Clammy palms. Hands up, who has them? One of life’s greatest binds, is going to shake someone else’s hand and *whoop* yours slides straight out of their grasp. Sound familiar? Turns out, it’s more common than you’d think. A quick poll of the GLAMOUR office and it seems that most of us has befallen hand slime (not a technical term) at one point or another. If you haven’t spent the moments before an interview nervously wiping your wet hands down the back of your legs, consider yourself very much the exception.
In fact, hyperhidrosis (where sufferers experience excessive sweating in specific parts of their body, such as arm pits, soles of feet or palms of hands) is an issue that affects an estimated 365 million of us worldwide to varying degrees, according to the International Hyperhidrosis Society. I myself, am a fully-fledged member of the club, having had unusually slippery hands for as long as I can remember (problematic given my job as a beauty journalist involves meeting new people and attending events and meetings daily). For some, it’s an unusual occurrence brought on by especially stressful situations. For others, like me, it can be an inconveniently common affliction that has awkward ramifications. I once had to “air shake” my future boss' hand at an interview after fessing up to palm clam and I speak from experience when I say it doesn’t make for an empowering first impression.
The truth is, sweaty palms can be detrimental to confidence, it makes social situations uncomfortable and creates unnecessary anxiety and embarrassment. So what causes it and how do we solve it?
It’s natural to sweat, in fact, it's a normal physiological response to regulate body temperature. But, excessive sweating, or hyperhidrosis is “effectively the result of over-stimulation of sweat glands,” explains Hazim Sadideen, consultant plastic and reconstructive surgeon at the Cadogan Clinic.
There are two main types of hyperhidrosis: primary and secondary. “Secondary, is less common and occurs secondary to underlying medical conditions such as endocrine disorders, the use of certain medications, or due to underlying chronic disease (such as infection or cancer),” explains Sadideen.
More prevalent, however, is primary hyperhidrosis. Frustratingly, it’s still not known for sure what exactly causes this condition, but, “patients with primary hyperhidrosis are thought to have a higher-than-normal basal level of sweat production, as well as an increased response to stimuli such as emotional or physical stress,” says Sadideen. For many, the problem can feel as much psychological as it is physical, which means you need only think about hand clam and *wooosh* instantly sodden palms. But (hallelujah!), there are steps we can take to stem the leak.
Try a hand deodorant (yes, this is actually a thing)
You may have tried armpit deodorant, but have you tried one on your hands? Sweat Guard’s Antiperspirant For Excessive Hand Sweating (phwoar) may not be the sexiest product to have knocking around in your wash bag, but it was created by a fellow hyperhidrosis sufferer after he struggled to find an effective solution to see off unwanted sweat. The clinical strength antiperspirant has been meticulously put together so as to mop up excess moisture without drying skin out and causing irritation. As for application? You simply roll it over your hands in the same way you'd roll your regular deodorant under your armpits.
Keep hand wipes handy
A top tip from a friend of mine who suffers with slippery hands, is to keep a pack of baby wipes handy. She may have gained a reputation for wiping down her keyboard whenever anyone approaches, but those on the receiving end of one of her damp handshakes puts it down to hyper vigilant desk cleaning and not smeary hand goop. No-one need ever know…
“If your sweating is severe enough to interfere with work or social activities, medical advice should be sought to assess the underlying cause and advise appropriate treatments,” says Sadideen. One option is iontophoresis which involves passing a weak electric current through hands immersed in water. “The manner in which iontophoresis works has not been fully established,” explains Sadideen, “it may be that iontophoresis causes a functional impairment of the sweat gland, either by raising the threshold for transmission of sympathetic nerve impulses or blocking the sympathetic nervous system [which sends signals to your brain to produce sweat]” says Sadideen.
Pain-wise, the current produces a tingling sensation and can be turned down if too uncomfortable. The downside is, it’s time consuming and takes several sessions (around seven) to work. The treatment is usually undertaken every two to three days and takes approximately 10-20 minutes to perform. The upside is, after an initial treatment with the doctor, you may be deemed suitable to do it at home yourself. “Treatment usually begins clinically under the direct care and instruction of a healthcare professional to ensure suitability, safety and efficacy. Once hyperhidrosis is more controlled (i.e. dryness effect achieved), and the patient is ready, willing and fully trained, it may be determined that the treatments can continue at home,” explains Sadideen. Once the condition is more controlled treatments can drop in frequency or stop altogether until symptoms recur.
Botox may not sound like an obvious solution for curbing sweat, but as with facial botox (where it works by blocking signals from nerves to muscles to prevent them from contracting), it works similarly for hyperhidrosis by blocking the chemical pathway which stimulates sweat glands. In doing so, it minimises or potentially stops sweating in the area where it has been injected.
Though it won’t cure hyperhidrosis it can help to control it. “Symptoms tend to improve in about one to two weeks and return gradually over time depending on the site, the severity of hyperhidrosis and the dose injected,” explains Sadideen. After that, “repeat injections may be necessary from 6-12 months to maintain dryness.” The procedure itself is quick, easy and not too painful (if you opt for a numbing cream) and, it can be truly transformative for those struggling daily with the condition. As always, its essential to find an experienced practitioner to perform the treatment safely.