Sweating through three tops in a single day is not unusual for me. I'm quite accustomed to tossing white T-shirts into the bin because of yellow, stiff armpits or washing clothes more than once and having them still come out wiffy, or applying three types of antiperspirant every morning. I can bail on plans last minute and avoid social events if they involve a modicum of physical activity… because of my armpits.
Do you have damp patches under your arms that just won't shift no matter how much deo you spritz? You could have hyperhidrosis. Sufferer Emma North has found a permanent cure - and it's changed her life
I suffer from hyperhidrosis in my underarms, a condition that means I am constantly sweaty, even when I’m cold. Those unmissable wet patches are embarrassing, to say the least. And while the sweat itself is odourless, it’s the bacteria that grow in the damp, dark conditions of the armpits that produce body odour.
Ever since I hit puberty aged 13, hyperhidrosis has dictated what I've worn and hugely affected my confidence. Throughout my teenage years, I’d keep my school blazer on even in 30ºC summer weather to hide my white cotton shirt and the growing sweat patches. I’d plaster myself in perfume and got to the point where I’d just spray antiperspirant on top of my clothes, which of course never worked. I was resigned to the fact that this is what I had to do to.
As an adult, my embarrassment grew with me. I’d be envious of the chic outfits of co-workers and long to wear light colours but I'd stick to my black T-shirt uniform once again. Hugging people made me grit my teeth, I’d constantly be questioning “what if they can feel the damp from my armpits when they touch me?”
I heard about a new treatment named Miradry that promised to permanently and dramatically reduce underarm sweat in just a single session. I had to see for myself whether this really was the magic bullet for treating for hyperhidrosis - if it could banish the sweat then it could make the body odour disappear too.
I’d considered botulinum toxin injections under my arms, a temporary treatment for excessive sweating which works by blocking the nerve impulses responsible for activating your sweat glands - Chrissy Teigen famously being a public advocate of this treatment. I never thought it was worth the cash for temporary relief of around six months, even though I suffered so much.
I booked into the Karidis Clinic in London, one of a handful of specialist places offering this potentially life-changing treatment. The treatment has been FDA-approved since 2011 and cleared by European ‘CE’ standards too but has only recently become noticed within the wellness and beauty community. As a relatively new treatment, it’s currently only available in select clinics in London and one in Birmingham but with growing interest, it shouldn’t be long before other clinics follow suit.
What is Miradry?
The treatment works by delivering precisely controlled electromagnetic energy to the underarms to destroy the sweat glands. These sweat glands can’t grow back, therefore this permanently reduces how much you sweat from your armpits.
According to consultant vascular surgeon at the Karidis Clinic, Mr David Greenstein, Miradry “clinically proven to reduce the production of sweat by 82 per cent with impressive results after just one treatment”. This is however not 100 per cent guaranteed as you may have deep-set sweat glands that the device cannot reach.
“Some people will need a follow-up treatment,” he adds.
“Side effects can include swelling, numbness bruising and sensitivity for a couple of days post-treatment. Some patients might experience an altered sensation in the underarm or upper arm skin but this gradually subsides,” he cautions.
And for me, there was one major bonus side-effect: permanent hair removal. Not only does the device destroy the sweat glands, it permanently damages the hair follicles of the underarms too. Just like the laser used during laser hair removal, the electromagnetic impulses of Miradry render the follicle unable to re-grow hair, leaving you with smooth skin.
Don’t you need to sweat to cool down?
Yes, this did worry me. “Some patients worry that the treatment will prevent the body from effectively cooling down but we have between two and four million sweat glands in the body and only about two per cent are found in the underarms, so after the treatment the rest of the body will continue to sweat normally, meaning it will have no problem cooling itself,” Mr Greenstein reassures.
“The treatment has an optimal safety record and is one of the most permanent sweat solutions available.”
What’s the Miradry treatment like?
It’s odd, I can’t lie. I suppose having any procedure on your armpits is going to be a little out of the ordinary though.
First, a complete consultation with practitioner Maxine who ran me through the possible side-effects including swelling and bruising. As the anaesthetic wears off later in the day, I might feel a sunburn-like warmth but ice-packs would really help.
After a thorough cleanse of my armpits, I had five or six anaesthetic injections in each one. This was the most uncomfortable part of the procedure but after the first two injections, I wasn’t able to feel the rest. They use a lot of anaesthetic, not just to numb the area but to help turn the armpit from concave to convex. This makes it easier for the machine to get good contact with the skin.
The machine used to destroy my sweat glands looks very similar to a laser hair removal machine. Maxine then used a template grid drawn onto the skin with a pen to guide the electromagnetic handpiece, strategically going over the whole underarm, section by section.
After around eight zaps to each underarm, which were only noticeable due to the beeping of the machine because you can’t feel anything, the treatment was completed in an hour.
I could feel a little warmth around the edges of the numbed area, apart from this, it was completely pain-free. Maxine wiped off the guide grid and I was able to have a look. My armpits did not look good. Swollen, red, blotchy and lumpy but... eerily dry. I was then sent home with my pot of swelling-reducing hydrocortisone cream to apply every day and ice packs. I have never travelled on the London Underground with icepacks in numb armpits – why would you? I was halfway through my journey home when I realised an icepack had migrated to the seat next to me in plain view of passengers. I grabbed it and popped it back under my arm. In typical British fashion, no one said a word.
As the anaesthetic wore off, it was uncomfortable – I can’t lie. If you have this treatment, I urge you to have more ice packs in the freezer to swap over when they thaw because you’ll really feel the heat.
What are the results?
For a few days post-procedure, my armpits were swollen, sore but bone dry - an amazing feeling when you’ve been damp your whole life. I stuck to loose clothing; stretching my arms overhead to wash my hair was a little uncomfortable. It took about two weeks for things to return to normal; over-the-counter painkillers definitely helped.
I can wholeheartedly say that this treatment has improved my quality of life so much. I only realise now how much sweating had hindered my life and my choices. I can now wear light-coloured tops, tops with sleeves and lift my arms up to wave. I cannot believe I suffered for so long. My confidence is back and I feel like I have a new body, one that can wear anything without embarrassment.
I never wear deodorant now, never have to shave my armpits and my clothes last longer. I can wear a top two days in a row without having to put it in the wash and I don't have to spend money on new white T-shirts. This treatment is pricey but factoring in my spend on deodorant, disposable razors, my T-shirt turnover, I reckon it soon pays for itself. Plus, at what price is true confidence?
MiraDry treatment starts from £1,760 at Karidis Clinic, London. www.karidis.co.uk