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If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
Good health looks like a person with plenty of energy, shiny hair, and a hearty sex drive, right? Well, maybe. But not every sign that your body’s working as it should is welcome. Healthy metabolism and digestion will cause you to, ahem, eliminate multiple times a day. Getting enough of the right nutrients should cause strong, consistent hair growth—great on your head, sure, but maybe less welcome elsewhere. A healthy body will also perspire when the temperature rises, you exercise, or a situation that makes you angry, embarrassed, nervous, or afraid. Most of us aren’t thrilled about sweat even when it’s a sign of health, but this natural response is stuck in overdrive for some people.
Hyperhidrosis is a medical condition characterized by excessive sweating. This condition means you sweat more than usual and often without the typical triggers we mentioned above. It’s hard to get a true sense of how common the condition is, too, because it often goes unreported. It’s currently estimated, though, that approximately 4.8% of the United States population has hyperhidrosis. That’s roughly 15.3 million people (Doolittle, 2016).
A solution for excessive sweating, delivered to your door
Drysol is a first-line prescription treatment for excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis).
Hyperhidrosis can look different in different people
It’s believed by some that hyperhidrosis is caused by an abnormally increased release of a brain chemical called acetylcholine that acts as a messenger to your sweat glands, telling them to kick into gear when your body senses a rise in temperature. But not all cases of hyperhidrosis are the same. There are two main types of this condition:
- Primary focal hyperhidrosis, which is not caused by another medical condition or medication
- Secondary generalized hyperhidrosis, which is caused by another medical condition or medication
Primary hyperhidrosis can also look very different from person to person. It usually focuses on specific parts of the body like hands, feet, underarms, and face or head. But hands appear to be the most common body part involved, and they’re affected in over half of people with primary hyperhidrosis (Brackenrich, 2019). More than one body part may be affected, though this condition generally occurs equally on both sides of the body. But though primary hyperhidrosis may look different in many people, one treatment is very common: Drysol.
What is Drysol?
Drysol is a prescription antiperspirant used to address excessive sweating. It’s a topical solution (for external use only) that uses the active ingredient aluminum chloride hexahydrate. It helps people with hyperhidrosis by preventing the sweat glands from producing sweat. Drysol can be applied to the armpits, hands, or feet to reduce the amount of sweat in those areas. It’s generally applied to clean skin at the affected area at night before bed. In the morning, you simply wash off the treated area. It can be used every night, or as your healthcare provider instructs. During the day, you can use your normal deodorant to control odor but should not use another antiperspirant.
Drysol does come with some potential side effects, though. You may need to spot-test an area to make sure it doesn’t cause an allergic reaction. Reach out to your prescribing healthcare professional if you experience itching, hives, rash, chest tightness, or swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat. This medication may also cause skin irritation of the treated area, such as burning or redness. Large doses of aluminum chloride can also damage your clothes or sheets, but sleeping in an old t-shirt can help reduce this issue.
Hyperhidrosis treatment: solutions for a common problem
Is Drysol available OTC?
It depends. Some Drysol, the stronger formulations, are only available through a prescription. But there are other forms of this product that are over-the-counter antiperspirants. Drysol Dab-O-Matic, for example, is also a topical treatment that can be found in some drug stores and online through sites like Amazon. There are also multiple variations of Drysol Dab-O-Matic with different concentrations of aluminum chloride, so getting a prescription may not be your only option if one version doesn’t work. You’ll find Dab-O-Matic in Mild (6.25%), Regular (12%), and Extra Strength (20%).
But Drysol may not be your only option. There are other prescription-strength antiperspirants available at drug stores, some of which are also deodorants. People who want to try OTC antiperspirants should look for products that contain 10% to 20% aluminum chloride hexahydrate to control excessive sweating.
Other hyperhidrosis treatments
There are other treatment options if Drysol doesn’t work for you or isn’t an option. These therapies range from at-home treatments to more intensive options that are generally considered if the others don’t work. The less intense options are iontophoresis, an at-home treatment, and Botox (botulinum toxin) injections. Iontophoresis can be done at home and keeps sweat from getting to the skin’s surface. Medicine may be mixed into water to create a solution in which your hands or feet are submerged. The electrical current helps the medicine cross your skin barrier to address sweating. Pregnant women should avoid this treatment, though.
Botox—yes, the treatment used to smooth wrinkles on the face—is also approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat excessive sweating in the armpits, though it can also be used on the hands or feet. Botox is considered a “lunchtime procedure,” meaning there’s little downtime, and you can return to most normal daily activities right after. Although injections may sound extreme, they do have one major advantage: this treatment can last up to a year. If you’re considering Botox for hyperhidrosis, talk over the potential considerations with a medical professional.
Anticholinergic medication, a prescription medication, is also an option. This treatment is designed to stop the activation of the sweat glands in order to help with hyperhidrosis. It comes with its own potential side effects, though, and usually only prescribed if other treatments have been unsuccessful. Anticholinergic medication may cause blurred vision, heart palpitations, and urinary issues.
Surgery to remove the sweat glands or cut the nerves that trigger sweating is also an option, though the most invasive. Endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy (ETS), in which parts of the sympathetic nerves in your trunk are removed or destroyed, is generally used to treat excessive face or hand sweating. But it’s not a decision to be made lightly. ETS can cause compensatory sweating, excessive sweating that occurs on another part of your body (generally the back, abdomen, chest, legs, face, or buttocks).
Understanding what causes excessive sweating
Lifestyle changes to manage hyperhidrosis
If these treatments don’t appeal to you, there are some lifestyle changes you can make to manage your symptoms of hyperhidrosis. Underarm liners can mask the effects of hyperhidrosis localized to the armpits, which may increase comfort in professional and social situations. Lighter clothing choices can also keep you cooler, lessening the sweating compared to heavier clothes. Spicy food can also trigger sweating, so avoiding it may help manage certain episodes of extreme sweating.
- Brackenrich, J., & Fagg, C. (2019). Hyperhidrosis. In StatPearls. Treasure Island. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459227/
- Doolittle, J., Walker, P., Mills, T., & Thurston, J. (2016). Hyperhidrosis: an update on prevalence and severity in the United States. Archives of Dermatological Research, 308(10), 743–749. doi: 10.1007/s00403-016-1697-9, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00403-016-1697-9