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Sweat It Out

By Amalah

Photo by *L*u*z*a* return to nature
Hi Amy,
I am a bridesmaid in a wedding at the end of June and I’m hoping you can help me with a concern I have about, well…sweat. The wedding is in Virginia and considering we just had 90 degree temps in April, I’m guessing the end of June will be pretty toasty as well. The ceremony is going to be outside and will be an hour and a half long! My dress is long and not the lightest fabric and unfortunately I am not one of those lucky girls who never sweats. When it’s hot and especially humid, I pretty much melt and get slimy all over. So here’s my question…do you have any tricks I can try to reduce the sweating or at least keep it from soaking my dress? I would really like to avoid the embarrassment of huge armpit sweat stains or god forbid, ass-crack sweat stains.
Thanks a bunch!

For some unknown reason that I cannot possibly figure out, you people have been submitting a lot of questions about deodorant lately.
(Oh right, this nonsense.)
Despite owning alllll those deodorants, I am by no means a Sweating Expert. In fact, trying all the different brands and (gently! with love! and sprinkles!) mocking their marketing has mostly convinced me that there is very little difference between deodorants.
I personally use Dove Clinical Protection — I’m always appalled that it costs almost twice as much as the regular versions but it really does work better. (As do the Secret and Degree clinical versions. They’re really all the exact same product.) So if you’re a sweaty girl and haven’t yet tried one of the clinical strength deodorants, do so. In the winter I can get away with any old stick of anything, but once the humidity and heat creeps up, NO WAY. I AM NOT LIVING LIFE ALL SWEATY EVER AGAIN.
Okay. So back to this wedding day business. Perhaps you already use a clinical or prescription strength deodorant. Perhaps it still fails you under extreme circumstances, and this wedding does sound pretty extreme. (Says the girl who had an outdoor reception in AUGUST on a 100 degree day.) What to do?
First, start fighting it in the shower. So I’m not a big fan of facial scrubs, or at least not the regular daily use of them. But in this case, scrub up the morning off. Get an inexpensive facial scrub — St. Ives Apricot Scrub is a good one — and use it on your face, neck, underarms, chest, back, etc. Anywhere that you know you’re prone to sweat. You’ll slough off any dead excess skin and give your pores a good scrubbing, meaning they’ll be less likely to freak out and produce excess sweat later in the day.
Second, you can use your deodorant for more than just your underarms. Any place you know you’re prone to sweating. Lower back, behind your knees, the crook of your elbows. Allow it to dry THOROUGHLY before getting dressed, and don’t fall for the “more is better” type of application. A thin layer works just as well as a thick, goopy layer — without causing gross stains on your clothing. You can also apply it to your palms right before taking the bouquet and heading down the aisle. An clear unscented version is ideal for this kind of thing.
Don’t neglect your feet. Foot sweat might not cause the embarrassing stains, but I always find that hot sweaty feet tend to make the rest of my body quickly follow suit. Put some baby powder or cornstarch in your shoes to absorb the moisture.

And on that note, powder up your body too
. If your antiperspirant fails mid-ceremony, there’s not much you can do in terms of back-up plans, except to have a thin layer of baby powder/cornstarch already on in hopes of absorbing the moisture before it hits your dress. It’s tough to get right, since you don’t want to LOOK powdery, so maybe start practicing ahead of time to test it out. Use a big powdered makeup brush. Or head to the cosmetic aisle and check out the bronzing powders — if you can find one with a good amount of cornstarch, you might be able to use this on exposed skin and keep the white stuff under your clothes. (A very quick search suggests you might want to check out bronzers from Stila, Tarte, Ecco Bella and Sugar.) The loose mineral powders will probably not be a help, since they don’t contain any talc or talc-like ingredients. My face actually gets more shiny/sweaty when I wear them for long periods of time.
And bring supplies for afterward. Blotting papers for your face, some material for your underarms — tissues or toilet paper aren’t usually enough. Wool actually absorbs sweat beautifully, so if you’ve got an old pair of wool socks you could snip a square from them and hide it in your purse. And remember that *sweat* doesn’t actually stain your clothes — it’s the deodorant, so if you want to reapply it during the day, it’s best to rinse off the old stuff first. Adding more product on top will just increase your chances of ruining your dress.
And lastly, sweating IS healthy. These tips? Sooo not for everyday, particularly the applying antiperspirant all over your body. You need to sweat, and unless we’re talking medical-condition type excess sweating (which I don’t think we are, anyway), you don’t want to stop it completely. Drink plenty of water throughout the day and take a shower as soon as possible afterward to clean out your pores and skin.


