Everyone sweats, obviously, and perspiring is a sign that our bodies are healthily regulating our internal temperatures. But some of us perspire a lot, and it doesn’t take much for us to get there. Hyperhidrosis is the clinical term for abnormally excessive sweating, but there’s also a middle ground of people who find themselves breaking a sweat more easily, and for longer, than most. For us, the difference between a 70- and 75-degree day can be the difference between arriving at work looking like a speckless professional, ready to tackle the day, and something that crawled out of the Hudson.
As a card-carrying member of the excessive-sweating community, I rely on a handful of products I’ve gathered over years of navigating fifth-floor walk-ups, subway platforms, and other oppressive conditions of summer in the city.
I borrowed this toner from my fiancée’s skin-care routine. She applies it in the morning with cotton pads, and I’ve started to do the same. It’s helpful for keeping my forehead—where the beads of sweat always seem to develop first—drier for much longer (witch hazel is a known astringent). It does dry the skin a bit, so I add a light facial moisturizer after.
Gold Bond powder is a staple of locker rooms everywhere, but it’s messy. This relatively new aerosol spray gives the same tingly sensation and, crucially, is easy to apply without creating a mess. I use it after a shower, before putting on any deodorant or moisturizer.
I was recommended this by a friend in the military who swears by it when he’s in the field. It was made for guys to apply “down south” during workouts to prevent chafing. It’s a lotion that transforms into a drying powder upon application. My fiancée has even taken to using it on her feet while wearing sandals and heels—it beats slathering on Vaseline to prevent rubbing and the resulting blisters.
Some occasions—August weddings, say—call for a closer. These antiperspirant wipes are marketed for use on the underarms, but have taken on a sort of cult status among excessive sweaters, for when nothing else works. I’ve found the best way to use these is to “spot treat”—I wipe my lower back when I know I’m going to be running around all day and still need to look presentable, or pretty much any time I am forced to wear a suit between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The active ingredient is aluminum chloride, which is what most antiperspirants use to block sweat, but some people find it irritating to the skin. In my experience, using these the night before a big day, on a specific part of the body that produces a lot of perspiration (the back in my case), will keep that area dry in most real-world scenarios.
I have a college friend, a fellow sweaty traveler, who won’t use antiperspirants because he finds them irritating. He has a simple routine: twice-daily showers and white undershirts—all the time, no matter what. This tee, which comes in men’s and women’s styles, is designed specifically for heavy underarm sweaters, so it’s ideal for someone who has a big meeting or presentation and knows their armpits will be in overdrive. I also like the Uniqlo AIRism undershirts for when it gets humid; they’re the least bulky of anything I’ve tried. I’ll often forget I am wearing one until I have to peel it off at night.
Finally, when all else fails, there’s the simple bandanna. From about April to October, I keep one on me, either in my bag or back pocket. It’s a low-tech way to have some relief at the ready. There are a ton of these online, but make sure you choose one that’s 100 percent cotton, never nylon or polyester blend. I like these from Hav-a-Hank.