Although not normally harmful for your health, excessive sweating can often be an uncomfortable and embarassing problem to suffer from. Commonly affecting the armpits, palms, soles, face and chest, there are a variety of ways to deal with the problem. Read on for everything you need to know about excessive sweating in a nutshell…

What causes excessive sweating?

Dr Nick Lowe, dermatologist and Professor at the Cranley Clinic, highlights two main types of sweating:

1. Common Heat Regulatory Sweating: “This controls your body temperature when it’s too hot by producing sweat, which then cools the body when it evaporates of the skin.”

2. Emotional sweating: “This only occurs in certain areas – the face, underarms, hands, feet and sometimes the chest. It is controlled by the autonomic nervous system and its purpose is not for heat regulation. It’s triggered by emotions such as anxiety and stress (although there are a few rarer cases where it can be caused by nerve injury in local areas too). Usually this type of severe emotional sweating starts during adolescence.”

The sympathetic nervous system

The sympathetic nervous system can also play a part in causing excessive sweating. It is responsible for most of the bodily functions that are carried out without conscious thought, like movement of food and urine through the body.

If the system senses you are getting too hot, it sends a signal from the brain to the millions of glands in the body, which then produce sweat to cool your skin and reduce your temperature. In people with excessive sweating, it is thought that a problem with the part of the brain that regulates the sweating process means signals are sent to sweat glands when there is no need to cool the body, resulting in excess and unnecessary sweating.

How to stop excessive sweating

We spoke to Dr Nick Lowe about the best methods to control, treat and prevent excessive sweating…

Antiperspirants with Aluminium Salts

“If localised, for example on the underarms and if severe, you can use some of the stronger antiperspirants available that contain aluminium salts - check the packaging or ask your pharmacist as they will be able to recommend a number of options,” advises Dr Lowe.

“These should be avoided though if you have sensitive skin as they could be problematic and cause a reaction or increased sensitivity. The best approach in these circumstances is to go gently and test the area first. You may not be able to use it every night but perhaps 2 or 3 times a week instead.”


“Before using oral medications which have their pluses and minuses, think about meditation techniques instead,” recommends Dr Lowe.

“If you know you’ll be in a situation where excess sweating is likely to happen (e.g. before a big presentation), try to interrupt the anxiety cycle by trying meditation and relaxation. I recommend the mindfulness theory and reading a book called Mindfulness by Mark Williams and Danny Penman.”

Oral medication

“Prescription-only oral medications such as beta blockers or low dosages of Inderal can be used to reduce anxiety and the onset of sweating. They’re useful when you know you’re going to be in a stressful situation, but they have to be prescribed by a physician who is aware of their side effects, e.g. drowsiness and low blood pressure.

“Pro-Banthine can also be prescribed. It blocks the release of the chemical transmitter acetylcholine. However, it can lead to a dry mouth and dry eyes.”


“If the excess sweat is localised to one part of the body, we sometimes inject extremely diluted injections of Botox very superficially into the skin (and not into the muscles) which can help. In the research that we conducted, it was injected into the underarms and the palms of the hand, but it can be used in local areas of the face such as the forehead and the upper lip areas too.

“In the studies, it was shown that the benefits could last up to 11 months on average. It lasts much longer against sweating than on muscle action.”

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