Always Let ‘Em See Me Sweat: Adventures in Excessive Sweating
‘Never let ’em see you sweat’ was the slogan of a popular anti-perspirant brand back in the day, and if there was ever one piece of advice I could never, ever follow, it was that one. Why? Because my body likes to sweat. I mean, really sweat. Not just when it’s hot. Not just when it’s humid. I’m talking all the time. I sweat. I’m a sweater. And for all the sweating I do, I may as well be wearing 4 or 5 sweaters. And, until now, I haven’t been able to do anything about it.
Finally, at almost 45 years of age, I’ve just about had enough of all this excessive perspiration. And I’m going to do something about it. This is my “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!” moment.
Everybody sweats. I know that it’s a necessary bodily function, and that it helps our bodies regulate temperature and avoid overheating. I get that. What I don’t get is why my body seems to think that there’s never a bad time to crank up the waterworks. Most people, I’ll call them ‘normal,’ sweat when they’re exerting themselves physically, or during times of high heat and humidity. Because, of course, these are times when the body needs to cool itself off. This seems right to me. Body not hot: No sweating. Body hot: Sweat a little to cool off. Not me. Nope. I’m sweating right now, doing nothing more than typing, and it’s 65 degrees out. My body has a little trickle of sweat going almost all the time, but when I do get physical or it gets hot (“hot” for my body being anything over 50 degrees) I perspire profusely.
All this sweating is uncomfortable. It’s unsightly. It’s unusual. Doctors call what I have “hyperhidrosis,” or excessive sweating. I call it an embarrassing pain in the ass. I’m tired of it. I’m tired of changing my shirt constantly every day. I’m tired of 2 or 3 showers a day. I’m tired of wild deer coming up to me to lick the dried salty sweat off of my forehead.
The “normal people” probably don’t think twice about sweating, probably because their bodies aren’t always producing excessive amounts of it. But for us hyperhidrosis types, it becomes an all-consuming problem. I have to think very hard about what I’m going to wear, because whatever it is, I’m going to sweat right through it. Finding sweat-hiding colors and patterns isn’t easy, because a sweat stain stands out like a scarlet letter. Like the old anti-perspirant ad says, sweating makes you look nervous, or shifty. So that’s me. I’m that shifty, creepy looking fella over there sweating through his shirt.
I’ve attempted to come to terms with the fact that wherever I am, whatever I’m doing, whatever I’m wearing, I’m going to be sweating uncomfortably. But as I get older, I find that all this moisture is NOT normal. And worse, it seems to be getting worse. I’m tired of sweat stains all over the front and back of my shirts. I’m tired of mopping my brow, and I’m tired of sweat drops dripping off my nose and ears. Seriously, my ears.
And it’s not just the usual suspects that are a sweaty problem. No, my arm pits are ironically about the only part of my body that don’t perspire uncontrollably. If you thought that elbows and knees and toe knuckles didn’t have sweat glands, well then you’ve never seen me strolling down the lane on a summer day. If sweat truly was weakness leaving the body, I’d be fricking Superman. Invincible. But I’m not Superman. I’m just Sweaty Man, on the Island of Misfit Superheroes.
If it’s truly hot and humid out, a day when even the “normal people” get a little sweat on them, forget it. I’m a walking Niagara Falls. I’m not kidding; if somebody would invent some type of wearable sweat dam I could strap to my forehead, I could power half the block. We’re not talking cute little drops of sweat here. No, we’re talking streams. Rivulets. No, screw rivulets. Make that rampaging rivers of sweat, from head to toe. Take me on a hot sweaty day and stand me next to the guy who just fell off a boat into the ocean, and you’d have trouble telling us apart.
Sometimes excessive sweating is a symptom of a more serious problem in the body, such as a thyroid condition or diabetes. But I’m a healthy guy. Just had a thorough physical in fact. I’m healthy, I just sweat with reckless abandon.
You’d think all this sweat would make me feel really cool. Not “cool,” that’s never going to happen, but cool, like in temperature-reduced cool. Nope. My body sweats so much that the sweat stops providing a cooling action and instead just weighs me down in layers of heat-insulating moisture. For somebody who is a proud non-pants pisser, I sure know a lot about what it’s like to walk around with wet underwear. Don’t believe the modern day slogans like this one. If sweat truly was weakness leaving the body, I’d be fricking Superman. Invincible. But I am not Superman.
Cotton is the enemy, but sweat-wicking clothing? Please. I’ve yet to meet a ‘wicking fabric’ that can handle the volumes of sweat my body throws at it. When I run, my moisture wicking clothes are overwhelmed in about five minutes; after that, it’s like running with a soaking wet body sock on. It’s miserable. I’m miserable. It’s summer time, and I desperately want to get out there and enjoy it, but it’s getting harder and harder when even relaxing in the shade makes me sweat. And the sweatband works for LeBron James, but on me it comes across as just kind of creepy looking. What the hell am I going to do?
