Sweat starts to flow when our body’s temperature rises, so it’s not unusual to get sweaty in hot weather, when exercising, or even eating spicy food. Sweating is a clever mechanism used by our bodies to cool us down. And, you’ve most likely noticed that after a good sweat your temperature starts to drop down to normal. However, sweating in humidity is a different ball game.
Have you ever felt like you sweat more on a cool day with high humidity than on a warm day with low humidity? Well, there is science behind this suspicion. It’s not so much that excessive sweating in humidity is made worse. Rather, once water in the form of sweat is released through pores onto your skin, it tends to stay put.
Sweat (made up of water and salts) helps to cool the body down by evaporating off the skin into the air and transferring with it excess heat. The rate at which sweat can evaporate depends on how much water is already present in the air. The issue with humidity and sweating is that in high humidity, the air is already saturated with water, which means that sweat evaporates more slowly (if at all). Thus, the heat and water stay resting and accumulating on your skin, making it seem like you’re sweating more.
Our body’s struggle to cool us down in humid weather can have other effects on our health beyond the discomfort of feeling hot and sweaty. The more our core temperature rises, the harder our bodies work to reduce it, which can lead to overheating. This results in a loss of water, salt, and chemicals. This can manifest as heat exhaustion or even heatstroke as dehydration and chemical imbalances take hold.
Staying out of direct sunlight prevents your body from overheating and producing even more sweat. If you’re out walking, stick to the shadows where possible, and be sure to wear a hat. If you do plan to spend a longer period of time outside, such as at the beach or park, pack a sun umbrella for a cool hangout.
As humans, we are made up of around 60% water. Sweating in humidity means losing a lot of liquid from your body. By using a refillable bottle, you can keep track of your water intake throughout the day, as well as staying hydrated when you’re out and about.
Apart from water, we also lose important salts and nutrients by sweating. So it’s also wise to drink sports or rehydration drinks to make sure you’re replenishing everything your body needs to function effectively.
By limiting outdoor activities to early morning or evening, you avoid peak periods of sun and the intense heat it produces. This doesn’t mean you have to cancel all your daytime plans. Simply minimize sun exposure and your body will thank you for it. Less sun means less heat, and ultimately less sweating.
When trying to balance the humidity and sweating relationship, using the right antiperspirant is key. It’s important to note the difference here with deodorants, which only work to get rid of body odor rather than the sweat itself. Antiperspirants, only the hand, directly combat sweat by blocking the sweat glands. If your regular antiperspirant proves ineffective during humid days, try out a clinical strength product. For maximum results, always apply antiperspirant before bedtime to clean and dry skin.
Your choice of clothes can also help with managing sweat in humid conditions. Wicking fabrics work by pulling sweat off the skin and transporting it through tiny channels to the outside surface, where it eventually evaporates. This prevents sweat from being absorbed by the material, leaving you soggy and uncomfortable.
Want your clothes to work extra hard to manage sweat and odor? Learn about antimicrobial fabrics and textiles, which help manage odor, plus how they work.