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Let’s talk about sweat

Summer’s not so cool if you spend it perspiring, but there are ways to cope when the heat is on…


erspiration wasn’t designed to humiliate us in front of prospective bosses or love interests, even though it can feel like it sometimes. Its job is to cool us down: when our body temperature starts to rise above its core of 37ºC, we begin to sweat and, as it evaporates from the skin, our temperature is lowered. Clever, yes – but ‘wow’ isn’t what springs to mind when we spot those dreaded damp patches. It’s no wonder 63% of women say that sweating is their most embarrassing issue. So if you’ve tried all the usual things (maintaining a healthy weight, wearing natural fibres, avoiding spicy foods, alcohol and caffeine) but are still in a fret about your sweat, check out these expert suggestions.

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    Your sweat trigger: exercise

    If Sweaty Betty is your nickname rather than your workout brand of choice, don’t stress – your temperature rises during exercise, so damp patches are natural. ‘Most of the time, we perspire from places with the most sweat glands – armpits, feet, palms of the hands – but during exercise it increases all over,’ explains Dr Sandeep Cliff, consultant dermatologist at Spire Gatwick Park Hospital in Surrey.

    Cool it Hot gyms will always equal sweat, but – silver lining alert – fit people may perspire more quickly than unfit ones (*fist pump*). Just make sure you drink plenty of water before and during exercise, and invest in some sweat-wicking clothing to help you feel more comfortable. And enjoy that post-workout shower!

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    Your sweat trigger: everything

    Imagine if you felt as though you were exercising in high humidity, wearing a jumper, every day. That’s what it’s like to have hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating. It affects around 3% of us and, while it can be triggered by conditions such as thyroid problems, in many cases it’s a standalone concern. ‘It can run in families, too,’ adds Dr Cliff.

    Cool it The first step? Consider using a stronger antiperspirant, which contains aluminium chloride, before bed. ‘The sweat glands aren’t as active at night, so it can penetrate deeper,’ says Dr Anjali Mahto, consultant dermatologist at London’s Cadogan Clinic. If you’re still struggling, see your GP, or contact the International Hyperhidrosis Society (

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Get saturated armpits every time you speak up in a meeting? The nerves that are stimulated when we’re anxious also rouse our sweat glands
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    Your sweat trigger: stress

    Get saturated armpits every time you speak up in a meeting? The nerves that are stimulated when we’re anxious also rouse our sweat glands. And there’s a reason our sweat’s a bit more whiffy, too. We have two types of sweat gland – eccrine and apocrine. ‘Most of the time, the eccrine glands do the work, but during stress, the larger apocrines, in the armpits and groin, produce sweat that contains more protein,’ says Boots pharmacist Meera Shah. ‘This is more prone to odour, because bacteria feed on it.’

    Cool it It might sound obvious, but don’t forget your antiperspirant. ‘The aluminium salt found in antiperspirants dissolves in the moisture on the skin’s surface, creating a gel that provisionally sits above sweat glands to help reduce the amount of sweat released,’ explains Meera. Slow breathing might help, too: a study found that steadily inhaling and exhaling through your left nostril could have a relaxing effect on the nervous system. And prioritise sleep; research shows stress sweats can occur more when we need a kip.

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    Your sweat trigger: menopause

    ‘As oestrogen levels fall, this affects the thermoregulatory system,’ says Dr Mahto, ‘which can trigger hot flushes and night sweats.’

    Cool it Start by rethinking how you feel about the flushes – studies show that those who accept them may experience fewer. And hit the treadmill: research has found that women who exercise may actually sweat less during a flush than those who are sedentary. Some find that herbal products can help, too. Consider A. Vogel Menoforce Sage Tablets, £13.99/1,399 points (30 tablets), a traditional herbal medicinal product used to relieve hot flushes and excessive sweating, exclusively based on long-standing use as a traditional remedy (always read the label). But speak to your GP if you’re struggling to cope.

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August Let’s talk about sweat

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Words Helen Foster Photography Getty Images, Pixeleyes 

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