This summer has brought unrelenting heat upon us, and with it comes also the unyielding sweat. People assume the easy and safe solution to unflattering sweatiness is to apply antiperspirants or deodorants, but Dr. Wakitha Griffin, Georgia-based dermatologist, reminds us there are a few health hazards associated with these products that you should know about before caking them on.
Everyone worries about excessive perspiration both because they dislike the sticky, shiny, wet sensation on their skin and because they fear making an unfavorable impression on others. Too much sweat can come off as gross, unsightly, and unprofessional, not to mention it wreaks havoc on our clothes.
Recall the first televised presidential debate in 1960 between Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy when poor Mr. Nixon melted beneath the studio lights while his opponent, who was all powdered up, remained apparently cool and calm. It is generally assumed that Americans watching the debates were repelled by Nixon’s sweaty, uncomfortable expressions and that this visual cue caused him to lose votes. Don’t end up an anxious sweat bucket like Nixon; learn about perspiration and be prepared to fight it.
Sweat is composed of water, salt, and electrolytes. It is by secreting sweat onto the outer layer of skin that the body maintains ideal internal temperature; sweat is our built-in cooling system. A person can sweat up to four liters per hour during exercise, which means significant loss of vital water, salt, and electrolytes.
About 2.8% of the U.S. population suffers from a sweating disorder known as hyperhidrosis, which describes perspiration in excess of amounts needed to maintain average body temperature. This condition usually manifests before the age of 25 and, without treatment, can last a lifetime. Many dermatologists believe it is a genetic disease, as most patients with hyperhidrosis have family members who share this sticky problem. However, excessive perspiration is also a symptom of a handful of serious conditions including tuberculosis and cancer, so if you are concerned about your levels of sweat it is best to consult a dermatologist, says Wakitha Griffin.
There is a distinct difference between deodorants and antiperspirants. As their names suggest, deodorants use fragrances to mask scents while antiperspirants temporarily block sweat ducts. Antiperspirants do so by using either aluminum or zirconium salts that clog skin pores, sending a message to the glands to stop producing sweat in that area.
Because antiperspirants contain metal salts, dermatologists strongly recommend applying them to dry skin only. If applied to wet skin, the salts combine with water to produce dangerous hydrochloric acid. This is why so many people experience irritation from their antiperspirants; they’re actually putting acid on some of the most sensitive parts of their bodies. Be certain to thoroughly wipe down the skin before applying antiperspirants or other skin products.
Other dangers of antiperspirants that you should be aware of include a suspected increased risk for breast cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, based on studies published in 2002 and 2005 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute and the Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry. The researchers claimed the aluminum salts and parabens, when absorbed, have estrogen-producing carcinogenic tendencies. However this science is still inconclusive and the American Cancer Society has refuted much of these studies’ evidence.
Even though it’s summertime and we all want to stay cool and dry, we need to be cautious of how we do so. Deodorants and antiperspirants are generally safe products, although the latter poses hazards because of its metallic salt ingredients that cause irritation and may increase risk for cancer. Deodorants can also contain elements that have a volatile reaction on the skin.
Be aware that most anti-sweat products contain substances that upset the body’s natural chemistry, so it is best to consult with a dermatologist to find a product that’s right for you. Remember, the best cure for excessive sweating is excessive wiping.
Wakitha Griffin is a certified dermatologist with a successful practice in Cartersville, Georgia. She works to help diagnose, treat, and prevent dermatological conditions such as hyperhidrosis. As a seasoned skin doctor, Wakitha Griffin attends to every patient meticulously to ensure that not only are they receiving the proper care, but that they are totally knowledgeable and comfortable with the treatment.