Sweaty All The Time: 11 Things That Didn’t Cure My Hyperhidrosis and the One Thing That Did

I began sweating like a swamp monster around the age of 11. I was a pretty hot potato, honestly: ghastly white, bony, intense orthodontics, soaked. I changed t-shirts multiple times a day, once sweated through a Patagonia fleece, and often had drops of sweat literally rolling down my arm while I sat in AC Geometry, wishing I was dead and/or better at geometry and/or definitely not sweating. It happened everywhere and in every situation: in hot rooms, cold rooms, nervous, calm, at home, out. I picked jobs based on uniform shirt color and bagginess, smashed kleenex under my arms, and covertly blow-dried my armpits like a motherfucker.

There was no robust internet back then to inform me that what was happening to me was an actual thing called “primary axillary hyperhidrosis.” But eventually I did learn those words, and then began my really special and not-at-all cut-and-dry (GET IT??) journey towards treating a problem that most people don’t realize can seriously fuck with your life. Basically, my body’s mechanisms for cooling itself are overactive, causing me to sweat 4-5 times more than others.

Me & Alex with my sweat drop award, 2007

Me & Alex with my sweat drop award, 2007

In 2007, I wrote a saga about hyperhidrosis that appeared in the anthology The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women On Beauty, Body Image and The Hazards of Being Female as well as in Marie Claire Magazine. The Marie Claire piece eventually won me The Best Media Coverage Award from The International Hyperhidrosis Society and the trophy is in the shape of a sweat drop and I am VERY proud of it.

Come with me on my journey.

12 Things I Did To Stop Sweating All The Time

1. Waiting to Grow Out Of It

nope

This is me earnestly hoping I’ll grow out of it, while wearing layers


2. Wearing really baggy clothes

This strategy was perfect for the early ’90s, because this was the Grunge Era. I wore oversized t-shirts and flannels that were about a billion sizes too big for me, like I was being swallowed by my desire to disappear. My family and salespeople at stores told me not to “hide my body” in giant clothing but like, what? Literally every voice inside my head was screaming HIDE YOUR BODY. Who were these lunatics and what did they want from me.


3. Layers

Now we’re into the mid-90s, so everybody else is wearing babydoll tees and shit from Delia*s which makes my Kiwanis Sale old-man wardrobe a lot more conspicuous. Regardless, I rocked those velour pullovers and brought a change of undershirt with me to school.


4. Only wearing black

In college I met Samira and I noticed she always wore black too, and I noticed she rolled up her short sleeved shirt on a particularly humid day, which was another trick I often employed — the bunched-up fabric distracts from the sweat pool. Then a drop of sweat dripped off her arm while we were hanging out in her room and she referred to herself as “Sweaty McPitts” and then we became best friends for like three weeks. She was the first person I ever talked to about it besides my doctor and my Mom. I was inspired by her nonchalant attitude towards her condition as well as her drawers of black tank tops. We discussed bad colors (light blue, heather grey) and bad fabrics (vintage gauzy tees, button-ups) and also shame and terror.


5. Wearing Tank Tops As Often As Possible

I forewent tank tops as a pre-teen ’cause I was skinny and didn’t want people to see my bones. Then I got older and found out that it was cool for people to see your bones because of fucked-up beauty standards, so I got really passionate about tank tops. I employed multiple strategies to keep the sweat as far from the cloth as possible, including strategic employment of hoodie-as-underarm-towel.


6. Changing T-Shirts Compulsively

Boarding school was a DREAM b/c I could change t-shirts multiple times a day and at any given moment my entire wardrobe was like three minutes away.


7. Mitchum

How did they know what I was thinking?

How did they know what I was thinking?

This worked for my Mom but didn’t work for me.


8. Secret Platinum Protection

MADE FOR A WOMAN, BUT STRONG ENOUGH FOR A MAN, YOU SAY? I CALL SHENANIGANS.


9. Certain-Dri

certain-dri-rollon

Life before the internet: I read about Certain-Dri in a beauty-related Q&A section of Cosmo I’d read at my cousin’s house, and I ripped out the page and hid it in my pocket and one day after school took the bus to Meijer’s and bought Certain-Dri, which gave me a rash and didn’t stop the sweating.


