How to deal with sweating and bad smell

Sweat glands themselves do not smell, but the sweat that forms in the armpits and groin has a specific smell. This smell is the result of interaction with bacteria that live on the skin.

Suspicious changes – excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis), slight or complete lack of sweat (anhidrosis), a change in body odor – should alert and become a reason to consult a doctor.

Let’s clarify just in case: sweating is absolutely normal. Increased sweating (and, as a result, a strong odor) can occur if you are hot, when you exercise or are nervous.


Deodorants are cosmetics that fight the unpleasant odor of sweat. They usually contain perfume fragrances designed to mask this very smell. Thanks to alcohol, which is also often included in the composition, the surface of the skin becomes acidic – unattractive to bacteria. With heavy sweating, deodorants will not help, they are suitable only in the most mild cases.

There are many horror stories regarding the substances that are used in the manufacture of deodorants. We are talking about triclosan, phthalates and parabens. Are they so dangerous? As for the first, yes, negative reviews are likely to be justified. There is a suspicion that it provokes antibiotic resistance – only antibiotic-resistant bacteria remain alive after it (the task of triclosan is to reduce or prevent bacterial contamination).

Thus, the US Food and Drug Administration (hereinafter FDA) has banned the sale of antibacterial soaps containing triclosan. Nevertheless, according to information published on the website of the same FDA, studies of triclosan (its effect on the body) are in full swing, and there is little data so far.

Triclosan is less and less used in deodorants (in EU countries, for example, the permissible concentration is 0.3% ), and if used, it is easy to find on the label – triclosan – and if you want to refuse to buy.

Now about parabens. Despite the fact that they have the ability to mimic estrogen and were even found in breast tumors, there is no evidence that parabens cause cancer and can trigger the growth of a cancerous tumor. They are still considered safe and effective preservatives ; they are used in many cosmetic, food and pharmaceutical products. However, most deodorants and antiperspirants in the United States do not contain these substances.

On the label they are labeled as: methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, isopropylparaben, butylparaben, isobutylparaben, benzylparaben.

Do not be afraid of phthalates in deodorants (especially when you consider that they are rarely used; they are labeled as DEP and DMP). Having analyzed data on their safety and toxicity, FDA experts found that there is no connection between the use of phthalates in cosmetic products and health risks.


Antiperspirants are drugs that temporarily block sweat glands due to aluminum salts and reduce sweat. Male and female antiperspirants differ only in the smell and concentration of salts (in men it is higher).

Most over-the-counter antiperspirants contain a low dose of aluminum salts and are only suitable for very mild hyperhidrosis. There are also therapeutic antiperspirants, the salt concentration there is from 6.25% to 20% – they can provide adequate therapy for patients with axillary hyperhidrosis, when conventional antiperspirants can not cope. It is better to buy antiperspirants in a pharmacy, as medical cosmetics are carefully checked (the likelihood of allergic reactions is less).

Unfortunately, treatment with strong antiperspirants is often accompanied by skin irritation. In such cases, a weak hydrocortisone cream will help. To reduce the likelihood of these irritations, the antiperspirant should be applied to dry skin after a shower, ideally applied before bedtime, and washed off in the morning (do not shave the skin the day before). A significant effect usually appears after a week of use.

Now about the myths. Some studies show that aluminum- containing  antiperspirants can be absorbed by the skin and have an estrogen-like (hormonal) effect. And since estrogen can stimulate the growth of breast cancer cells, some scientists have suggested that aluminum-based compounds in antiperspirants can contribute to the development of breast cancer.

But studies have not confirmed any significant side effects of aluminum that could increase the risk of cancer. Studies have not been able to confirm the role of aluminum in the development of Alzheimer’s disease and kidney disease . And yes, even with frequent use, addiction antiperspirants also do not occur.

Natural Deodorants

Even the “most natural” deodorant may contain chemicals that irritate sensitive skin and cause allergies. Be sure to read the label and discontinue use if you have a rash or other adverse reaction. Remember: natural sweat remedies act like deodorants, so you will still sweat.

