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How to Avoid Being a Hot, Sweaty Mess Every Day at Work This Summer

Photograph by ShinOkamoto via iStock.

It is official. The hot and humid days of a typical DC summer are here and so is the excessive sweating that goes along with it. Although sweating is the body’s way of trying to keep cool in the heat, the humidity combined with work clothes can make it difficult for even the most composed and cool Washingtonians to look polished. While there is no way to escape the hazy, hot, and humid days of a DC summer, there are a few simple tricks to help look and feel fresh.

If Walking to Work Makes You Sweaty

If walking to work has you sweating first thing in the morning, here are a few tips to help freshen up to start the day. First, wear loose cotton clothing, which allows the body to stay more comfortable than tight, synthetic fibers. Once in the office, dry any sweat on the face before applying additional makeup.  After the face is dry, absorb excess oil with oil-absorbing sheets (Clean & Clear makes good ones).  Dab, don’t rub, the sheets over the T-zone to blot sweat and oil without smearing makeup. Follow with an SPF-containing, oil absorbing powder such as Colorscience SPF 30 powder to re-set your makeup. As a bonus, the powder has a great SPF which will provide good coverage if you are stepping outside for lunch.

If You Sweat All the Time

If excessive underarm sweat is an issue, there are a variety of treatment options for relief. The most basic form of treatment is antiperspirants which come in both over-the-counter and prescription strength.  Antiperspirants work by blocking the openings that lead to the sweat glands, preventing sweat from reaching the surface of the skin. The active ingredients are metallic salts, most commonly aluminum compounds such as aluminum chloride hexahydrate, which is popular in prescription antiperspirants. Try applying the antiperspirant both at night before bed and after showering for the best results.

If Antiperspirants Just Aren’t Cutting it

An alternative, non-invasive treatment for underarm sweating that typically provides better reduction in sweat than antiperspirants is a session of botulinum toxin injections, or Botox. Botox works by blocking the nerve endings that signal the sweat glands to produce sweat. Follow-up injections are needed after several months as the effect wears off and sweat production returns to levels seen before treatment. 

If No, Really, You Can’t Stop Sweating

People with severe underarm sweat that is not responsive to antiperspirants may have a condition called axillary hyperhidrosis.  Axillary hyperhidrosis is a medical condition in which excessive underarm sweat reduces the quality of life on a daily basis for patients with the condition. For people suffering with axillary hyperhidrosis, a more long-lasting treatment was developed. An FDA-cleared, non-surgical treatment called MiraDry has been developed to deliver long-term relief of excessive underarm sweat. The procedure uses electromagnetic energy to heat and destroy many of the sweat glands in the underarm area, and although it is more uncomfortable and has more recovery time associated with it than any of the other treatments for excessive sweating, the results from the MiraDry can be life-changing for people who sweat through their shirts every day.

Even though none of us can escape the sweltering heat of summer in the DMV region, at least we have a few tricks to use to stay cool and fresh—all on our way to the next air conditioned space.

Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi is Founder and Director of Capital Laser & Skin Care and Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the George Washington Medical Center.

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Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi is a board-certified dermatologist and co-director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Surgery.