About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Tracy H

    May 29, 2009 at 11:51 am

    I recommend Certain Dri deoderant. It is a prescription strength deoderant available OTC. It works the same as the clinical deoderants but it is a clear liquid roll-on. It feels like you are just putting on water. So, no white film to worry about. Start using it NOW! The more you use it the less you need it. You use it at night before bed and it helps prevents sweating throughout the following day, even after showering (same as the clinical deoderants.) I have heard of people who used to sweat heavily only having to use Certain-Dri once a week with no deoderant back-up. Something to remember though, if you stop the perspiration in one area it sometimes causes other areas to perspire more! Good luck from a fellow heavy sweater! I feel your pain!

  • Amy

    May 29, 2009 at 11:52 am

    If the bouquets are huge, try hiding a small ice pack in your hands. I find that if my hands and wrists are cool, the rest of me stays cooler. I wouldn’t use water in a ziplock bag, of course, but some commercial magic gel thing that you could freeze up until the moment you walk down the aisle, and hide in your hands, might be a good answer. Maybe you should wrap it in an absorbent fabric, too, in case IT sweats! Then the fabric can do double duty.
    Maybe the bride would let you carry beautiful fans instead of bouquets? Wouldn’t something like this be pretty? I’d see if you can find one to match your dress, then suggest it to the bride. She doesn’t want you to melt, either.
    Drink water, not alcohol, until the pictures are over. I’m sweaty, too, and alcohol makes me sweatier (even when it’s winter!) and makes my face flush.

  • Jen

    May 29, 2009 at 11:55 am

    My husband was a groomsman in an outdoor wedding in June, in full sun. (It must have been a thousand degrees.) He carried a handkerchief with him and used it to dab off sweat anytime something was happening when everyone was guarenteed to be looking somewhere else. (Bride walking down the aisle, rings, kiss.) It worked, I never saw him use it and I probably looked at him more than anyone else. If I were you, I’d look for some fabric that matches your dress and stick it in your hand behind the flowers.
    (And I’m sorry, outside ceremony in June that will be an HOUR AND A HALF long? Who’s idea was this?)

  • kalisah

    May 29, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    Just make note that the clinical deodorants are made to be used AT NIGHT. It’s kind of a hard habit to get into.

  • Kristen

    May 29, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    I know it’s been said, but I can’t stress it enough– DRINK WATER. My mom’s wedding was this past August and it was beyond muggy. Drinking a big cold glass of water cooled me down and also made me feel better. Also, rinsing your hands and wrists in cool water makes a huge difference.
    If it gets bad, go in a bathroom stall, and pull out 2 extra toilet seat covers, fold one under each armpit to absorb excess sweat.
    I find the more I stress about it, the worse it is. If I can just calm down about it, realize that everyone sweats and no one is looking at my freaking armpits, it’s not that bad.

  • Katie

    May 29, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    I completely second the Certain Dri…I used it during my August wedding with much success. I agree with the other commenter that said to start using it now. It can cause some itching/red bumps when you first put it on (usually the worst about an hour after application…for my sensitive skin, they tend to have faded drastically by morning). I’ve found that both of these side effects tend to lessen with the second and third uses. Also, be sure to put it at least 8-10 hours before you shave, and use a good moisturizing shaving gel to prevent more red bumps. I know this sounds scary, but it really does work. I had a bridesmaid who also used it in the small of her back, with good results.

  • BG

    May 29, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    I started using Drysol, which I believe is just a prescription version of Certain Dri, when I was in high school and had terrible sweat stains all the time. Put it on at night, wash it off in the morning… and after a few applications there is NO SWEAT. Now, nearly 10 years later, I apply it less than once per month and my underarms are always dry as a bone. Best $7 I ever spent!

  • Alicia

    May 29, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    As a fellow heavy sweater, I recommend the Clinical Strength deodorant. I use it at night, as it says on the label, and then again in the morning. After about a week I noticed a big difference in the amount I was sweating. It was a bard habit to get into a night, but now I don’t even think about it.