I’m going to do something, that’s for sure. I use anti-perspirants under my arms when it’s really hot and humid, but I try to avoid them because I don’t care to have sweat-stopping chemicals on my skin for long periods of time. But I’m to a point where I may not have a choice. It’s desperation time. How desperate? Let me give you an example of the lengths I go to to try to keep my sweat in check.
I sing in a small community choir. And a couple times a year, we hit the stage at the high school auditorium for a concert. It’s nice. It’s Norman Rockwell, small-town Americana. Except for the sweating. I can’t watch any type of live stage performance without thinking to myself, or out loud, how I could never be a performer, because my out of control sweating would overpower whatever type of performance I was engaged in to become all anybody would remember about the event.
So here’s what I do on those occasions (few and far between, thank god) when I have to be on a hot stage in front of people. I rub a clear stick of anti-perspirant all over my head, and all over the front of my body. I’m bald, by the way, which makes all that head sweat all the more uncontrollable, and noticeable. There’s no hairline whatsoever to soak up the flow of sweat. It heads right down the forehead to the eyes and nose, and then bombs away! it’s all over the floor. It’s not nervous sweat. It’s not flop sweat. It’s not sweat from the heat. It’s sweating for sweating’s sake. But to onlookers, it’s all the same disgusting sweat.
But lo and behold! My MacGuyver’d body sweatproofing seems to work, at least for a little while. I do recommend caution with this method, however, because the ‘clear’ anti-perspirant doesn’t always stay that way on the human head. I learned that the hard way one year, when after having walked around with it on for awhile, I went into a bathroom only to discover a thin gray film over my entire head. Without careful application, I easily turn into Bobby the Gray, Sweaty Clown. Talk about terrifying. These are images nobody should ever have to see. *Disclaimer* I don’t know if putting this stuff all over is good or not. Most products say it’s for underarms only. So if you try it, you didn’t hear about it from me. You may break out or experience stinging or other side effects. You’ve been warned.
What am I going to do? I’m taking the battle to the sweat glands. No more intimidation. No more anxiety. You hear that, overactive sweat glands o’ mine? I’m coming for you. My early hopes for a simple, sweat-stopping pill to pop were quickly dashed. Nothing currently exists, because of course, as mentioned, sweating is a normal body function. Stopping it altogether is not a safe thing to do. But I need to slow my sweat down. A lot. By about 90%.
Google has come to the rescue with some options, and I’m going to try them all until I find something that works. That’s where this article comes in. I’m going to be the human guinea pig for various sweat-reducing products until I find one that’s successful. Most of these products are expensive, and most of them I’m sure contain chemicals or other substances that the “normal people” probably would never dream of putting on their skin. My searches did come across one interesting option, a more natural option, so that’s where I’m going to start. Sage oil. That’s right: capsules of sage oil. There are lots of claims online swearing that sage oil controls and reduces excessive sweating. Most of the testimonies come from menopausal women, so I guess that’s the demographic I’m a part of now. Lovely. Many of these sage oil testimonies come across as pure quackery with no real science to back up their claims, but I don’t care. I’m going to try it. If it works, I will admittedly be surprised. If it doesn’t, I move on to the next item on my list. Come hell or high water, I will bring my body’s daily drenchings under control. Up to, but not including, any type of permanent surgical process. I’m not going to involve lasers into this project.
My order of sage oil should be here today, and I can’t wait. Pathetic, I know. But it’s incredibly muggy out and all this typing means it’s almost time to change my shirt. Will it work? Won’t it? This is a CLIFFHANGER, perhaps the saddest cliffhanger in history. Most people say it takes a couple weeks to start having any effect (don’t all snake oil products claim take at least a couple of weeks to work? Of course, that’s enough time to get the money out of the rubes and skip town long before they realize they got scammed.) Stay tuned!
*UPDATE 7/9/14* I’ve been downing two sage tablets a day, the amount recommended to slow down excessive sweating, for a few weeks now. Results? Zero. The sweat is still a-pourin’ out of me like water over the falls. Granted, several of the days in these few weeks were spent in the hot, steamy jungles of southern Florida, where everything with a pulse sweats uncontrollably, but still… nothing. I’m smelling a quackery here with the sage pills. Other than breath that smells like a fresh organic herb garden (sage breath is not necessarily a good thing,) I’m noticing no results. I’m going to give them a little while longer, since I’ve paid for the darn things and a miracle may still occur, but I’m thinking that using sage to control sweating is a farce. Which sucks, because it’s the most natural option on my list of sweat-killing ideas. You know how they say that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is? Well, sage sounded too good to be true. Later.