Everybody sweats; it’s a primitive part of our physiology. Whenever our body temperature rises, our bodies start to lose water to cool itself, hence the trickling and pooling of sweat and the resulting marks it leaves on our clothes.
Stress also plays a factor: You can either be undergoing an antiperspirant test, locked in a 100˚ Celsius “hot room,” sweating buckets for 80 minutes, or seated comfortably in an air-conditioned conference room, rushing to meet a deadline. In both scenarios, we bet that if you put your hands on your armpits, you’ll find them moist at the very least.
What makes us sweat?
There are the obvious suspects: physical activity, eating piping hot, spicy food, etc. But how much sweat is too much?
According to Dr. Windie Hayano, managing director and dermatologist at Skin Inc., the answer to this question is pretty relative, and that the amount of sweat we generate should really be nothing to worry about. “It only matters if it gets in the way of life, if it’s embarrassing for you. That’s only when it’s a problem.” So if you have a healthy enough self-esteem to shrug off the wet spots that form on your shirt’s armpit areas, then more power to you. May sweat spots be no longer a source of embarrassment for anybody.
It’s also myth that fat guys sweat faster. The truth is that the more in shape you are, the sooner you start to sweat. When your body’s in top form, it’s primed to dissipate heat. But when you’re more of a couch potato type, your body needs time to start the pumps. That’s why fit guys are always oiled or misted for topless shoots: Sweat indicates that he is active, tough, and resilient.
What makes us stink?
Human beings have two types of sweat glands: The eccrine, which can be found almost everywhere on the body, and the apocrine, which are confined mostly to the armpits and the groin.
Eccrine glands secrete water and a trace of salt. The combination by itself doesn’t have any scent, but it does provide a nice, wet environment for bacteria colonization, making the practice of good hygiene still an important factor.
Apocrine glands spit out a thicker fluid of fats and proteins—practically an all-you-can-eat buffet for bacteria—that includes pheromones. “When in overdrive, [the sweat these glands secrete] repels,” says Hayano. This state is called bromhidrosis, which causes anyone to stink despite having impeccable hygiene.
What creates stains on our clothes?
Those yellow half-moons on the armpits of our white shirts aren’t caused by the antiperspirant/deodorant that we use. Rather, they’re the by-product of the sebum and sweat in our armpits. When mixed with sweat, however, the synthetic wax in some antiperspirants can make the stains worse.
To minimize chances of staining, read the product label when shopping for an antiperspirant and avoid those that list wax as one of the ingredients.
What makes us break out in a rash?
It is a myth that eating too much salty food is responsible for rashes. “Rashes are actually caused by sweat glands that aren’t well-developed. When sweat doesn’t get to escape the body properly, it stays right there in the glands, causing bumps and irritation,” Hayano explains. “Sweat rash looks like blisters. Some turn red from the heat and irritation, which is what we call a heat rash.”
To remedy this, she recommends cooling down the skin with a minty talc powder to keep it dry and staying in a cool environment. A mild steroid cream can also be applied to calm down inflammation, especially on the folds. Of course, when it comes to skin problems, the best bet is always to see a dermatologist.