What is sweat?
Sweat is mostly water
with small amounts of urea and salts, released by apocrine glands under the
skin surface in the armpits and eccrine glands under the skin surface over the
face, head, hands and feet. Sweat’s
purpose is to flow over the skin and evaporate, leading to cooling of the skin
What is excessive
The average individual
sweats about 1 liter (1 quart) of fluid/day, most of which goes unnoticed. The sweating that concerns most people is
armpit sweating, which accounts for only ~1% of our body’s daily sweat
production. Only ~1% of people have
excessive sweating, known as hyperhidrosis.
Humans can sweat up to 10 liters per day if really hot or working hard.
How does a deodorant
Deodorants work by
inhibiting or killing bacteria that accumulate on the skin and metabolize sweat
into smelly compounds such as trans-3-methyl-2-hexenoic acid and 3-hydroxy-3-methyl-hexanoic acid. Some deodorants also contain perfumes to mask
How does an
Antiperspirants work by
reducing the amount of sweat released to the skin surface. Aluminum salts in antiperspirants combine
with the water and salts in sweat to form gel plugs that clog sweat ducts and
Does sweat smell?
Sweat has no smell. It is mostly water, salt, small amounts of
urea, proteins and oils. Its only after
bacteria accumulate and metabolize these proteins and oils that an odor
The primary compound
excreted by bacteria causing sweat odor is trans-3-methyl-2-hexenoic acid.
How to reduce sweating
and its effects.
Use an effective
antiperspirants have ~3 times the amount of normal antiperspirants and can help
to further reduce sweating.
Wear cotton clothing that
quickly wicks away moisture from the skin.
Wear loose fitting clothing.
Wear shoes and socks made
out of natural materials that draw away excess moisture from the feet.
Avoid spicy foods,
alcohol, caffeine and nicotine.
Help sweaty feet by
wearing sandals or flip-flops during the summer.
Does sweat stain
Sweat is colorless and
odorless when it leaves the body and does not stain fabric by itself in most
individuals. Bacteria that metabolize
sweat can excrete compounds that might stain fabric. But the primary cause of yellow fabric
stains in the armpits is the aluminum salts present in antiperspirants. These stains can be removed by mixing 1 scoop
of OxiClean in a sink full of warm water and let soak overnight. Rinse and launder. White sweat stains come from other
ingredients in certain antiperspirants and deodorants. Use a biological detergent to remove these
stains. Ironing fabric with sweat stains
may set those stains permanently.
What are night sweats?
MOST night sweats are
caused by getting too warm while sleeping.
Sleep with less clothing, or use fewer blankets, or a lighter
comforter. Night sweats can also occur
because of illness, fever, infections, hypoglycemia, drug use, narcotic use, and sleep apnea.
What causes menopause
About 70% of women
develop menopausal symptoms at the time menstrual periods cease in the 40s and
50s. These symptoms include “hot
flashes” and cold sweats or night sweats.
The flushes last 30 seconds to 30 minutes and result from diminishing
estrogen levels. Effective ways to
combat excessive sweating with hot flushes include showering regularly, using
an antiperspirant, wear loose-fitting clothing made of natural fibers, avoid
alcohol, caffeine, spicy foods and smoking, keep well-hydrated, exercise
regularly, and keep the bedroom cool at night.
What causes stress
Nervous sweating is a
physical reaction to strong emotions like stress or anxiety. Stress causes the heart rate to increase and
can release adrenalin which will augment sweating. Dehydration (not drinking enough fluids) can
cause excessive sweating to help cool the body down.
Why do certain foods
Spicy foods and hot
drinks can cause increased sweating.
This is known as gustatory sweating. They do this by raising the internal body temperature which activates
the body’s cooling system (sweating).
Caffeine stimulates sweat glands and alcohol increases blood flow to the
skin which can make you sweat more.