When you’re a heavy sweater like I am, there’s anti-perspirant, and then there are more-drastic solutions. Hoping to keep subway-platform meltdowns to a minimum, I tried five sweat-prevention techniques over the course of four sticky weeks.
SECRET CLINICAL STRENGTH ANTI-PERSPIRANT
$8.99 at Rite Aid, 301 W. 50th St., at Eighth Ave.; 212-247-8384.
How it works: Applied at bedtime, the deodorant purportedly mixes with droplets of night sweat, forming a plug that reduces perspiration for 24 hours.
Sweat test: Putting the stick on before bed was a little weird (though dermatologists say night is the best time to apply all anti-perspirants). The product worked better than any other underarm protectant I’ve tried, but I still developed big splotches at the gym. However, when I smeared it on my face, it seemed to make my usual hankie-dabbing less necessary.
DRIONIC IONTOPHORESIS KIT
How it works: Water conducts a mild electrical current through the skin, which is thought (though not scientifically proved) to thicken its outer layer and block sweat.
Sweat test: Sitting in my kitchen, I held my breath, dunked my feet in the kit’s water tray, and cranked up the current. A slight tingling sensation lasted for an hour beyond that 30-minute session. You’re supposed to keep up the regimen for six to twenty days or until you notice less sweating. I only had enough patience for six days. My feet showed no noticeable improvement.
SAGE LEAVES AND BLACK TEA BATHS
Westerly Natural Market, 911–913 Eighth Ave., at 54th St.; 212-586-5262.
How it works: A hot or cold tea made with ten to twenty sage leaves (or one tablespoon of dried sage) is said to have a calming effect on sweat-producing nerve fibers. Steeping four black tea bags in a warm bath is also supposed to help.
Sweat test: I drank a cup a day of strong, bitter sage tea for a week, once just before heading out to a concert. After the encore, I was barely glistening, but I couldn’t tell whether that was because of the tea or the excellent A/C. I also tried soaking my feet for 30 minutes in a bucket of four Lipton tea bags steeped in hot water. Very relaxing, but my feet were back to sweatily flapping in flip-flops twenty minutes afterward.
Available by doctor’s prescription only.
How it works: Anti-cholinergics like Robinul are not FDA approved for excessive sweating, but many dermatologists will write you a prescription if you ask.
Sweat test: A nurse friend hooked me up with a generic anti-cholinergic, and I tried it at a friend’s wedding in Boston, where it was 90 degrees and sticky. Though the pills can cause a litany of side effects (constipation, impotence, loss of taste, dizziness, confusion), they’re the only remedy that left me 100 percent dry from head to toe. I was able to dance (in a satin floor-length bridesmaid dress, no less) completely sweat-free all night. In an extreme sweating situation, they’re hard to resist.
From $750 at Day Cosmetic, Laser, and Comprehensive Dermatology, 135 E. 71st St., nr. Lexington Ave.; 212-772-0740.
How it works: An injection of Botox (usually on the underarms, but also on the face, hands, feet, or groin) can inhibit the release of acetylcholine and block the nerves that stimulate sweating.
Sweat test: Though I seriously hate needles, the prospect of half a year’s worth of dry pits is hard to pass up. Some dermatologists cover the area with a topical anesthetic, but the one I visited, Doris Day, an assistant professor of dermatology at NYU School of Medicine, insisted it isn’t necessary. One armpit at a time, she pumped in two cc’s of the drug using about twenty injections per side. It felt like I was being attacked by bees, but for the next three weeks (and counting), my underarms only dampened on my morning jog.