Underarm sweating is a huge turn-off. Here are 16 ways to tackle it successfully!

Writer Oluwafisayomi Aturamu looks at practical ways you can successfully deal with underarm sweating (and the accompanying odour that inevitably follows).

(Originally posted on AskAwayHealth.org).

Lady in front of a mirror - underarm sweating can be embarrassing
Photo by Collins Lesulie on Unsplash

We all sweat. It is the means by which our body cools itself down.

But imagine this – you are presenting at your workplace team meeting in 5 minutes and already nervous at the prospect. You notice that despite sitting quite still, you have damp patches underneath your arms quite visible on your shirt! Could this embarrassment have been prevented?


How underarm sweating develops

Sweat is produced when the body is overheating. 

It is mainly water; but asides water, it may contain other substances like salt and protein.[1] Sweat is produced by glands located all over our body.

The glands located near hair follicles in areas such as the armpits, under the breast and groin produce the type of sweat that smells.[1]

It is important to note that besides the regulation of temperature, sweating could also be as a result of our body’s response to stress.


What are the factors that affect sweating? 

Certain factors affect the quality and timing of our sweat. Some are:

  1. Temperature – People tend to sweat more during the hot weather compared to the cold weather.
  2. Physical activity – Increased physical activity causes increased sweating e.g. during exercise.
  3. Diet – Eating spicy foods e.g. pepper, ginger, etc. can cause increased stimulation of the sweat glands to produce more sweat. Certain foods like onions, cabbage, and garlic may also worsen the smell associated with sweating.
  4. Alcohol can also cause increased sweating especially when taken excessively.
  5. Age – During puberty, the sweat glands located around the armpits, breasts, and groin develop and start producing concentrated sweat which tends to smell more.
  6. Personal hygiene – Sweat smells when it comes in contact with bacteria. This is particularly true for the armpits and groin area as bacteria thrive in warm and moist places.
  7. Stress – Stress (or anxiety) causes increased sweating by activating the body’s sympathetic nervous system which controls some unconscious functions such as increased blood flow to the sweat glands.

Although sweating is a normal physiological phenomenon, the odour associated with can be unpleasant and a cause for concern to individuals, with significant embarrassment if not controlled.


Avoiding underarm sweating

Top tips to avoid excessive sweating and control the odour associated with sweat:

  1. The use of deodorants and antiperspirants.
    • Deodorants are used to conceal the odour of smell while antiperspirants prevent sweating.
  2. Ensure that you shave underarm (armpit) regularly because they can retain moisture.
  3. Keep all skin areas prone to heat and moisture (like the groin, underarm) clean and dry.
  4. Wear fresh cotton underwear and change them regularly
  5. Choose loose clothing over tight clothing that clings to the body.
  6. Avoid outer clothing made from synthetic fabrics like rayon and nylon.
  7. Wear light clothing made of natural products like cotton or linen and lighter colours e.g. white that would not absorb heat.
  8. Always wear clean dry clothing – inner and outer.
  9. Avoid spicy food which can both increase sweat production and make sweat smell more pungent
  10. Stay hydrated.
  11. Always stay in well-ventilated rooms when indoors.
    • When outdoors, stay under a shade and avoid standing in direct sunlight.
  12. Take a shower at least twice daily.
  13. You can carry wipes with you to freshen up in toilets when you feel sweaty.
  14. If you are prone to sweating easily – carry an extra change of fresh clothing to use before work/meetings.
  15. You could cut a lemon in half and rub on your armpit. It acts as a natural deodorant.
  16. Learn measures you can adopt to deal with stress and anxiety especially when in situations where you have to speak among a group of people. This can include practising speeches, controlled breathing or distraction techniques to control your blood pressure and pulse and create an internal calm within your self. Check out other tips here.

Remember, if you have taken some of these measures, and do not see any difference (or your sweating still causes you great discomfort), do not hesitate to visit your doctor. Sometimes excessive sweating could be a symptom of an underlying medical condition.

Need to know more? Read here:

  1. Emily Rekstis, Cynthia Cobb, 2018. Left Armpits of Left-Handers Smell Better — and 16 Other Sweaty Facts.  
  2. British Assoc of Dermatologists Hyperhidrosis [pdf]
  3. Becky Young, Elaine K. Luo, 2017. 9 Ways to Stop Sweating.
  4. Marsha Durkin, 2019. How to Lessen Underarm Sweating.
  5. Ashley Steinbrinck, 2015. Natural Ways to Avoid Armpit Sweat & Stains.
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