I haven’t been officially diagnosed with hyperhidrosis, but that’s probably due only to the fact that I have yet to talk to a doctor about my personal struggle with excessive sweating. Since my early 20s, it seems I’ve always been the sweatiest person in the room, and that room doesn’t have to be in a gym; it can be anything from a fitting room to a living room. Where others can nonchalantly try on clothing or socialize with friends, I’m attempting to ventilate myself with any object I can turn into a makeshift fan. But despite the inconvenience and embarrassment that has come with perspiring so much, I’ve always stuck to over-the-counter ways to keep my sweat from seeping through my clothing — even though they haven’t worked very well.
It was only when Qbrexza, an underarm wipe that controls perspiration, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration that I first considered seeking out a prescription option. But that came to a pretty quick halt when I looked up Qbrexza’s prices on GoodRx. And then, as if someone saw my tears (well, I guess they don’t count as tears if they’re coming from your armpit), antiperspirant underarm pads called Dr. Sweat appeared — and they’re available over-the-counter. (Fascinatingly, there are actually several real physicians named Dr. Sweat, though I don’t think the product is named after any of them.)
Like Qbrexza, Dr. Sweat does not rely on the active ingredient that traditional antiperspirant solids do. But that (and the wipe format) is pretty much where the similarities between Qbrexza and Dr. Sweat end. Whereas prescription Qbrexza decreases the amount of sweat produced by the gland with an anticholinergic medication called glycopyrronium, Dr. Sweat prevents wetness with 15 percent aluminum chloride, which shouldn’t be confused with the aluminium found in antiperspirant solids.
“Traditional antiperspirants block wetness from reaching the surface of the skin,” explains Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. It does this, he says, by forming a plug within the sweat gland to physically block sweat from leaving the gland itself. And while Dr. Sweat also creates a blockage, it does so differently. “Unlike traditional antiperspirants, Dr. Sweat contains aluminum chloride. Rather than forming a plug within the gland, it causes swelling of the tissue around the gland.”
The Dr. Sweat pads are quite thick and about the circumference of a coaster. I applied one by firmly patting (not wiping) the saturated circle against my armpits, which I hadn’t shaved in a couple of days. (I figured that would help me avoid irritation — more on that later.) When it dried after a few minutes, I felt weirdly vulnerable; I kind of missed the security blanket that a layer of solid antiperspirant provided. But despite feeling like I was definitely going to sweat even more than I would while wearing my usual antiperspirant, I decided to put Dr. Sweat to the ultimate test and go to the gym about a half-hour after the application.
The coaches at Delray Fit Body Boot Camp always make me sweat profusely — and that’s in comparison to my usual excess sweating. That morning was no different, as you can see by the sweat bib on my “I Survived the Sooper Dooper Looper” Hershey Park T-shirt in the photo below. But as you can see in the next photo, taken not even a minute later, my underarms were totally, shockingly, impressively dry.