The summer holiday is great: no more exams, a little break from studies, the time to hang out with friends and family and try new activities and eateries. But you know what stinks? Stepping outside in the humid Hong Kong summer and experiencing instant sweaty armpits (and much more).
Sweat can be uncomfortable and smelly. Stains can be embarrassing. But you don’t have to go through summer soaking through all your shirts. Two doctors and a fashion designer shed light on why we sweat and how we can control it - beyond just using deodorant.
Here are some tips to help keep you dry and smelling fresh this summer.
1. Change your diet
What we eat has an effect on how much we sweat. If you want to curb your sweaty pits, try staying away from caffeine and spicy foods.
“Caffeine triggers sweat as it excites the central nervous system, which then activates sweat glands,” said Dr Joshua Zeichner, director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
“Similarly, avoid spicy foods like hot sauces, peppers and spices, which can increase the amount of sweat you produce.”
If you want to calm your body to reduce sweat, try eating hydrating foods such as watermelon and apples.
“A more natural route is to eat foods that calm the body, like cucumber. Cucumbers are also filled with water and hydration is key to keep from perspiring. The more hydrated you are, the less hot you’ll be,” said Dr Howard Murad, dermatologist and founder of Murad Skincare.
2. Wear breathable fabrics
Breathable clothing like cotton and linen allow for ventilation, which can help keep sweaty pits and thighs at bay, says fashion designer Christian Siriano.
Siriano recommends going with colourful and contrasting outfits because both will distract from sweat stains.
Shirts, “blouses and dresses with bold patterns will hide stains much better than solids,” said the star of reality fashion TV show Project Runway. “Stepping outside of your comfort zones and embracing new cuts, colours and fabrics will also help hide stains.”
One suggestion, from Raleigh Dale, a 26-year-old who lives with hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating, suggests wearing sheer shirts or dual layer clothing like a blazer and a tank top. If you end up sweating through your tank top, you can put your blazer on to cover up.
3. Wet wipes are your friend
Sweat is sometimes accompanied by odour because it interacts with the bacteria on your skin.
“Bad smells are exacerbated when sweat is allowed to sit in a cool damp place for an extended period of time as smells are produced when moisture reacts to bacteria on the skin,” said Zeichner.
If you’re perspiring and don’t want to smell, make sure to grab a wet wipe or damp paper towel and do a quick sweep under your pits and then dry them off.
4. Manage your stress
Being stressed can trigger sweat.
Murad suggests doing simple breathing exercises to help lower stress. He also suggests taking chlorophyll tablets, which can offset some of the body odour some people can experience from sweating. Eating green vegetables such as broccoli and brussels sprouts can help, too.
But it’s OK to be sweaty. Sweat is the natural method your body uses to cool itself off. Zeichner said it’s healthy for your body to sweat and it’s a necessary part of survival.
If you’re sweating excessively (four to five times more than normal) you may have hyperhidrosis, a disorder that makes you sweat regardless of whether it’s hot out or you’re physically exerting yourself.
“It’s believed that excessive sweating happens when sweat glands overreact to stimuli. If you think you might sweat more than the average amount, I encourage you to see a dermatologist for a sweat assessment and to learn about ways to manage sweat,” Zeichner said.
But at the end of the day, understand that sweat does not define you. It does not make you a worse - or better - person, and anyone who judges you based on sweaty armpits isn't worth your time.