April is National Stress Awareness Month, so we'll be analyzing the relationship between stress and sweating, as well as the effects that stress can have on the lives of hyperhidrosis sufferers 💧
What is stress sweat?
Sweat is most commonly triggered by temperature, illness, and stress. However, not all sweat is the same. The human body has two types of sweat glands: eccrine and apocrine sweat glands. The former are present all over the body and secrete an odorless salt-based liquid. As they are present all over the body in large numbers, these are the glands responsible for thermoregulation. As they’re responsible for regulating body temperature, these glands are most often triggered by exposing yourself to heat and exercising, which is why when you go out on a hot summer day or finish an intense workout, you are generally sweating everywhere. This sweat is generally odorless, but the same can’t be said for the sweat that is secreted from apocrine sweat glands.
Apocrine sweat glands are fewer in quantity on the human body and are localized in specific regions, most notably the armpits. These glands grow in relation to hair follicles and secrete a thicker sweat that is comprised of containing proteins, sugars, ammonia, and fatty acids. Once this sweat reaches the surface of the skin, it is broken down by microorganisms (bacteria residing on the surface of the skin), and this is what causes the foul-smelling sweat that is associated with what we call body odor (BO). Strong body odor resulting from foul-smelling sweat is also referred to as the condition called bromhidrosis. This condition is one that some hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) sufferers also experience.
How is this sweat triggered?
Stress! Sweating stinks, but stress sweat literally stinks. Stress is one of the biggest triggers for excessive sweating, and unlike the clear sodium chloride solution secreted by the eccrine sweat glands, sweat that is triggered by an overreaction or stimuli to the sympathetic nervous system releases the foul-smelling sweat. Not all sweat is created equal, and stress sweat is chemically different from exercise or heat sweat.
Once the body encounters a stressful situation, it sends a signal to the brain that activates the human “fight or flight” response. This is a response to a sudden and emotionally stimulating event. The brain then sends a signal to the nervous system, which floods the body with hormones such as adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine (key stress hormones), which produce apocrine secretion. This sweat produces a strong odor when you’re nervous, anxious, or scared. This secretion is instant and spontaneous, so being proactive is key.
Most have experienced this type of sweating as a result of a stressful situation. Whether it was before a presentation, a job interview, a first date. What do these things have in common? They’re all situations where you really don’t want to sweat and particularly don’t want to smell bad. In fact, you want to look and you’re your best in these situations. First impressions and public events are stressful enough as it is, without having to worry about sweating and the dreaded underarm sweat stains. Worrying about sweating and sweat stains can just increase stress levels, and make you sweat even more, which creates a vicious cycle.
What can be done about stress sweat?
Stress sweat is a part of life, and a normal human response to situations where you feel stressed, endangered, nervous, or anxious. The best way to reduce stress sweat is to find the cause of the stress and treat that when possible. Activities such as meditation, and practicing proper breathing and relaxation techniques, can help calm you.
However, what differs stress sweat from regular sweat, is that it is spontaneous and uncontrollable. Preventative rather than reactive measures are key in controlling stress sweat. When nothing can be done to control the situation (e.g. the stressful situation is unavoidable or unforeseen) means that you may not have applied deodorant or antiperspirant that day (or it may have worn off) so you’re left vulnerable to sweat stains and odor.
Spontaneous and uncontrollable sweating is a problem that hyperhidrosis sufferers are all too familiar with. Hyperhidrosis is a condition characterized by excessive sweating. Unlike stress sweat, this type of sweating has no known cause. However, preventative measures are also key in this case, as once you’re already sweating, there’s nothing you can really do about it. Dermadry’s iontophoresis machine treats hyperhidrosis of the hands, feet, and underarms. If you suffer from axillary hyperhidrosis, which is exacerbated by stress, then iontophoresis is the treatment solution for you!
Dermadry’s at-home treatments can provide up to 6 weeks of dryness, so you can have one less thing to stress about. Learn more about Dermadry and how our iontophoresis machine can help you regain control of your life here, and shop our product range below!