10. Prescription Anti-Persperant

drysol-antitranspirante-desodorante-264011-MLM20464014117_102015-F

In addition to not fixing the sweating, Drysol provided me with an intense burning scaly armpit rash, even worse than the Certain-Dri rash! AND I WAS STILL SWEATING.


11. Surgery

I didn’t actually get surgery and would you like to know why? Because as of the year 2000, when I had a consultation on this topic, if you get your sweat glands surgically removed or whatever, you’ll probably have compensatory sweating IN YOUR INNER THIGHS! So basically you won’t have sweaty pits, but you’ll look like you wet your pants all the time. This is what the doctors told me and so I told them, “no thanks.”

(I’m so glad I made that choice, because there are some intense ETS surgery horror stories out there)


12. Botox

I know, I know. BOTOX. I don’t ever talk about it ’cause people are like “BOTOX?”

Over ten years ago, many humans forwarded me the same newspaper article about how doctors had discovered that botox injections were an effective cure for hyperhidrosis. Unfortunately it’s also an expensive one. I saved up all year and, by the end of 2003, made my appointment at the University of Michigan hospital to be one of their first patients undergoing this particular treatment. One doctor and six residents crowded around me with clipboards to watch this situation take place. The procedure involves jamming a needle into my armpit like 30 times on each side and then, within a few days, the constant sweating stops.

Everything changed! The skies opened up and rained t-shirts of multiple colors upon me! I felt free! It seems like a small thing but it’s such a big thing. 

Yeah, I still sweat when it’s hot out, during a workout, out at the club with my pals, when I’m nervous, or when it’s been too long since my last treatment — the injections only last 1-2 years, but bless us all, they have gotten cheaper over time as botox itself has become more widely used for many purposes. I still sweat a lot in general, just in different places, which means I still stick to black if I’m gonna be somewhere hot and humid, like an NYC subway station or like, a hypothetical music festival with hypothetical friends in a hypothetical summery situation that could take place any minute now. Like I said, I’m a very hot potato.

Riese is the 37-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2741 articles for us.

38 Comments

  1. I played an outdoor gig one summer, and got a big ol’ band of guitar sweat across the stomach of my sundress. A kind older woman insisted that someone had dumped water on me, and it was not possible for a human to sweat that much in the span of 30 minutes.

    (Also, so much teasing from my high school cross country teammates. Which is to say, Riese, I don’t know that any other piece has so effectively captured my life experience as this one.)

    • my name is jane ragner from USA, i have been suffering from hyperhidrosis for 25 years, until i meet Dr balbosa on the internet on how he help so many people of different illness…i contacted Dr balbosa and he gave me some herbal medicine which does not have any side effect and he told me how to use the herbal drugs…after 3 days of using it i was cured of hyperhidrosis…i want to use this medium to thank him for hid good work….you can contact him on his email on..balbosasolutionhome@gmail.com…thank you and God bless you….ragner from usa

  2. Thanks for this, I too have tried all but the Botox. Good to know it’s effective! Guess I know what I’m doing with my tax return next year!

    My scalp/upper lip sweating is way more annoying to me than the pit sweats, since I live in Texas and everyone wears tank tops even to work. I wonder if Botox could be helpful in those areas…

    • Well that’s fascinating. I know oxybutynin as a medication for overactive bladder. It’s really cool that it would work for overactive sweat glands too.

  3. The captain of my rugby team only sweats from one armpit. Which was the first thing my housemate knew about her before I sent them on a blind date (sorry!). 18 months later she is still unevenly sweating but also very happy and they are moving in together next month.

  4. For as long as I could remember, my hands and feet (and sometimes my scalp) sweated profusely. I used to have to rest the side of my palm on at least 5 additional sheets of paper when writing, lest I wanted my homework to be soaked and wrinkled. And forget about handshakes and wearing heels. I was a hot mess until I went to a dermatologist for the first time several years ago. He prescribed glycopyrrolate and my life hasn’t been the same since.