If you fundamentally avoid products with aluminum, do not buy alum ( crystal deodorants ) – as a rule, they are a mixture of aluminum sulfate and potassium sulfate. In fact, the same aluminum salt, but in an unknown concentration.

Botulinum toxin injection

If antiperspirants do not help, there is another safe and effective way to reduce excessive sweating. We are talking about injections of botulinum toxin – it temporarily blocks the release of acetylcholine (a substance involved in the activity of sweat glands) and reduces the production of sweat. For injection, typically use onabotulotoksin A . One procedure involves several injections at once. For example, to block sweating in the armpits, you will need 10 to 20 injections.

The effect appears within two to four days after the injection and lasts for 3–9 months (for the armpits) and 2–22 months for the palms of the hands. Then the injections must be repeated (however, less and less procedures will be required each time).

The injections can be quite painful (the use of local analgesics is permissible) and expensive (from 15 to 40 thousand rubles, depending on the zone). Frequent complications – temporary muscle weakness, bruising may remain.

Microwave therapy and iontophoresis

Technology using microwave radiation can destroy sweat glands in the armpits. The procedure includes two sessions lasting 20-30 minutes (with an interval of three months). Possible side effects are changes in skin sensitivity and discomfort. Therapy is quite expensive and not very affordable.

With hyperhidrosis of the palms and feet, iontophoresis is used – it temporarily blocks the work of sweat glands ( efficiency is about 85%). Iontophoresis equipment is available for home use – it costs about 40 thousand, but first you need to master the correct technique under the supervision of a doctor.

Legs and hands are lowered into special baths with water – so the palms and feet are in direct contact with the electrode. Potential side effects are dry, cracked hands (moisturizers will come to the rescue), redness, discomfort. If you previously apply petroleum jelly on the skin, this will help reduce the risk of unwanted reactions.

The main disadvantage of the method is the frequency of use. At the beginning of treatment, the procedure should be done three times a week – from 20 to 30 minutes a day. You can reduce the number of procedures only after 10-15 sessions.


If other methods do not help, you can perform an operation to remove sweat glands. The minimally invasive technique is armpit curettage (removal of the fat layer with apocrine and eccrine sweat glands costs about 50 thousand rubles). However, the operation is still not well understood – it is still quite difficult to talk about the long-term effectiveness of the procedure.

There is also a sympathectomy – an operation when the surgeon in a certain way acts on the sympathetic section of the autonomic nervous system, which controls sweating in the hands. Sometimes the procedure causes excessive sweating in other parts of the body (the so-called compensatory sweating). The operation is indicated for patients with pronounced symptoms that cannot be treated with other methods (price from 70 thousand rubles).

Special medicines and creams

A cream that contains glycopyrrolate can reduce perspiration (it can be used on the skin of the face and head), but first consult a dermatologist. There are drugs on the market that block the connection between nerves. Possible side effects include dry mouth, blurred vision, and trouble urinating. Antidepressants can also come in handy. In addition, they will help to cope with anxiety, which negatively affects the course of hyperhidrosis.

Recommendations to help reduce sweating at home
  • Take a shower every day. Regular water treatments help reduce the amount of bacteria on the skin. Wipe thoroughly, paying particular attention to the armpits and the areas between the fingers.
  • Choose shoes and socks made from natural materials that allow your feet to breathe.
  • Change socks often (once or twice a day). Keep your feet dry.
  • For feet, use OTC powders that absorb sweat.
  • Ventilate the legs. Whenever possible, go barefoot, or at least take off your shoes from time to time.
  • Choose the right clothes. Wear natural fabrics such as cotton, wool and silk – they allow the skin to breathe. When playing sports, give preference to fabrics that remove moisture.
  • Try relaxation techniques – yoga, meditation, autogenic training. It is important to learn how to control stress, which, as you know, stimulates sweating. If all else fails, you may need to seek help from a psychologist or psychotherapist.

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