Imagine you've been at an important meeting for several hours, it's hot. Sweat runs down your back, condenses on your forehead, under your arms. Such a situation becomes embarrassing, especially if there is an unpleasant odor at the same time. Do we need to sweat and how to deal with it? For an answer we asked aesthetic medicine specialist Dr. Kinga Caban, M.D.
- The human body maintains a constant temperature regardless of atmospheric conditions, thanks to thermoregulation, which is the ability to maintain body temperature within the optimal range for the body. Even with a high fever or being out in the sun, it protects itself from overheating. Maintaining a normal body temperature is made possible by the natural process of sweating. Sweat is secreted by sweat glands, located in the skin. Their largest concentrations are on the hands, feet, forehead and under the arms.
We sweat during increased physical exertion, when we are dressed too warmly, the ambient temperature is high, or we consume, for example, spicy food or hot drinks. On average, a person secretes half a liter of sweat a day, but under different conditions this amount can rise to as much as several liters. There are also situations when the body produces an excessive amount of sweat. This happens, for example, during puberty, and often the problem affects overweight people. The cause of excessive perspiration is also stress. This uncomfortable situation leads to nervousness, thereby aggravating the phenomenon.
Since we have to sweat in some situations, how do we prevent odor?
- The basic issue is personal hygiene. Sweat itself is odorless, consisting mainly of water and mineral salts. It is only when combined with bacteria residing on the skin that it acquires an unpleasant odor. It is important to remember to wash and thoroughly dry the skin after any physical activity and after any sweating. Clothes should be airy, preferably made of natural fabrics, without artificial additives. Diet is also important - limit stimulants, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and drink at least two liters of water a day.
And the use of antiperspirants? Can they be used in any quantity? There are reports that some of them can have negative effects on human health.
- First of all, we need to know that deodorants and antiperspirants are not the same thing. Deodorants neutralize the smell of sweat, while antiperspirants reduce sweating.
The main active ingredients of antiperspirants are aluminum-zirconium salts and aluminum chloride. These substances have the ability to penetrate into the tubules of the sweat glands, where they crystallize, forming a "pivot" that reduces the secretion of sweat.
In the composition of deodorants, however, you can find substances that prevent sweat odor. These include triclosan, glycols, plant extracts, as well as silver, zinc and copper metals. These substances, due to their antibacterial properties, limit the growth of microorganisms that naturally reside on our skin.
Do antiperspirants, due to their composition, pose no health risks?
- There is a lot of anecdotal information about the carcinogenic effect of antiperspirants. In fact, there is no scientific evidence to support such a link. Instead, it is recommended to refrain from using both antiperspirants and deodorants immediately after shaving the skin. It is also worth noting that sweat is the body's healthy response to exercise, and protects against overheating. Sweating can release toxins, which helps fight colds and infections. Completely eliminating sweat, therefore, is not safe for the body. That's why we rather say "no" to antiperspirants. Deodorants do not pose as much of a threat, although they too often contain a lot of chemicals, especially fragrances. Therefore, if deodorants, it is best natural.
However, many people complain of excessive sweating....
- Excessive sweat secretion or hyperhidrosis is associated with increased activity of the sweat glands. It probably results from overactivity of the central nervous system, which causes increased stimulation of the sweat glands to secrete sweat. It is estimated that excessive sweating affects about 3% of the population. We distinguish between primary excessive sweating and secondary excessive hyperhidrosis. Primary sweating is usually locally restricted and usually affects one or more parts of the body mainly the hands, feet and armpits. In contrast, secondary excessive hyperhidrosis affects the entire body. It can occur in the course of various diseases including diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism, hypoglycemia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, in the course of certain heart diseases, neurological, psychiatric and cancer diseases, as well as in poisoning, tuberculosis, or during menopause.
It is not just a local process affecting the body, but unfortunately induces many behavioral problems. People struggling with hyperhidrosis are reluctant to make new friends or have physical contact, they have problems during a job interview, it's not hard to guess that shaking a sweaty hand to a prospective employer is a big problem. Patients with hyperhidrosis are also more likely to suffer from depressive disorders.
How, therefore, to deal with the problem?
- Modern medicine has many ways, so it is worth going to a doctor, who will individually select the appropriate treatment. In addition to topical treatment with ointments and creams, general treatment is sometimes included, using anticholinergic drugs, for example. Treatments such as iontophoresis, laser therapy, microwaves and ultrasound are also performed. Nowadays, an increasingly popular and recommended treatment for localized hyperhidrosis, which I personally perform on my patients and highly appreciate, is botulinum toxin injections. When Botox is injected, the nerves supplying the sweat glands in the treated areas are blocked, reducing sweating. This treatment is quick, highly effective and has an effect for several months. So, given the many treatment options mentioned, it is worth turning to a specialist and enjoying life to the fullest.
Thank you for the interview