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Stress Sweating Learn why and how to stop it

Sweat is perfectly acceptable on a very hot day but not so much in a climate-controlled conference room during the morning meeting.

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Stress sweat play

Stress sweat

Stress sweat play

Stress sweat


Turns out, sweating because of anxiety has a unique source and that means it requires its own set of coping strategies.

Sweat is perfectly acceptable on a very hot day but not so much in a climate-controlled conference room during the morning meeting.

And before you can battle this unwelcome perspiration, you need to know that not all sweat is created equal.

Heat, activity, and stress are the main causes of swampy pits, but the sweat caused by anxiety has a unique source and requires its own set of coping strategies.

Read on to find out why it happens and how you can stop it.

“Stress sweat is unique because it comes from a different gland,” says Kati Bakes, a sweat scientist for Procter & Gamble.

The moisture that results from a CrossFit session or your typical August day originates in your eccrine gland, whereas the “I have to make a PowerPoint presentation” sweat comes from your apocrine gland.

Apocrine glands are mostly located in your underarms with a few in your groin region and, oddly, your inner ear, Bakes says.

Eccrine glands are located all over your body and help regulate your temperature by releasing moisture that evaporates and cools your skin.

When you break out in a cold, nervous sweat, the blood vessels in your skin don't dilate as much as they would with heat sweat, explains Ramsey Markus, M.D., associate professor of dermatology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

Your hands and feet might actually feel cold, because your blood is going to other vital organs when you’re under stress.

Heat and activity sweat is 99% water, Bakes says, but stress sweat is 80% water and 20% lipids and proteins.

“The lipids and proteins act as ‘food’ for the bacteria that naturally live on your skin,” Bakes says.

When the bacteria eat that sweat, they create smelly waste, which is why stress sweat is the most offensive.

There’s not much food in activity sweat for them to eat.

In a strange twist, there are some people who simply don’t produce any body odor.

“Researchers have discovered that variations in a certain gene mean you won’t have body odor,” Bakes says.

“You need to stop the sweat,” says Dr. Markus.

Using an antiperspirant with aluminum salts can be a helpful line of defense, he explains.

Your sweat glands absorb the compound, so it can form a plug that physically blocks perspiration.

A clinical antiperspirant contains higher levels of aluminum salts than standard options for a stronger barrier against sweat.

You can also apply antiperspirant to your feet and palms if you want extra protection.

If you know you have an important meeting, you can apply your antiperspirant the night before, says Bakes.

You tend to sweat less during sleep, which allows the aluminum salts to be absorbed more easily, giving your body more time to form the plugs.

For more serious cases, Dr. Markus says getting Botox injections in your armpits is a possibility.

The toxin inhibits both types of sweat glands, so you’re able to stay dry for up to seven months at a time before needing another treatment.

Watch this hilarious Nivea ad on stress sweat protection.

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