It’s June and the temperatures are rising. For some people, summer weather is something of a problem if they suffer from excess sweating, or Hyperhidrosis, which can have negative effects on their lifestyle in more ways than you might think. Not only can sweating affect a person’s self-confidence, it can be embarrassing, and it can ruin your clothes.
Humans need to sweat to keep the body at an even 37 degrees C through evaporative cooling. There are about 3 million sweat glands in the human body, located all over but concentrated in the back (64 glands /cm2), the forearm (108 glands/ cm2), and the forehead (181 glands/ cm2). The palms of the hands and the soles of the feet each contain from 600 to 700 glands / cm2 (source).
According to hyperhidrosis.ca, an estimated 800,000 Canadians suffer from Hyperhidrosis, 60% of which are not brought to medical attention. The site estimates that 50% of Hyperhidrosis-affected people sweat excessively in their armpits. For some, this can be highly uncomfortable but there is hope!
University of Toronto Academic Professor in the Department of Otolaryngology, Division of Facial Plastic Surgery, Dr. David Ellis, and I talked about Hyperhidrosis, men, and what men can do about excessive sweating of the armpits.
Dr. Ellis finds Botox to be an effective method of controlling underarm Hyperhidrosis and uses the product himself. Botox temporarily interferes with the bio-chemical reaction of producing sweat, keeping armpits dry between 9 months to 1 year. He says that the product takes a couple of weeks to kick in and has patients return after about a month to see if the injections worked in the area because “everyone’s sweat glands are a little different.”
The product is administered through a tiny needle into the underarm area (smaller than a blood-drawing needle), and larger men with a larger surface area may need more tiny pokes.
The only problem is, “Guys tend to be sucks,” as Dr. Ellis says, “Men are more scared of the initial consult, but once they have one armpit done, they see that it isn’t as bad as they thought. If I can do it, anyone can do it.”
I asked the doctor if men would still need to use deodorant if they’re using Botox for underarm sweating, and Dr. Ellis says that he does, though this just may be out of habit. According to Allergan, the company that produces Botox, women who use Botox in their underarm do not need to use deodorant as long as they wash daily. But a man isn’t a woman, and men generally sweat more than women do.
It is bacteria that produces the body odour smell and needs moisture to grow, so daily washing is necessary, though how many times a day would be a matter of experimentation with each individual. Also, as men don’t generally remove the hair from their underarms, I understand that hair traps the moisture which increases the likelihood of bacteria formation and the accompanying foul smell. For those of you so inclined, shaving or waxing under your arms is another way to help.
Dr. Ellis administers the Botox treatment for Hyperhidrosis to many professionals who work in close proximity to other people like teachers, dentists, and even sports players. Some insurance plans cover a good chunk of the Botox treatment to cover the cost of the injection technique but patients would cover the cost of the product themselves (about $400 – $500). For more information, please contact Dr. Ellis’ clinic, the Art of Facial Surgery.
While Dr. Ellis and I were chatting, he mentioned that before he used Botox, he would get yellow perspiration stains under his arms, specifically under the arms of his Brooks Brothers’ wrinkle-free shirt.
Perspiration stains are a problem for many people, especially those who choose to wear white dress shirts to work, and it often causes damage to the garment which sometimes just has to be trashed. It’s a crying shame and it isn’t necessary!
Let’s consider perspiration. Perspiration serves two purposes: to cool the body as it evaporates, and to remove waste products like ammonia and urea. Urea is a “nitrogen-containing substance normally cleared from the blood by the kidney into the urine. This is what makes some perspiration stains yellow – urea also makes urine yellow.”
Aha! Culprit #1!
Along with urea, there was another factor that I wanted to look into, the composition of Dr. Ellis’ shirt. I looked at the wrinkle-free cotton shirts on the Brooks Brothers website and found them comprised of 100% non-iron cotton, and here we have located our second culprit.
100% cotton or not, “non-iron” anything is not natural. To achieve a “wrinkle-free” textile, the cotton is treated with a chemical finish that may be convenient, but is not necessarily a good thing. The chemicals used in the finish may be a part of the reason that the shirt stained – synthetic elements tend to “hang on” to stains (and sometimes smells – who of you 70s children remember your stinky unbreathable polyester shirts?).
The J. Simon Shirtmaker site explains that “non-iron” garments decrease the quality and the life cycle of the shirt, and that the chemicals in the “wrinkle-free” treatment may actually be harmful to us (one of these days I’ll write a blog explaining what the shirt you are wearing goes through before it climbs onto your back – you’ll be amazed).
J. Simon, that happens to be a supplier to Brooks Brothers, says, “The truth is, the word “genius” is used too often. What is “genius” is that wrinkle-free has proven to be a great marketing hook that many are using. But for the customer that really appreciates 100% cotton, it doesn’t deliver. Next time, buy a classic cotton shirt, deal with the ironing, and leave the wrinkle-free for the sale racks.”
Treating perspiration stains
So now we know why Dr. Ellis’ shirt stained, but what can the good doctor do about it? I reached for my trusty Fabric Reference text book to find out:
Option 1: Work undiluted liquid detergent into the stain to penetrate. I suggest that it might be even better if the garment is damp when you apply the detergent. I found an excellent site that suggests to lay the garment out in the sun after you’ve worked in the soap and leave it out for an afternoon.
Option 2: Wash with an enzyme pre-soak or enzyme detergent (a detergent to break down starch, protein, and fat).
Option 3: Wash in water as hot as is safe for that garment.
I found other good information online about preventing and treating perspiration stains, from lemon juice to baking powder (also good for ring-around-the-collar). Though I don’t usually give much weight to information found on random online forums, I did find this Yahoo! Answers to perspiration stains fairly good.
Alternatives to Botox and stain-removal
1. Dress shields
Wonderful, discreet, shirt-saving ovals that you will wonder how you lived without. We used to pin these into the armholes of costumes in Theatre school for the comfort of the warm actors under the hot lights and to save the costumes. Dress shields can easily be made from unbleached cotton muslin and pinned in the sleeve seam with safety pins, hand-washed, and reused over and over.
Dress shields can also be ordered online. Avardi does fantastic adhesive dress shields and other garment-saving underthings like t-shirts with built-in dress shields (wonderful for the winter) and collar protectors (“White Collar Grime” collar strips – love it).
2. Natural alternatives
Along with mentioning dress shields (they call them “sweat pads”), this site explains some natural ways to deal with sweating.
3. Stop sweating and start living
In my online travels, I came across an e-book with a 100% money-back guarantee that promises “All-natural techniques for fast & safe relief from excessive perspiration!” The testimonials rave about the process. “The Stop Sweating and Start Living remedy is a practical and unique treatment that permanently gets rid of your underarm sweat problem – naturally and without side effects,” it promises.
The site explains that Hyperhidrosis can “drain your self-esteem, kill your self-confidence, and cause you to waste time and energy worrying about your problem.” Notes on the site mention people wearing baggy black clothing to hide their wetness (works for hefty types too – I hid in baggy black clothing when I was 30 lbs overweight and I know that dressing this way does NOTHING for the soul nor the self-esteem).
It’s sad that something so natural can weigh so heavily on our day-to-day living, but thank goodness we’re moving farther away from afflictions that threaten to topple our confidence. It’s nice to have a choice of treatment from natural relief to periodic injections that can get a handle on the sweat and help us get on with it. Whew!