Excessive Sweating and Antiperspirants

If you have an excessive sweating condition and looking to understand the causes and the potential solutions, then this article will help you tremendously. It is estimated that about 3% of people suffer from excessive sweating. For Asians, this percentage jumps to 6%. So, if you suffer from excessive sweating, you are not alone. Excessive sweating goes by many names, such as Hyperhidrosis, excessive perspiration, heavy sweating, and profuse sweating. Excessive sweating can happen on many parts of the body such as the feet, the hands, palms, armpits, head, and back.

Why people sweat?

Sweat is essential to human survival, as it serves as a body coolant. It protects the body from overheating. We typically associate perspiration with physical activities, hot weather, humidity, and fever. Other factors include menopause, puberty, nervousness, and several diseases. Sweat is made up of 99% water, and small bits of carbs, salt, protein, and urea. While sweating, the body produces aqueous and salty fluids. According to the International Hyperhidrosis Society, this bodily sweat is secreted from about four million sweat glands, which are spread all over the skin. These sweat glands are:

The eccrine sweat glands

The eccrine sweat glands make up about three million of the sweat glands. Their function is to cool the body, secreting only water and electrolytes. The sweat quality is nutrient-poor, therefore, it rarely attracts bacteria, and that’s why it does not strongly impact the scent.

The apocrine sweat glands

The apocrine sweat glands make up about one million of the sweat glands. They transport fats and proteins to the skin’s surface along with sweat, which is then digested by bacteria colonies, along with dead skin and hair cells, to produce the sweat odor as a metabolic byproduct.

Excessive Sweating

Excessive sweating happens when the sweat glands overreact to stimuli and are overactive, producing more sweat than necessary.

Excessive Sweating Causes

The most common cause of excessive sweating is your genes. Other factors can also contribute to excessive sweating, such as changes in hormonal levels, changes in one’s personal diet, emotional changes, and so on. If the excessive sweating condition is severe, then it is called Hyperhidrosis. Hyperhidrosis is a commonly unknown illness. In fact, severe sweating can be a clinical condition if certain limits of sweat secretion are exceeded. According to the International Society of dermatology, the condition is called Hyperhidrosis if the production of 100 mg or more of sweat happens within 5 minutes.

Hyperhidrosis Types

Primary Hyperhidrosis

Excessive sweating that is not caused by any bodily illness, though it could get provoked by nervous or psychological influences, genetic traits, psychological or psychosomatic interference, inflammation, and dietary characteristics, i.e. anyone who eats +5000 calories a day with no significant exercise may suffer from hyperhidrosis.

Secondary Hyperhidrosis

Excessive sweating is caused by an explicit bodily illness, infection, and inflammation. This includes menopause sweating, adolescence sweating, obesity sweating, high fever, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, and medications (especially psychotropic drugs).

Excessive sweating can also be generalized or focal:

  • Generalized Hyperhidrosis: This is when excessive sweating is all over the body, not in specific areas.
  • Focal Hyperhidrosis: This is when severe sweating is localized to specific parts of the body, for example, sweaty palms (Hyperhidrosis palmaris), sweaty feet (Hyperhidrosis plantaris), and underarm sweating (Hyperhidrosis axillaris).

History of antiperspirants

Products to control sweating and body odor have been used for centuries. Before bathing became commonplace, people used heavy perfumes and powders to mask body odor. In the late nineteenth century, chemists developed products (soaps) that were able to prevent the formation of these body odors. Early antiperspirants were sticky pastes that were applied to the body area. The first such product was Mum deodorant, which was launched in 1888. It was a waxy cream that was difficult to apply and very messy. A few years later, the first antiperspirant to use aluminum derivatives was developed. Within 15 years, a variety of products were marketed in a number of different forms including creams, solids, pads, dabbers, roll-ons, and powders.

Antiperspirants vs. Deodorants

It is important to understand the difference between antiperspirants and deodorants, as many people think they are the same. Many people who suffer from excessive sweating use deodorants and think that they will stop sweating. However, deodorants and antiperspirants are different.

Deodorants are meant to prevent or mask body odor. The cosmetics industry offers a wide range of products, most of them still are predominantly made from perfume ingredients but some also contain a minimum of aluminum chloride (1 % to 5 %.) to reduce sweating. (if you are wondering what Aluminum Chloride is, read on, there is a full explanation below). Other deodorants use modern technologies, for example, Nano-scaled silver, antibacterial triclosan or parabens for skincare. With only 5% or less of Aluminum Chloride, these deodorants cannot really stop severe sweating, and cannot fully help people that suffer from hyperhidrosis. However, deodorants provide a fresh and clean feeling throughout the day. The growth of dermal bacteria (which causes body odor) is kept low, either by disinfectants or by nanoparticles (such as silver).

Antiperspirants usually contain between 14% and 30% active ingredients, such as aluminum chloride. They are specifically made to stop and prevent excessive sweating and do not contain any perfumes since perfumes could cause unpleasant reactions (reddened skin or itching). Body odor is normally caused by the degrading of sweat on the skin, so if the sweating gets significantly reduced by antiperspirants, less body odor can develop. Users of real antiperspirants should not use a deodorant that contains aluminum chloride at the same time, as the skin may irritate or an allergic reaction may occur.

How do Antiperspirants work?

Human sweat is brought onto the skin’s surface through tiny channels of the sweat glands. Antiperspirants minimize or narrow the diameter of these sweat ducts. While the epidermal tissue around the small tubes expands, an organic plug formed by merging proteins and aluminum chloride block the outer exit of the sweat glands. Despite the common misunderstanding, antiperspirants do not destroy the glands or any other parts of the body. There is also no biochemical interference. The whole effect of antiperspirants is solely based on a physical phenomenon. The gland’s channels simply are plugged. Additionally, this is not a long-time effect. With the skin’s renewal and reproduction process, the plug is automatically released after a short time.


The image above shows the application of antiperspirant, while sweat (pale blue) leaves the sweat pore (through the vertical duct). Loose scales (orange chips) from the skin are floating within the sweat bead.


The image above shows the diameter of the sweat duct being narrowed down by excitation (red areas) of the epidermis. The plug closes the pore, so the sweat cannot be secreted from the sweat gland anymore. The dermis is not affected by the antiperspirant.

Antiperspirant Dispensers

Antiperspirants are fluids, which are applied locally and superficially, directly onto the skin. They are commonly packaged in three different dispensers:

  • Roll-on Bottle
  • Pump Spray bottle (or can)
  • Dab-on Applicator

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