Now that’s an outfit to keep the sweat away
For many, daily life consists of waking up, running out the door and doing about 500 things before returning home in the evening, or even later. This means your body temperature must rise and fall to accommodate treks up the sidewalk, getting in and out of your car or moving from the warmth of sunlight into the crisp of air conditioning. And so on.
Since you’re made of flesh and blood, you sweat. Maybe a little, maybe a lot. Your sweat glands are like a highly sophisticated internal shower. When your body temperature rises, they kick in to regulate that heat. When you’re under stress, they also get involved.
Two Types of Sweat
There are two types of sweat. The type produced by eccrine glands (aka exertion sweat); and the type produced by apocrine glands (aka stress sweat).
Exertion Sweat. Eccrine glands exist over much of your body and open directly onto the skin’s surface. When your body temperature rises from exertion, your eccrine glands secrete an essentially odorless fluid (made mostly of water and salt) onto your skin.
The sweat evaporates on the skin, and your body is cooled as a result. Side note: If you’ve ever wondered why you sweat more in humid weather, it’s because sweat doesn’t evaporate well in humidity. The evaporation process is crucial to the cooling of your body temperature.
Stress sweat can beat up white clothes!
Stress Sweat. Apocrine glands, on the other hand, start firing when you’re dealing with emotional stress. You feel the feelings, and your nervous system directs the apocrine glands to start releasing fluids.
These glands are located on areas of your body where a lot of hair follicles exist: the underarm area, pelvis and scalp. Unlike those mild little eccrine glands, apocrine glands pump fluid along the hair follicle and, this is key, the composition is different. There’s more than just water and salt coming out; there are proteins and fatty acids in the mix, as well. (This explains why sweat stains on clothes are typically yellowish in color.)
In short, bacteria love it. Plus, stress sweat occurs on balmy and hidden-away areas where it’s less able to evaporate. It simply sits there, where it’s quickly broken down by bacteria.
Our typical response is to tame sweat with deodorant or anti-perspirant. Side note: The difference between the two is this. Deodorants remove the body odor but not the perspiration. You’ll still have moisture, but it will smell like desert rain or new car or whichever variation you selected from the drugstore shelf. Antiperspirants temporarily block the sweat pore, enabling perhaps only a smidgeon of sweat to reach the skin’s surface.
If you read this blog regularly, you know that I’m partial to at-home and natural beauty solutions because, “Hey, why heap on chemicals if you don’t need to?”
Here are two natural deodorant alternatives:
•Plain White Vinegar. Place white vinegar in a spray bottle and dilute with 2-3 parts water. This means that for every 1 ounce of vinegar, you’ll add 2-3 ounces of water; distilled if it’s handy. Spray it under the arms and use a cotton swab to clean the area. Some like to follow up by applying more of the mixture, undiluted, and allowing it to dry.
•Fresh Lemon. Cut into small slices. Squeeze a slice softly to get the juice to the surface. Apply generously to the underarm area. Do not apply on broken irritated or just-shaven skin.
Both of these are good alternatives if you’re avoiding aluminum or if ingredients in traditional deodorants cause irritation.
I hardly expect for you to squeeze a lemon on your underarm area and skip off to confidently handle some mind-boggling stressful situation, like arguing a case in front of the Supreme Court or auditioning for a part in a major motion picture.
But these alternatives might be swell for you on a day when you don’t need to call in the big guns, sweat-wise, or don’t feel like plugging up your pores with stuff.
On-the-go Sweat Solutions
You may want to run errands after yoga class, and don’t necessarily feel like swinging by home first for a shower and costume change. Or have just gotten off an endless red-eye flight and feel like a bit of freshening-up is in order before you face humanity.
•Antibacterial cleaning wipes are everywhere, but they tend to be hardcore in terms of chemicals. And we are dealing with porous, delicate areas. A kinder, gentle wipe that I’ve used is Swipe. They are made from tea tree oil, and are neatly and cheerfully packaged, too. You can buy them here.
Another plus: The material of the wipe itself is soft and biodegradable. The formulation is gentle and the scent is fresh and unobtrusive. They are a two-in-one situation, removing any existing issue and imparting deodorant on the area. I was running late to a luncheon and grabbed one off my desk and used it before leaving.
I ran around all day–through fun LA traffic too!–doing a bunch of stuff and by the time I hit the shower that night, things were still alright, if you get my drift.
•Hand sanitizer. If you don’t have any wipes handy, hunt down a bottle of hand sanitizer and as Tim Gunn famously says, “Make it work.” The alcohol in the sanitizer will kill the bacteria that causes odor.
3 More Tips
•Secret Clinical Strength. I don’t go here unless I have to, but this stuff works. It pretty much seals the pores under the arms for the entire day. Go ahead, wear a filmy white silk shirt and deal with supersonic levels of stress. Your underarms will be as dry as the Sahara at the end of of it all.
It’s 20% aluminum, though, so it’s off the table if you’re avoiding such products. I’m sure there are other super-duper strength antiperspirants out there, but this is the one I’m most familiar with and have used to good effect.
•Dress Shields. A good solution if underarm wetness is an issue. Pick up a pair or two at a fabric store. They are usually in-stock at Jo-Ann. Guys, you can use them too.
You can buy the type that are stitched into the seam of the garment, or disposable dress shields that affix to fabric via an adhesive strip. These are ideal for situations where you want to be 100% sure there will be no sign of sweat on your garments.
•Emerging Shapewear. Hit the shapewear section of your local department store to see what’s cooking in terms of sweat management. The photo below shows an under-shirt smoother with cushy underarm pads built in, perfect for capturing stray moisture. There is no end to the creative fixes those designers are coming up with.