Don’t Sweat It

Every couple of months, some morning show or women’s magazine or blog does a poll where they ask women if they would be willing to give up a year of their life if they could lose twenty pounds or if they’d take a 10% salary cut if it meant they could eat whatever they wanted and still be a size 6 forever. Invariably, more than 50% of women choose being thin. We are a vain society.

Personally, I would give up a year of my life, keep my 20 lbs and PAY 10% of my (imaginary) salary in exchange for dry armpits.

I am extremely sweaty person. I sweat when I’m hot. I sweat when I’m cold. I sweat when I’m sitting perfectly still. I sweat when I’m nervous. I sweat when I work out. I sweat when I eat. I sweat when I wear extra-super-duper-clinical strength antiperspirant. I sweat ALL. THE. TIME. It’s mostly my underarms but my hands have been known to literally drip. It’s disgusting and humiliating and worrying about it consumes at least 10% of my brain at any given moment.

The technical name is hyperhydrosis, but for me it’s just the suckiest, most embarrassing condition ever.

I distinctly remember the day in 7th grade that my friend Elizabeth sat down next to me at lunch, took one look at the giant wet marks on my gray baby doll tee and said “Whoa, looks like someone forgot to put on deodorant!” I had not forgotten. But I did die of shame right there in the lunchroom. I ended up wearing my winter coat the rest of the day and pretending I was just really cold. I never wore a baby doll tee again.

In high school, I cried at least once a week about my stupid armpits. I actually stopped going to church just to avoid the part where we were supposed to greet one another with handshakes because no matter how many tissues I balled up in my pockets my palms were always damp. The look on people’s faces when they feel your wet hand is about equal to the look they would have if you handed them a dead fish. I tried putting prescription antiperspirant onto my freshly shaved armpits (something that is strongly warned against on the bottle because of the HORRIBLE stinging) and it helped. A little. For a few minutes. My mom searched the internet and ordered these evil little machines that you strapped to your armpits and basically sent electric shocks into your sweat glands to dry them up. It helped. A little. For a few minutes. I’ve heard Botox shots in your armpits can help. A little. For a few months. But I can’t afford $400 an armpit just for a few weeks of dryness.

Have you ever tried shopping for clothes you can sweat in? Yeah, good luck. Here are the rules:

No tight fitting t-shirts. No cap sleeves. No sleeves at all. No small armholes. No lightweight fabrics. Nothing made of cotton. Nothing made of silk. No bright colors – black is much safer. Strapless was usually OK, until I had two babies and my boobs hit the floor. No fabrics I can’t touch in person to check for stain-ability. Sometimes when I’m not sure if something is “safe”, I actually lick the hem line to see if the fabric shows dampness. Shopping online is almost impossible. Bridesmaids dresses are a nightmare. When I was in college it actually wasn’t so bad – cheap, artificial, plasticy fabrics were popular and easy to find. But I am long past shopping at Wet Seal or Contempo Casuals and Ann Taylor doesn’t do a lot of rayon. Now that I’m nursing as well buying clothes is a NIGHTMARE. Almost all button down shirts are out of the running because they’re cotton or a cotton blend. Shirts meant for nursing are always solid colored and “breathable”, which definitely means it will show my sweaty armpits. And forget vintage ANYTHING. All the dresses have sleeves and all the sweaters are too close-fitting.  In college I almost never borrowed clothes because I didn’t want to ruin someone else’s stuff with pit stains and have them tell everyone. I haven’t bought an article of clothing bases solely on how flattering it is ever. EVER.

I realize in the scheme of things having sweaty armpits is not the worst thing in the world. It is not life threatening. It has not prevented me from getting married or having children or finding happiness. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it. It’s made me – someone who’s naturally a little socially awkward – SUPER socially awkward.

So if you meet me, and I’m wearing something really ugly and don’t want to shake your hand you’ll know why.

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12 Responses to “Don’t Sweat It”

  1. Audrey says:

    You always look lovely in your photos. Maybe I should use you shopping tips as a fashion guide. ;)

  2. Brigid Keely says:

    I am allergic to epocrine sweat (the stinky stuff you start producing at puberty). I have to be super careful about fabric types (MUST BREATHE! MUST! COTTON PREFERRED!), bathing, scented products (irritate my skin), not getting too hot, using an antiperspirant OR ELSE, etc or I get giant painful cysts. HOORAY. I’m allergic to a lot of stuff, but being allergic to my own sweat is kind of the worst thing.

