What is Drysol? How does it treat excessive sweating?
LAST UPDATED: Jun 16, 2020
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What is hyperhidrosis?
When your body senses a rise in temperature, it turns on your sweat glands—whether you want it to or not! Several things can lead to sweating, including warm temperatures, exercise, or feelings of anger, embarrassment, nervousness, or fear. Sweating is a necessary and natural response to an increase in body temperature to help you cool off. However, if you sweat excessively, you may have a medical condition known as hyperhidrosis.
People with hyperhidrosis often sweat more than usual, even without the typical triggers. If you think you may have hyperhidrosis, you are not alone—almost 5% of Americans (15.3 million people) have hyperhidrosis (Doolittle, 2016). This number is likely lower than the actual amount of people with hyperhidrosis because many never mention it to their healthcare provider. Most people don’t realize that their excessive sweating is a medical problem.
Hyperhidrosis is divided into two types: primary focal hyperhidrosis and secondary generalized hyperhidrosis.
If the excessive sweating itself is the medical condition, then you have primary hyperhidrosis. In other words, your hyperhidrosis is not caused by any medications you may be taking or by another medical condition. Primary focal hyperhidrosis most commonly affects the hands, feet, underarms, and/or face/head. These areas are usually affected equally on both sides of the body.
Most people with primary hyperhidrosis report that their symptoms began in childhood or during their teenage years. In addition, the sweating episodes usually happen at least once a week, but rarely during sleep. Genetics seems to play a role as most people with primary hyperhidrosis also have a family member with excessive sweating.
Secondary generalized hyperhidrosis, on the other hand, is sweating is caused by another medical condition (like hyperthyroidism or menopause) or medication side effects. People with secondary generalized hyperhidrosis may complain of sweating “all over” as this condition often affects larger areas of the body. Unlike primary focal hyperhidrosis, secondary generalized hyperhidrosis usually starts in adulthood, and sweating can happen while asleep (night sweats).
What is Drysol?
Drysol is a prescription topical antiperspirant often used to treat hyperhidrosis. The active ingredient in Drysol is the metallic salt, aluminum chloride hexahydrate. Over-the-counter antiperspirants can also contain metallic salts, but the main difference between Drysol and over-the-counter antiperspirants is the type and concentration of metallic salts. The maximum concentration of aluminum chloride hexahydrate allowed by the FDA in over-the-counter antiperspirants is 15%. On the other hand, Drysol can go as high as 20% (FDA, 2019). Other metallic salts, like aluminum chlorohydrate and aluminum zirconium salts, can also be used in over-the-counter antiperspirants in varying concentrations.
How does Drysol work?
Drysol’s effectiveness comes from the aluminum chloride salt, aluminum chloride hexahydrate. When you sweat, your sweat glands pump sweat onto your skin’s surface. After applying Drysol to your skin, the metallic salts mix with your sweat and then get pulled into the sweat duct. Once there, a chemical reaction occurs, and the salt-sweat mixture blocks the sweat gland, reducing perspiration.
Potential side effects of Drysol
Like any medication, there can be side effects with Drysol. Since this is a topical medication, the side effects are usually limited to the sites of application and then resolve after stopping it. Side effects include (Woolery-Lloyd, 2009):
Stinging at the site of application
Itching at the site of application
Burning or prickling sensation at the site of application
Darkening of the skin (hyperpigmentation)
Alternative hyperhidrosis treatments
While prescription antiperspirants like Drysol are some of the first treatments recommended for hyperhidrosis, other options exist, including:
Over-the-counter antiperspirants: These are often less effective than the prescription antiperspirants for people with excessive sweating but are certainly an option to try.
Iontophoresis: Immersing your hands or feet in tap water while a medical device sends a low-voltage electric current through the water to shut down the sweat glands.
Anticholinergic medications: These oral medications prevent acetylcholine (a brain chemical or neurotransmitter) from turning on your sweat glands.
Botulinum toxin (brand name Botox): These are injections that temporarily block acetylcholine release to prevent the stimulation of sweat glands in affected areas.
Surgery: Some people have surgery to remove the sweat glands or cut the sympathetic nerves that stimulate you to sweat in a particular area (sympathectomy).
If you have hyperhidrosis, Drysol may be a treatment option for you. Talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms and what remedies you have already tried. Hyperhidrosis can be embarrassing for some, but it is treatable
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.
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://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5099353/
U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Code of Federal Regulations Title 21. (2019). Retrieved 9 June 2020, from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?CFRPart=350&showFR=1 https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?CFRPart=350&showFR=1
Woolery-Lloyd, H., & Valins, W. (2009). Aluminum chloride hexahydrate in a salicylic Acid gel: a novel topical agent for hyperhidrosis with decreased irritation. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 2(6), 28–31. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20729946/