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How to sweat less

How to sweat less

Sweat is great, in the right context. As your body’s in-built air con, it cools you down by transferring heat away from your skin. That’s great when you’re exercising. But your hypothalamus – the part of the brain tasked with keeping your body at a balmy 37 degrees – can’t distinguish whether your elevated temperature is because you’re running round the park or squeezed against strangers on a bus.

There are surgical solutions – if your underarms are like Niagara falls, botox injections can dam the flow – but you should consider these last-ditch solutions to a normal, natural, eminently manageable body function. No sweat.

Apply the right sweat-stopper at the right time

Sweat itself doesn’t smell, but when bacteria feast on what leaves your pores, they make funk. There’s two ways to deal with this: deodorant kills the bacteria, antiperspirant stops sweat leaving your pores. If your issue is moisture, not odour, then you need the latter. And unlike deodorant, you can apply antiperspirant anywhere, even your face. Deodorant washes off quicker, which is why it’s wise to stow a travel-sized bottle in your bag or desk for midday top-ups. Anti-perspirant can last days, but doesn’t start to work immediately. It’s best applied the night before, which gives the active ingredients time to block up your pores.

Wear the right fabrics

Sweat is designed to evaporate. If it lingers on your skin, it won’t cool you down. To help it disappear, you need clothes that encourage air flow. “Things like tropical wool and seersucker are ideal in summer because they’re porous,” says Thread stylist Toby Standing. “They let cool air move across your skin and take sweat with it.” Equally effective are sweat-wicking fabrics, which provide that same heat transfer by through absorption. “Linen’s particularly good because it can absorb huge amounts of water before it starts to look or feel damp.”

Cool your shower down (a bit)

Hot showers, predictably, increase your body temperature. So you need to turn the dial down or you’ll spend your commute sopping. But don’t spin it too far. Cold showers convince your body it’s freezing, so you go into heat conservation mode; blood vessels near the skin, which should transfer heat out, shut down, trapping warmth inside. Once you’re in your towel, you get the double whammy of hot air and a hot core, which means extra sweat. Instead, set the water to cool not cold, which will drop your body temperature gradually.

Adjust your diet

There are two big culprits that lead to summertime sweat – hot food and hot drinks. Capsaicin, the molecule that gives chilli its kick, convinces your body it’s overheating, which is why a vindaloo makes you sweat buckets. So when the temperature’s soaring, avoid the hot sauce at lunch. Coffee, too, means overactive sweat glands, but that’s true even if it’s iced; caffeine revs up your central nervous system, one side-effect of which is a sodden shirt. Stick to decaf until the weather breaks.

Wear more clothes

It seems counterintuitive, but an extra layer could be the best way to stop – or at least stop the look of – excess sweating. A fine cotton tee beneath your shirt will mop up sweat and stop stains, as well as encouraging that all-important heat transfer. Get a few versions in a natural fabric, like cotton, and stow an extra in your desk at work in case you need a post-lunch freshen up.

Change your exercise routine

You sweat when you work out, because movement spikes your body temperature. But it stays high for hours after your shower, which is why a lunchtime gym trip can mean a sweaty face all afternoon. Train in the mornings of evenings instead, when it’s cooler, and make sure you’ve got at least an hour’s window before you’re expected to be presentable.


Illustration: David Doran