Break Your Sweat


I didn’t need a doctor to tell me I had a sweating problem. The damp stains attempting to ruin silk slip dress after silk slip dress early this summer were telltale signs. There was the “grown woman” button down I wore for a big sit-down interview with the unflappably chic designer, Gabriela Hearst, and after spending an hour in her industrial Chelsea studio, I walked out with the blouse sticking to my back like a construction worker. Whilst moderating a panel a week prior, a vintage crepe Armani blazer clung to my back as if made with an adhesive. I had to air it out afterwards.

Sure, I had tried all the customary remedies. Secret’s Clinical Strength deodorant, which boasted four times the strength of your regular antiperspirant, went weak on me. Although all the rage with my beauty editor friends, natural deodorant was a cruel joke. And at the suggestion of my father, I even tried Black Cohosh, a supplement that works to reduce sweat, organically. The results were uneven, but the the signs were utterly conclusive, so there I was, on a muggy June afternoon, talking to New York-based dermatologist Dr. Carlos Charles of Derma di Colore practice about how my armpits’ unnerving need to secrete had ostensibly ruined my closet and was turning me into, well, a hot mess.

Hyperhydrosis,” he uttered.

“I don’t know her,” I replied.

And through a chuckle the nearly 20-year veteran, who specializes in the skin concerns of people of color, proceeded to explain how I’m hardly the first patient to walk through the doors of his chic Chelsea office, slightly embarrassed and bewildered by his or her’s overworked internal cooling system. Excessive sweating isn’t necessarily a hereditary malady or something brought upon by age. In fact, according to Dr. Charles, there isn’t much to account for why certain people were drier than others. Great, I thought, I was just a random heavy sweater and couldn’t blame this mess on anyone but my damn self. But Dr. Charles agreed I would make a good candidate for Botox. The injectable could actually help slow my localized neurotransmitter, or “acetylcholines”, from forming and literally working my (sweat glands’) last nerve. I didn’t need much convincing.

I had been rolling over the idea for a few weeks now. While beaching it up at the top of summer with my friend, model Paloma Elsesser, I explained my plight and feared she was about to judge my decision to go under the needle. Instead, she excitedly turned to me and told me tons of models did the same thing. It was all the rage amongst the fashion circle and had been for years. In fact, as I later learned, the medical community had been recommending Botox for over a decade as a safe, effective (albeit temporary) aide to physically blocking the production of acetylcholine and sweat.

“Acetylcholine also controls the muscles and facial expression, but here we’re using a different target for it,” Dr.Charles later explained. “We disrupt that whole process from happening and that works for about three months.” The body then figures out a way to create new receptors and essentially rid the body of Botox.While a short lived solution, if 100 units of Botox could help rid me of this drip drop—and it’s attending psychosis—I was game.

For me, this issue wasn’t just physical, but mental. There was something simply unsettling about walking around New York quite literally looking like a woman who didn’t have her shit together. Sure, the city exhausts us all—we’re all grinding—but pit stains (in my head) were this indelible marker of stress that seemingly only my dry cleaner should know about. I wanted to appear cool under pressure—even if I was slowly spiraling inside.

So, are there any side effects? I queried. Only minimal, Dr. Charles confirmed. Perhaps a little bruising at the site of puncture, followed with temporary soreness. I could work out the next day if I so pleased. I needed to be advised, though, that the Botox would take about a week and a half to work into my system, so I would need to continue using deodorant, until I noticed that I didn’t need to anymore.

Fair enough.

A few weeks later, I sat upright against the cushions of Dr. Charles’s lab recliner, with ice packs squeezed underneath my arms. The cool compress numbed my shallow pits and I tried to appear just as chill, concealing a slight case of nerves. I instead focused on all the silk separates I could soon wear with abandon and then watched as Dr. Charles and his medical assistant prepared the Botox, its powdery form first submerged in saline to dilute its consistency. Filling 10 syringes with one CC of Botox each, Dr. Charles explained he would be pricking each side 10 times.

I breathed through each puncture and joked about “getting a little work done”—y’know the subtle, undetectable kind that increasingly makes you better looking. Within minutes, it was over.

Out on the street I was, yes, sore, but not debilitated. In fact, I was more optimistic for a drier future and I confidently ran into my summer plans. A beachside vacay in Maine a week later had me tanning, getting into plenty of adventure, and working up a sweat everywhere except underneath my arms. I was still applying deodorant in the morning, because that was so much a part of my routine, but it was becoming clear I didn’t really need to. In Texas weeks later, I withstood 100-degree weather and was bold enough to stop applying deodorant altogether. If I could survive a Texas summer without overheating, I thought, then surely the injections were working. In fact, I was finding that the only indication of hyperhydrosis was that my underarm skin at times became slightly sticky, but there was no smell, no perspiration.

I enjoyed the freedom it offered—the freedom of dressing, and being able to dance all night at parties without leaving drenched. I had more than enough chill...until I didn’t.

About a month and half in, I was running out of the house to make it to the beach on time, when I looked down to see a droplet of sweat rolling down the left side of my rib cage. I cussed outright. Was my Botox giving out on me—and so soon?! I didn’t have a follow-up appointment with Dr. Charles scheduled until October and I was certain I would hold out until then (remember surviving the Texas heat?). But moments later, I could feel my arm pits collecting sweat and I was full on perspiring—in a satin slip dress, no less! I ran into a nearby Sephora, grabbed Fresh’s Sugar Roll-On deodorant, and applied it for the first time in weeks. I was disappointed. And this pattern would persist: nothing excessive necessarily, but some light spotting, if you will.

Still, through my pouting I realized that Botox did work on me. It provided a temporary solution from perspiring for a New York woman who was constantly on the move. That's a tall order, no matter the CC.

—Marjon Carlos

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