For those of you about to perspire, we offer these secrets to staying dry.
*-By Kayleen Schaefer
-Photographs by Doron Gild*
When Degree and AXE want to put their antiperspirants to the test, they round up a few dozen guys and stick 'em in the "hot room" in Trumbull, Connecticut. With its observation window and its stark plastic chairs, the place looks like an interrogation room. After jacking up the temperature to 100 degrees, the men in lab coats kick back and watch the poor saps sweat for 80 minutes. But you don't have to be a scientist—or a sadist—to know that pit stains (what marketers call "sweat events") can strike under far more humane conditions. (Consider the monthly budget meeting or the office picnic.) The question is: What can you do to turn off the spigot? Here are some answers.
WHAT MAKES YOU SWEAT
When your temperature rises, your body starts shedding water to cool itself. But a body at 98.6 degrees can also sweat, in response to stress—even while you sleep, depending on how much you buy into that nightmare about the ex who keeps ringing your doorbell in the middle of the night. "It's a primitive part of our physiology," says Jay Gooch of Procter Gamble.
WHAT MAKES YOU STINK
Human beings have two types of sweat glands: the eccrine, which can be found almost anywhere on the body, and the apocrine, which are confined mostly to the armpits and the groin. Eccrine glands secrete water and a trace of salt, which have almost no smell but do provide a nice, wet environment for skin bacteria. Apocrine glands spit out a thicker fluid of fats and proteins—otherwise known as an all-you-can-eat buffet for those bacteria. You start to smell like twice-worn athletic socks when the bacteria ingest that food and—more or less—poop.
HOW TO STOP IT
Deodorants: These conquer the smell, not the sweat. About 25 percent of men prefer this means of attack, according to Gooch. "Some guys think it's manly to sweat," he says. With antibacterials like alcohol or propylene glycol, deodorants inhibit unwanted guests—preventing them from making much of a stink. They also provide a cover-up fragrance. The scentless so-called natural deodorants (better known as "the crystal" or "the rock") often rely on an antibacterial mineral called alum. (If this approach still sounds overaggressive, try using an antibacterial soap, like Dial, in the shower.)
Antiperspirants: In addition to perfuming your pits and repelling bacteria, antiperspirants temporarily—and safely—gum up some of the waterworks. (Your armpits house only about 1 percent of your sweat glands. "You would never be plugging 100 percent of them," says Richard Korb, an antiperspirant expert with Unilever.) Most antiperspirants use aluminum salts such as aluminum chlorohydrate or aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex gly, which can aggravate some guys' skin. If that's you, try switching to a product with a lower concentration of aluminum (it generally ranges from 8 to 20 percent). The figure is listed on the back label under active ingredients. Sprays, roll-ons, and wax sticks are all effective, but for guys with thick hair under their arms, the gellike stuff works best. Just resist the urge to sculpt.
You perspire not to get rid of toxins but to regulate your body temperature, and you have more than 2 million sweat ducts from head to toe to help you do that. So the tiny fraction under your arms aren't crucial. They're concealed from the air—especially when you're trying to hide pit stains—which makes the area hard to chill via evaporation. 1. Fat guys sweat faster.
Guys like Jonah Hill get drenched after five minutes on the treadmill, right? Not true. The better your health, the sooner you start to sweat. When your body's in top form, it's primed to dissipate heat. When it's prone to lounging, it needs time to start the pumps. 1. The ingredients in antiperspirants are bad for you.
According to the National Cancer Institute, there's no proof that the aluminum salts used to block the sweat glands in your armpits cause breast cancer. They don't even get through your hide. But, along with the glycols used in certain deodorants and antiperspirants, they can irritate skin, causing temporary reddening, stinging, or swelling.
Eight new antiperspirants and deodorants worth seeking out.
From top, left to right: Gillette Clinical Strength ($8), gillette.com. Burt's Bees Natural Skin Care for Men Deodorant ($8), burtsbees.com. Anthony Logistics for Men Alcohol Free Deodorant ($14), anthony.com. Crystal Body Deodorant ($7), thecrystal.com. Degree Men V12 Absolute Protection ($4.29), degreemen.com. Axe Dry ($5), theaxeeffect.com. Speed Stick Pro Skin ($4), speedstick.com. Old Spice Ever Clear ($4.29), oldspice.com.
HOW TO AVOID LOSING YOUR SHIRT
At Work: When the first line of defense—your undershirt—fails you, bring on the underarm shields. The adhesive cotton absorbs sweat, so your colleagues don't see watermarks when you raise your arms—and your dry cleaner doesn't see your face as often. The thin beige pads are so discreet no one will know you're wearing them. Try: Garment Guards ($11 for five pairs), drugstore.com.
At Home: Those yellow half-moons beneath your T-shirt sleeves don't come from your antiperspirant: They're a by-product of the sebum and sweat in your armpits. When mixed with sweat, however, the synthetic wax in some antiperspirants can make the stains worse. Look for it on the ingredients list or change your plan of attack. According to Jay Gooch of Procter Gamble, deodorants are a little less troublesome. Try: Kiss My Face Liquid Rock ($6), kissmyfacewebstore.com.
At the Gym: Synthetic T-shirts and workout clothes designed to wick sweat from the skin also tend to act like petri dishes—incubating odor-causing bacteria. Halt the invasion with a heavy-duty, battle-tested, antimicrobial laundry detergent—say, perhaps, one strong enough to take on the U.S. Olympic team? Try: WIN High Performance Sport Detergent ($22 for four), sportdetergent.com.