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The difference between regular sweat and stress sweat

Not all sweat is equal: There is a difference between regular sweat and stress sweat. Beads of sweat collecting on your forehead, drops trickling down your back — these are normal reactions when you exercise outdoors on a hot day or are in a stressful situation.

Sweating is our body’s way of cooling itself down. However, sweating from the heat and sweating from stress are chemically different. Read on to learn about the two types of sweat and how to prevent excessive fluid loss.

Why sweating is healthy

“Visible armpit sweat can be embarrassing, but sweating is an important body function. Not only does it keep the body cool, it also removes toxins from the body,” says Kathirae Severson, D.O., a Piedmont internal medicine physician. “So whether it is caused by stress or not, rest assured it is cleansing your body.”

Two types of sweat

1. Regular sweat. When the body is hot, sweat is released by the eccrine sweat glands, which open onto the surface of the skin and cover most of the body. This sweat is made up of water, salt and potassium, and sits on the top of the skin. When this moisture evaporates, the body cools down.

2. Stress sweat. When the body is reacting to an emotion, like anxiety, stress or excitement, sweat is released from the apocrine glands. These glands produce a milkier sweat comprised of fatty acids and proteins. The apocrine glands are found near dense pockets of hair follicles under the arms, around the groin and on the scalp. While this type of sweat is initially odorless, it doesn’t evaporate as quickly and can develop an odor when it combines with bacteria on the skin.

To mask unwanted odor and watermarks, Dr. Severson recommends finding a deodorant or antiperspirant that works for you.

“Talcum powder or medicated powder are also good options to help slow bacterial growth, which will minimize odor," she says. "But, if you’re a stress sweater, it’s important to get to the root of the problem. Exercise, meditation and therapy are all viable options to help minimize the stress in your life.”

Dr. Severson practices at Piedmont Physicians Mountainside II Internal Medicine, located at 220 J L White Drive, Suite 110, Jasper, GA 30143. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Severson or one of our other primary care providers. Save time, book online.

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