  • stephanie

    May 29, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    Okay, I can totally chime in on this post… unfortunately, I’ve spent many, many years trying to deal with/camouflage sweat.
    I can second the use of Certain Dri. In fact, I would highly recommend you start using it immediately, rather than waiting until closer to the ceremony. My underarms used to sweat buckets (so gross, sorry) and I’d regularly change shirts multiple times a day, and it affected the type and colors of clothing I would wear. I started using Certain Dri back in 2002, had to use it regularly for about 3 years, and now I sweat less than a normal person and regular anti-perspirant is all I need most of the year. In the excessive heat of the summer, I use Certain Dri about once a week. When I use Certain Dri, I would still use a lightly scented, clear deodorant (not anti-perspirant) for during the day, although it is probably not necessary. (More as an after-shave, anti-chafing mechanism.)
    Unfortunately, I sweat a lot everywhere else and you obviously cannot cover yourself in Certain Dri. I’ve used regular anti-perspirant to control boobsweat and lower-back sweat on occasions. I think the baby powder idea is a good one for other parts of your body. In a pinch I’ve used my boyfriend’s gold bond, but it is not the most feminine scent. Once you’re done with the ceremony and photos, I’d go find a bathroom, dampen some paper towels in cold water, and go undress in a stall and wipe yourself down to get off any caked-on powder. (I know, it sounds like a lot of work, but you will feel refreshed, which I find stops/slows the sweating. It’s worth it.)
    Then, once you are cooled down a bit, I’d throw on some of this stuff — Smells delicious and is very refreshing and keeps your skin from feeling sticky. I use it a lot in the summer, especially on my legs when I wear a skirt. You might even buy it ahead of time and see if you could use it instead of baby powder, but it is talc-free so I don’t know how well it would work for soaking up sweat. I also use it in closed-toe shoes when I’m not wearing socks or tights. (It’s also a great dry-shampoo… seriously, something of a miracle product with all its uses.)
    If possible, keep your make-up light, so you don’t have to worry about meltdowns, plus heavy makeup always makes me overheat and sweat faster. You can always reapply in the bathroom and make it more dramatic for the reception. Standing in the heat should keep you flushed enough that you’ll have a natural glow, so you can probably just focus on your eyes and lips.
    Finally, Jen’s comment about the handkerchief is a great idea. You can just pretend to be dabbing some tears away while you blot.

  • Brandi

    May 29, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    Don’t forget to put the deodorant under your boobs. I know it sounds crazy, but that’s going to sweat like crazy and it’s a gross feeling. I live in NC and the humidity and heat during the summer months is unreal. And a bra is uncomfortable enough without also being soaked with sweat.

  • Jess

    May 29, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    I have to also push the Certain Dri. I was a habitual armpit stainer- most embarassing for a girl!
    You do use at night, and make sure your armpit is DRY- the chemical in it will mix with the sweat and it HURTS (like burning, itchy hurt).
    Oh yeah and the price is delightful- even on Amazon it’s only $5, but prolly $3-4 at your local CVS/RiteAid, etc.

  • Rachel

    May 29, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    0MG Certain Dri. That stuff rocks. Once I had been using it for about a week my armpits were dry as a bone even when working out. Its a miracle. I gave some to my brother (who never wore grey and ALWAYS wore 2 shirts because he sweat (um, sweated?) so much) and now he wears whatever he wants and has been able to ditch the undershirt. Start using it now and you’ll be nice and dry for the wedding. Oh, and I second the recommendation to use something less intense but nice-smelling in the mornings in addition to the Certain Dri at night. You don’t need it for the sweat but its nice to smell good!

  • Michele

    May 29, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    I recently attended an outdoor wedding in Hawaii. I put an ice pack in a money belt for the groom to wear under his tuxedo cummerbund and it was much appreciated. Maybe something like that could help?

  • Kate

    May 31, 2009 at 12:48 am

    Just to chime in, I also vote for the Certain Dri or some variation thereof. That stuff WORKS. Just make sure to let it dry completely and then get thee to bed or other resting state IMMEDIATELY, since if you sweat even a little bit it will start to burn and itch and drive you insane. There are other formulations with the same active ingredients too, although not available OTC. Certain Dri is 12% Aluminum Chloride, prescription Drysol is 20% and Xerac AC is something like 6.5%- perfect if Certain Dri is too harsh.

  • Nataly

    May 31, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    Just chiming in to say that you should absolutely try Hydrosal rather than Certain Dri, drysol, etc. I had to give up on drysol because after a few applications the burning would lead to a rash no matter how little I used and how dry my underarms were. My dermatologist recommended Hydrosal this past summer and it is a miracle! It’s gel based so you have none of the burning or irritation. It is around $30 (at least here in Canada) but my god it is worth it!!

  • April

    May 31, 2009 at 11:08 pm

    I’m a ridiculously sweaty girl, and I carry vintage hankies with me in the summer so I can look delicate while sopping up my sweaty face, etc. If it’s really hot I like to dampen a hanky and put it on the back of my neck. It helps a lot. Maybe you could do that up until you walk down the aisle? Then keep it with you do dab at yourself unobtrusively?

