can lead to more skin irritation.
Wear clothing made of natural fibers, such as cotton or silk, to improve air circulation and keep your skin dry. When exercising, choose synthetic fabrics that are designed to wick moisture away from your skin and reduce sweating and odor. Also consider using underarm liners or absorbent or sweatproof undershirts, which are made to absorb sweat.
If you are still not getting sweat relief, talk to your doctor about other options. Botox injections can control excessive sweating for several months by blocking the chemical that activates the sweat glands. A relatively new, noninvasive microwave technology is also available which causes localized destruction of sweat glands, offering a permanent solution. If these treatments don’t work, your doctor can prescribe medications that temporarily prevent sweating, or less commonly perform surgery that either removes sweat glands or targets the nerves that control sweating.
- Toxins: Hyperhidrosis: Anatomy, Pathophysiology and Treatment with Emphasis on the Role of Botulinum Toxins
- American Academy of Dermatology: Hyperhidrosis
- International Hyperhidrosis Society: Antiperspirant Basics
- Seminars in Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery: Treatment of Hyperhidrosis With Microwave Technology