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What is Stress Sweat and How to Manage it?

Sweating is a normal process of life through which the body cools down when it is overheated.(1) Other than the regular reasons for sweating, such as heat or eating spicy food; stress can also cause one to sweat.(2)

There is a difference between the stress sweat and the other kind of sweat which occurs when the body is overheated. In this article we will discuss why the odor of stress sweat is different and ways to manage it.

What is the Cause of Stress Sweat? (2)

Stress is the natural response by the body to a potential or a perceived danger. Stress triggers a surge of cortisol and adrenaline among other stress hormones along with increasing the heart rate and tensing up your muscles in preparation for a fight. Stress sweat is also known psychological sweating.

Sweat glands secrete sweat to: Hydrate your skin, cool the body and balance the fluids and electrolytes in the body. The sweat glands in the body are triggered by nerves that are sensitive to hormones, emotions and different stressors. When a person is stressed, there is increase in the body temperature which triggers the sweat glands to produce sweat.

Sweating when one is stressed is perfectly normal; however, too much sweating to the point where it can interfere with daily life activities and where it also affects a person’s confidence is not good; and the cause of it could be a medical condition known as hyperhidrosis. In such cases, it is important to consult your doctor about the different treatment and management options for profuse sweating.

Why is Stress Sweat Different Than Other Kind Of Sweat?

Why is Stress Sweat Different Than Other Kind Of Sweat? (2)

There are about 2 to 4 million sweat glands in the body and the majority of these are the eccrine glands present in large numbers on the forehead, palms, armpits and soles along with being present all over the body. When there is increase in the temperature of the body from hot surroundings or any physical activity, then the autonomic nervous system communicates to the eccrine glands to produce sweat. This type of sweat is made of mostly water with some lipids and salt mixed in it. This type of sweat helps in cooling the skin and in bringing the temperature of the body down.

Apocrine glands are other kind of sweat glands which are bigger in size and secrete the majority of sweat related to stress. Apocrine glands are present in the regions of body which has increased numbers of hair follicles, such as armpits and the genital area. The armpits secrete about 30 times more sweat when the body is under any stress when compared to rest.(3)

The sweat secreted by the apocrine glands is richer and thicker with more lipids and proteins. The nutrients and fats present in the type of stress sweat along with bacteria present on the skin causes a different kind of body odor than the regular sweat.

How to Manage Stress Sweat? (2)

Stress is a part of life and cannot be avoided; however, there are some ways to manage your stress sweat such as:

Daily Showers

It is important to bathe or take a shower daily to cut down on the bacterial growth on the skin. The lesser the bacteria present on the skin to mix with sweat, the lesser you will have body odor. After bathing, make sure to completely dry your skin, as damp and warm skin is an conducive environment for the growth of fungi and bacteria.

Use Antiperspirants

Antiperspirant is different than a deodorant where deodorant only masks or covers the sweat smell and antiperspirants, on the other hand, temporarily block the sweat pores resulting in decreased production of sweat. You can purchase pure antiperspirants or other products which acts as a deodorant too.

Trim or Shave Hair in the Private Regions

Hair present in the underarm and pubic area can trap bacteria, oil and sweat. Shaving or trimming the hair in these regions will help in cutting down presence of bacteria, which will not only help in reducing the sweat odor, but also will make it easy for the antiperspirant to do its job. According to a study done in 2015, removing underarm hair can also reduce the volume of the sweat secreted.(4)

Wear Sweat Pads

Sweat pads are absorbent, thin shields that can be attached to the insides of the shirt to absorb the sweat from underarms. You can wear sweat pads on days when you know your stress level is going to be more. Carry some sweat pads in your bags for emergencies

The use of underarm sweat pads will not prevent the production of stress sweat; however, they help in absorbing the excessive stress and also prevent stains on the underarm area of your clothes.

How to Prevent Stress Sweat?

The only surest way to prevent stress sweat is keep your stress levels at bay. Some of the ways in which you can reduce your stress are:

Deep Breathing (6)

Breathing exercises are one of the underrated and underused ways to reduce the stress levels. Studies have shown that diaphragmatic breathing (deep breathing) is one of the best ways to release stress and increase relaxation. Diaphragmatic breathing consists of taking slow and long breaths and allowing your diaphragm to expand your abdomen as you are inhaling and then completely exhaling and repeating this process.

Chewing Gum

Studies have shown chewing gum helps in reducing stress. A study done in 2009 revealed that people who chewed gum when under stress had decreased levels of cortisol in their saliva along with decreased anxiety and stress.(5) Always keep a pack of chewing gum handy and chew on a piece whenever you feel stressed.

Listen to Music (7)

Research has also shown that music helps in relieving anxiety and stress and promotes relaxation. Listening to music before any potential stressful situation helps in keeping your stress levels in check.

Talk to Someone (8)

Talking to a loved one or a friend helps greatly in decreasing your stress levels. Research has shown that talking to someone about your feelings helps in stress reduction, especially if you are emotionally connected to that person.


Everyone sweats and more so when under some kind of pressure or stress. The sweat associated with stress is more in quantity and smells different too because of the manner it interacts with the bacteria present on the skin. There are many simple ways to keep your stress under control along with some grooming ideas to keep stress-related sweat under control.


Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:October 15, 2022

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