  • Tiffany

    June 1, 2009 at 8:51 am

    My only piece of advice is to start using Certain Dri NOW to be sure it works for you. In my experience, if you use the product but still sweat, it will be the nastiest you have EVER smelled in your life. A friend and I both have had this issue.

  • Erica

    June 1, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    Okay,so this is way extreme, but it sounds like there’s a lot of girls out there with this problem, so I thought I’d mention it. I’m not overly sweaty (don’t worry, I have a million other issues that would promptly make you un-jealous of me 😉 but I used to work for a plastic surgeon. For women (and sometimes men) with this dilemma, he would do a series of Botox shots in their armpits. It paralyzes the pore and keeps it from sweating. This is for extreme cases only (he wouldn’t do it by request, even though we had the requests ALL the time) but, if in your case it’s extreme, and you can afford the shots, it may be worth looking into. He would even do it for people who’s palms and bottoms of their feet sweat profusely. There’s an actual medical term/diagnosis (I think people may have had to have the diagnosis from a dermatologist or something – currently expereincing pregnant brain, so I can’t say for sure), but people who did it swore by it. Just wanted to throw it out there…
    PS – Love your columns and blog Am!! (Although your recent Bounce Back on episiotomies had me going “HOW DO I GET OUT OF THIS????”) Haha…

  • Robin

    June 2, 2009 at 12:15 am

    Don’t bother with the expensive “clinical strength” deodorants. What makes the deodorant work is the level of Aluminum Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex Gly. You can look at the back of the deodorant and find a percentage. Most regular deodorants have 14.8%-18.5% AZTG. The clinical strength products – the ones that are 2x the price of the regular ones – are 20%. Turns out regular Mitchum has 20% and doesn’t cost $10 like the special souped up versions of normal deodorant do. Just go to the drugstore and look at the back of all the canisters to compare.

  • Anonymous

    June 2, 2009 at 3:21 am

    As for body powders, I think Crabtree and Evelyn have some nice scented powders (with nice fluffy puffs) that work nicely to help with persperation. I used to use this when I was in high school and tended to break out in cold sweats when I was nervous (which was all the time). Put on deoderant, let it dry, and then put a thin layer of powder wherever you tend to sweat.
    I think this is what I had:
    Good luck! Think cool thoughts. 🙂

  • Laurellee

    June 2, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    To Erica’s point, the condition is caller hyperhidrosis.
    I am a face sweater. I get hot really easily and my face will DRIP sweat if it gets out of hand. I hate hate hate it! I also turn beet red. It’s fabulous being me.
    I use clinical deodorant and I am convinced that my brain will be so full of aluminum that I will have alzheimers at 45.

  • T

    June 3, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    I was in an August wedding wearing a grey silk bridesmaid’s dress–not ideal for someone who produces a lot of underarm sweat. I was also nursing my baby at the time, so in addition to the nursing pads in my bra, I stuck a couple under my arms, and they absorbed the sweat perfectly. The dress had short sleeves, but these might work with a tank, too, with the right adhesive. The gel in the pads absorbs tons of liquid.

  • J

    June 4, 2009 at 10:15 am

    I am a super-duper sweater- a face-sweater like Laurellee- and scheduled my outdoor wedding to minimize sweating issues during the ceremony and reception. Yes, my sweatiness was literally a factor in the family discussion about when to have the wedding. My MOH was assigned the task of fanning me when I got all sweaty during the ceremony. Miraculously, we were blessed with a gorgeous and low-humidity day and it was all cool.
    HOWEVER, at my brother’s June wedding on the beach, I was a dripping mess of a bridesmaid. It was 90-something with incredibly high humidity and no breeze, so there was just no stopping the sweat. It did help to use cooling gel strips (the kind designed for your forehead to help w/ headaches) on my lower back and to carry a little fan. We bought some inexpensive folding wooden fans (scented w/ sandalwood, I think) online and even the non-sweaters were gratefully using them on the beach. I like the vintage hankie idea- would have done that if I’d thought of it.
    Good luck!

  • KB

    June 4, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    I am also a face sweater like some other people who have commented. Is there anything to do to prevent that? I find it really embarassing, plus it makes my hair wet and frizzy.
    As for the wedding thing, my friend got married in August, in Chicago and in a church with no air conditioning so I feel your pain. We did the handkercheif thing and it worked pretty well. We had small battery powered fans with us before the ceremony as well.
    I swear I’m going to get married outside in the middle of winter just so I don’t sweat.

  • Kimba

    June 4, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    Oh, good heavens, get yourself some Certain Dri. Someone already mentioned it, but I just have to second. I’ve been using it since junior high, never sweat. (under my arms…any help with the boob sweat?) Amen.