    A friend of mine is very sweaty and she uses… BAN? I think? to stop the sweats under her arms, and powders her hands. She used dress shields in the past, but don’t know if she uses them now. They’re a bit harder to find, I think.

    I’ma second the “you always look good in photos” comment. You have an issue, and you make it work despite the problems! GOOD JOB!

  3. Yay! When we meet and hug we will just slide off each other in a giant sweaty mess, for I too am I giant sweatball. Although it seemed to have gotten better since I was pregnant.

    The only thing that ever worked for me was they very toxic and probably cancer causing certain dri, the original (and very best) of all the clinical strength antiperspirants.

    Clothing wise, I just almost always wear a cardigan sweater. People at work always thought it was some sort of fashion quirk. Nope, just to hide the pits.

  4. Other Erin says:

    I’ve never noticed and you are totally NOT a socially awkward person.

  5. ryan says:

    Disposable nursing pads (the kind that stick) inside the arm holes. Try it.

  6. Natalie says:

    I never had BO until I had children. I was one of those “oh, I forgot deodorant, oh well!” people. But you’re not allowed to hate me, because that’s no longer the case AND I had pretty awful acne and bacne, so I never wanted to wear certain things b/c of the zits on my back.

    So while I don’t understand your exact issues, I do understand wearing things for reasons OTHER than fashion. It sucks. But you seem to pull off your sweaty-ness well. If that helps AT ALL.

  7. Meagan says:

    A few weeks ago, I happened to tune into MTV’s “True Life” series out of boredom (there wasn’t anything to watch). The episode I saw was about hyperhydrosis. One of the people featured on the show was a girl who described herself as “preppy”; someone who loved bright colors but was too ashamed to wear them because of the excessive sweating, so she stuck to black all the time.

    I can’t imagine being limited to clothing that’ll make me look semi-normal, much less wear all black.

    I can’t pretend to know what you’re going through, because I don’t. I hardly sweat myself, but I do have a moderate hearing loss & am fluent in ASL so I do know the dirty looks that come my way from ignorant, uneducated people.

    I echo everyone else’s comments. If you hadn’t made your admission, I would’ve never guessed that you were socially awkward. You seem too much like a ball of energy & fun. :) I hope someday they’ll find a cure for it. (I think I read somewhere that there’s some sort of surgery that “snips” your sweat glands so you don’t sweat as much?? Not sure, but it might be worth looking into. Just a thought.)

  8. bellegourmande says:

    Suzanne, I have it too! It seems to have gotten better, dare I say it, since pregnancy, but it’s definitely still there. I’ve used Certain Dri as well. That stuff really stings and I became afraid that it would cause cancer so I quit. I dream of having my sweat glands in my pits removed, or have that laser treatment they wrote about on Jezebel the other day. Of course, that won’t get rid of my clammy hands, which really bum me out :(, but it’s a start.

    Sorry you’ve been dealing with this too, but we are not alone! I have met several fellow sweatballs over the years. It sucks but I hope that someday they’ll find something easy, inexpensive, and with no side effects that will cure it. In the meantime, we’ll do what we can. And if ever we met we can touch elbows instead of shaking hands. Or rather, hug!


    PS I love that an ad at my right is telling me that I just need some sort of herbal tea to fix my excessive sweating….ha!

  9. Sarah-Anne says:

    i don’t have an excessive amount of sweat (but boy do i sweat when i’m nervous) so i can’t relate. BUT! you are beautiful and no one cares about the sweat. don’t let it run your life or even have that 10% in the back of the ol’ brain. :)

  10. SarahMC says:

    I have this too. It was really bad in my late middle-school, early high-school years. So disgusting and embarrassing to always be soaking wet under the arms. I started using Drysol, which did help somewhat. Luckily the intensity of the sweating died down over the years but I am still an extremely sweaty person in general; in the summer I have to change clothes a couple times a day!

  11. Danielle says:

    I feel ya! Black only works until it fades (even a little). I also agree with Amy, cardigans are our friend. :) Oh, and Patterns! They can camoflage.
    I also tried Drysol, which does help…a tiny bit.

  12. For the record, you looked absolutely adorable when I met you. And my dad has super sweaty hands so I guess I’ve never thought twice about shaking someone’s slightly-damp hand. But I’m still sorry you have to go through all that just to dress yourself. As if shopping for clothes wasn’t hard enough!!

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