5 Sweat Myths Debunked

By Cassi Bee

We here at PiperWai are really into weird trivia, specifically about our underarms. In our search for interesting information, we’ve found a number of pieces of “common knowledge” to be untrue. Scroll down to see five sweat myths, debunked and clarified, so you can help folks feel confident about their information (and their armpits) the next time this topic comes up.

Sweat stinks

Nope, that’s body odor, which is different than sweat. A common misconception about body odor is that it comes from sweat itself, and that folks who sweat more, smell more. This simply isn’t true! Instead, the odor is caused by an imbalance in your skins pH levels, usually due to bacteria on the surface of your skin and the environment of your armpits. If there is bacteria (which is pretty common in dark, wet places like your underarms), the sweat will interact with it and the surrounding oxygen to cause body odor. To learn more about this, check out our blog post on why sweating is good and odor is bad. Sweat itself is just water with traces of ammonia and ureacompounds left behind after your body breaks down proteinsplus salts, water and sugar. In other words, its odorless.

Sweat stains

Okay, sweat does stain, but only if it’s been left without being laundered for too long. In a similar fashion to how sweat stinks, sweat also stains as a result of its environment. First, your body exudes sweat. Then that sweat transfers to your clothing, causing an embarrassing wet spot. From here, most folks will either change their shirt or try and dry the area. This is where the staining begins. Oxygen from the air around you and chemicals from your detergent can interact with the sweat, causing the unsightly brownish-yellow stains. The easiest way to avoid them altogether is to wash the article of clothing quickly instead of letting it hang out in the hamper for a few days. If you were thinking of those stubborn white marks often left on clothing after application, check out our post on how to remove deodorant stains and product buildup.

Sweat is all the same

Not all sweat is created or experienced equally, and every body is different and unique. Of course, there are more common causes for sweat, like warmer temperatures or a steamy, hot yoga class, but there are other kinds of sweat as well. Stress sweat, hormonal sweat, and active sweat are three types of sweat that are very different.

Your skin has two main types of sweat glands: eccrine glands and apocrine glands. Activity-induced sweating, like the kind you experience after a good workout or long run, comes from your eccrine glands. Stress sweat, which is in the same category as hormonal sweat, come from your apocrine glands. These glands lay dormant until puberty, are caused by emotional reaction, and are the reason we have body odor. That’s because the sweat coming from these glands has fat molecules that bacteria attaches to as the sweat travels up the hair follicle to the skin surface. Unlike eccrine glands, which are 99 percent water, apocrine glands are 80 percent water and 20 percent lipid and proteins. (Where the fat molecules come from.) 

Sweating means weight loss

While activity can cause one to sweat, and that same activity can sometimes help one lose weight, it is not through sweating that the weight loss occurs. If any weight is lost through sweating, it is sincerely fractional and will likely return when you hydrate after an exercise session or refuel at dinner time. This is because weight lost through sweating is a particular kind called “water weight.”

Water weight is the weight held by your body when it is fully hydrated. When you sweat, your body becomes less hydrated and naturally loses water through the process. When you rehydrate, the water weight returns and your body is no longer dehydrated. When your body can rely on a steady level of hydration, it retains less water and pushes fluids instead.

Many articles have made the rounds about the benefits of sitting in saunas, with weight loss touted as one of them. It's important to note that a person's metabolism, body structure, age, sex, water weight and the environment all come into play. Sweating can help you burn calories but in terms of weight loss, it is not a sustainable way to reach your goals.

While we are on the topic, we think it’s important to point out that every body, no matter the size or gender, sweats. And we think that’s wonderful. Your weight does not have a direct reflection on the amount you sweat, and any size person can suffer from hyperhydrosis, sweating from activity, or other overactive gland conditions that can cause excess sweating.

Sweat helps you detox

Nope, that’s the job of your liver and kidneys! Your liver helps by cleaning your blood and helping to replace and replenish old or damaged blood cells. Your kidney helps by filtering that blood for waste materials and regulating your salt, water and mineral levels by pushing out excess toxins through urination. 

So, while you might think you smell like you’re sweating out toxins, that musky scent is really an indicator of the pH level of your underarm skin. This factor can be affected by a number of variables, from diet and exercise to hormonal changes or stress, and keeping a pH-happy-and-healthy environment for your underarm by way of diet and hygiene can help keep your odor under control. 

While sweat is completely healthy and natural, we understand it can be an unwelcome visitor. (Nobody likes sitting in sweaty clothes.) It’s our goal to be completely natural, while having high standards for fighting sweat and odor. Grab a jar if you want to control sweat on other areas of your body, or a stick for convenience! 

Photos by Elyse Jokinen Photography