    • Ahhhh!! I coincidentally had an appointment with a dermatologist today for a routine skin cancer screening and mentioned my hyperhidrosis and she prescribed me glycopyrrolate. Haven’t taken it yet, but I’m really happy to hear that it works for you.

      Riese, this makes me want to start a support group for sweaty queers, I am so glad you are all out there and that I’m not alone! Our meetings can be held in front of an industrial fan.

      • Sweaty queer support group – yes, please! My thyroid issues combined with my migraine medication cause unpredictable sweating for me. I often won’t sweat enough at all, until suddenly I’m pouring sweat but only from my scalp/face and my inner thighs. I end up walking around with soaking wet hair and sweat dripping from my knees. Living in Louisiana is a fucking delight, let me tell you.

  5. i made the surgery like nine years ago, actually it’s two surgeries, cause they do one armpit at a time. it’s true that there is compensatory sweat, but it’s spread through the body, in my case specially in the back and stomach areas. it gets only a little humid, not uncomfortable at all. i also sweat in the neck and face when I eat spicy or very savory foods and i get goosebumps (weird, i know), but it’s totally manageable. the surgeries changed my life, for real. i can finally use whatever colors i want, whatever styles i prefer; i don’t avoid social interaction as before. i’m from Portugal so don’t know how things work in your country, but I totally advise going through the knife to fix this issue. *

  6. I weirdly don’t sweat from my arm pits and I kind of wish I did because if I get the slightest bit hot it just pours out of my scalp. I thought chopping all of my hair off would help the problem but it seem to have made the problem worst and now that it is approaching summer my hair seems to be constantly damp 🙁

  7. I relate to this SO HARD. I spent all of middle school, high school, and college intensely worrying about my sweaty armpits. I wore tons of black, white, and a lot of hideous patterns. I evaluated all clothing on it’s potential for showing sweat stains. I pretty much quit acting because I was too embarrassed to raise my arms above my chest in any situation ever, and that makes one look very awkward on stage. I didn’t realize I had a medical condition and that there was something I could do about it. My senior year of college I finally discovered the word “hyperhidrosis” and everything made sense. Finally, when I was 23 I saw a dermatologist and talked about treatment options. Luckily, a super strength prescription antiperspirant works for me. And it changed my life instantly! Suddenly I could wear t-shirts and button downs of all colors! And in solids too! It’s a whole new world. Yay for modern science!

    • “I pretty much quit acting because I was too embarrassed to raise my arms above my chest in any situation ever, and that makes one look very awkward on stage.”

      YES. The last play I was in, my costume was really form-fitting, which meant my armpits were right up against the fabric, and it was hell to deal with and definitely was part of me quitting theater. I sometimes wonder if it would’ve been okay if I’d actually felt like I could talk to people about it, but keeping it a secret was so imperative that I just couldn’t / didn’t.

  8. Riese, please check out the Thompson Tee with Hydro-Shield Sweatproof Technology, a patented undershirt that blocks underarm sweat. I also suffered from Axillary HH and thank goodness baggy clothes were “in” during my school years. Thanks for sharing your story!

    • I’m pretty sure the above comment is from a marketing intern with a google alert for the word “hyperhidrosis”, but I was actually going to comment on this and suggest checking out these shirts for anyone who snuffers from excessively sweaty pits and finds themselves in a situation where they can wear undershirts. Thumbs up from me, a real person.

  9. Oh my god wow! Thankfully my excessive sweating disappeared mysteriously around 18 (thank the lord), but it was really, really awful. Once, during a memorable car ride, I managed to have my sweat ring descend from the armpit seam down to the hem of a T-shirt. I never lifted my arms, ever, and looked like a limp duck for years. I would spend 20 minutes locked in a bathroom every day drying my T-Shirts (years of ongoing bullying had made me so paranoid that I imagined everyone would notice if I changed t-shirts and understand that I was a SWEAT MONSTER).

