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Dermadry® BLOG

What is Stress Sweat?

By Sam Nardi 2022 Apr 1st
Dermadry Team

What is stress sweat?

April is National Stress Awareness Month, so we're taking the opportunity to discuss stress sweat, which is actually different to regular sweat! Sweat is most commonly triggered by temperature, illness, and stress. However, not all sweat is the same. The human body has two types of sweat glands: eccrine and apocrine sweat glands. The former are present all over the body and secrete an odorless salt-based liquid. As they are present all over the body in large numbers, these are the glands responsible for thermoregulation (body temperature regulation). As they’re responsible for regulating body temperature, these glands are most often triggered by an increase in temperature or activity level, which is why when you go out on a hot summer day or finish an intense workout, you are generally sweating from pretty much everywhere. This sweat is generally odorless, granted it hasn't been left to sit on your clothing for too long, but the same can’t be said for the sweat that is secreted from apocrine sweat glands.

Apocrine sweat glands are fewer in quantity on the human body and are localized in specific regions, most notably the armpits and groin. These glands grow in relation to hair follicles and secrete a thicker sweat that contains trace amounts of proteins, sugars, and ammonia, among others. Once this sweat reaches the surface of the skin, it is broken down by bacteria residing on the surface of the skin, and this is what causes the foul-smelling sweat that is associated with what we call body odor (BO). Strong body odor resulting from foul-smelling sweat is also referred to as the condition called bromhidrosis. This condition is one that some hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) sufferers also experience, as the more you sweat, particularly from your armpits, the more likely you are to also suffer from body odor.

Can stress trigger a sweating response?

Stress! Sweating stinks, but stress sweat literally stinks. Stress is one of the biggest triggers for excessive sweating, and unlike the odorless sweat secreted by the eccrine sweat glands, sweat that is triggered by an overstimulation of the sympathetic nervous system (i.e. a stress response) releases bad-smelling sweat from the apocrine glands. That's why stress-triggered sweat smells worse than just regular sweat. Stress sweat is actually chemically different from exercise or heat sweat.

Once the body encounters a stressful situation, it sends a signal to the brain that activates the human “fight or flight” response. This is a response to a sudden and emotionally stimulating event. The brain then sends a signal to the nervous system, which floods the body with hormones such as adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine (key stress hormones), which produce stress sweat (secreted from the apocrine glands). This sweat produces a strong odor when you’re nervous, anxious, or scared. This sweating is instant and spontaneous, so being proactive and preventative is key, as .

Most have experienced this type of sweating as a result of a stressful situation. Whether it was before a school or professional presentation, a job interview, a first date, or all three scenarios. What do these things have in common? They’re all situations where you really don’t want to sweat and particularly don’t want to smell bad. There's enough pressure on you without having to worry about if you have sweat stains and if other will notice them or your sweaty hands. In fact, you want to look and you’re your best in these situations. First impressions and public events are stressful enough as it is, without having to worry about sweating and the dreaded underarm sweat stains. Worrying about sweating and sweat stains can just increase stress levels, and make you sweat even more, which creates a vicious cycle.

What can I do about stress sweat?

Stress sweat is a part of life, and a normal human response to situations where you feel stressed, nervous, or anxious. The best way to reduce stress sweat is to find the cause of the stress and treat that when possible. Activities such as meditation, and practicing proper breathing and relaxation techniques, can help calm you.

However, stress sweat is spontaneous and uncontrollable, and sometimes you're not in a position to do any of these. Preventative rather than reactive measures are key in controlling stress sweat. When nothing can be done to control the situation (e.g. the stressful situation is unavoidable or unforeseen), and you may have forgotten your antiperspirant that day (or it may have worn off), you’re left vulnerable to sweat stains and odor.


Spontaneous and uncontrollable sweating is a problem that hyperhidrosis sufferers are all too familiar with. Hyperhidrosis is a condition characterized by excessive sweating. Unlike stress sweat, this type of sweating has no known cause. However, preventative measures are also key in this case, as once you’re already sweating, there’s nothing you can really do about it. Dermadry’s iontophoresis machine treats hyperhidrosis of the hands, feet, and underarms. If you suffer from axillary hyperhidrosis, which is exacerbated by stress, then iontophoresis is the treatment solution for you!

Dermadry’s at-home treatments can provide up to 6 weeks of dryness at a time, so you can have one less thing to stress about. Learn more about Dermadry and how our device can help you regain control here and by shopping our range of anti-sweat devices below.

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