    In the beginning, I didn’t even question it, I thought everyone sweated that much and hid it better (I also didn’t have enough friends to fact-check with). When I understood that no one else went around drying their T-shirts, I was already so used to seeing myself as an ugly monster that oozing in a new way just seemed to make sense. Man, those we not the days.

  10. This is wonderful. Thank you Riese! I related to all of these as a teen and twenty-something. I did (thank you baby lesbian jesus) eventually grow out of it (at 30). Although, I still definitely sweat more than average and cannot wear light blue or gray, its no longer devastating.

    All of this has come back to haunt me lately because RIDICULOUS HIPSTER LADIES IN BROOKLYN WILL NOT STOP TALKING ABOUT HOW THEY STOPPED USING DEODORANT. They say “Ugh, the chemicals in anti-antiperspirant are sooo bad for you!” and “you know, you don’t need deodorant. The smell is caused by bacteria so if you’re clean and eat organic there’s no odor at all.”

    I mostly just suppress an eye roll, knowing that if I go 2 hours between showering and applying deodorant I will smell like a 6th grade boy. But where is this coming from? Is this real for some ladies? Why have I never heard of this before?

    • I roll my eyes at that stuff too, but it actually is somewhat true for me, if I’m well hydrated. I’d probably be ok if I showered twice a day, but I think that’d be excessive and would rather use antiperspirant.

  11. I perform in theatre and my sweating is concentrated in my palms. I usually am able to survive by wiping down my hands and using a towel offstage. But for my most recent show I had to do an entire monologue with my hands up holding an imaginary letter. Rehearsals would leave me with small puddles of water where the sweat dripped off my elbows.

    Cue panic attacks and lots of crying.

    I tried Perspirex in the three weeks leading up to the show. And my palms were bone dry throughout (with occasionally cold, clammy thumbs).

    The show ended almost three weeks ago and the sweat is just beginning to come back.

    I live in Malaysia, so I couldn’t find drysol. But I think it’s essentially the same. If only I had known about it in primary school, Imagine all the assembly puddles I could have avoided.

  12. Oh my god I didn’t know this had a name.

    Whenever I get clothes, I’m constantly trying to find stuff that doesn’t touch my under-arms at all (so really baggy tops or tanks + an oversized flannel if it’s cold out). I tried using the prescription deodorant but the applicator was constantly breaking off or otherwise becoming unusable and I was fairly sure it wasn’t working anyway.

    I’ll keep botox in mind, for that distant day in the future when I’m not a broke college kid and can actually afford it.

  13. ASK YOUR DOCTOR FOR GLYCOPYRROLATE!!

    Skip botox it’s painful, expensive, and temporary. I had the botox injections in my hands, which meant 25 shots in each hand. The hands have a lot of nerves, it hurt and it only lasted a couple months.

    I asked for an anticholinergic based on information from the website linked below. The doctor gave me glycopyrrolate and it’s sincerely changed my life. I avoided relationships and contact with others for years since my hands were always clammy and my body sweaty. The glycopyrrolate kicked into action in about 30 minutes and I stopped sweating completely, it was magical.

    My RX is 1mg glycopyrrolate taken twice per day. With insurance the cost is $8 for a 90 day supply. The dosage is high but so I split the tablet in half, and take it once in the morning which is giving me a nice stockpile. Side effects have been minimal and I’d urge you not to too much too quickly or you’ll end up with a serious case of dry mouth and overheating. I find I stray dry all day except for when I exercise or take in excessive caffeine.

    Give it a try, it’s a very effective option and the effects only last the day so you can quickly stop if it’s not right for you.

    For more information visit: http://www.sweathelp.org/hyperhidrosis-treatments/medications.html

  14. my name is jane ragner from USA, i have been suffering from hyperhidrosis for 25 years, until i meet Dr balbosa on the internet on how he help so many people of different illness…i contacted Dr balbosa and he gave me some herbal medicine which does not have any side effect and he told me how to use the herbal drugs…after 3 days of using it i was cured of hyperhidrosis…i want to use this medium to thank him for hid good work….you can contact him on his email on..balbosasolutionhome@gmail.com…thank you and God bless you….ragner from usa

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