just a girl living her best life in the upper lefthand corner

Heart to Heart: My Life with Hyperhidrosis

I’ve been feeling compelled to write about this subject for a long time. It’s a topic that I am deeply passionate about, but I’ve found that it never really gets discussed publicly because this affliction is something that everyone is super embarrassed by… including myself. Today, I’m going to set aside my pride and talk to you about it anyway:

I suffer from palmoplantar hyperhidrosis.
(read: excessive sweating from my hands and feet)

While it’s hardly a life-threatening disease, this ailment has caused me SO MUCH grief and embarrassment over my lifetime! If you or someone that you know struggles with excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis), please keep reading — this could change your (or someone else’s) life!

(yes, those are beads of sweat collecting on my hands and dripping down my arms)

A little backstory on my Sweat Journey (maybe you can relate?):

My earliest memory of struggling with hyperhidrosis was in the 3rd grade. At my school all 3rd graders were required to complete a special project that we worked on as a class throughout the entire school year (imagine the elementary school version of a thesis paper) and back then we didn’t have computers to use for typing up reports so I had to hand-write everything. As a part of this project we were graded on our penmanship… I remember being SO anxious about having to use an ink pen (no pencils allowed) and messing up on my cursive! I had to keep wiping my hands on my lap because I had droplets of sweat that would form on my pen and drip down onto the paper. Since I am right-handed, my hand would also slide over the paper as I was writing and by the time I had gotten to the bottom of the sheet, the paper would be completely soaked and warped. Additionally, the side of my hand that had been resting on the paper as I wrote would have smeared ink stains all over it. Fast forward to my teen years when I started dating… imagine how nervous I was to hold a boy’s hand, only to have him recoil when he felt my sopping wet palm!

I can’t tell you how many times I have slipped in my own shoes and almost fallen down or twisted my ankle just from walking in the sweat pooling beneath my feet. I have completely ruined so many pairs of my shoes, which is the major reason why I have never invested in any that are super high-quality; it would be such a waste of money! To this day, I still do anything that I can to avoid shaking hands with people — even in interviews. Occasionally, circumstances will arise where I have to deal with prolonged periods of excess sweating, which end up causing the skin on my hands and feet to swell so much that I can’t even wear my rings or squeeze my feet into closed-toe shoes. I want to be clear that I am fully aware that this ailment is far from some kind of debilitating disease, but it has certainly been a massive detriment to simple activities in my daily life.

My hyperhidrosis is always triggered by either temperature or stress/anxiety (you know, when normal people tend to sweat…), but my system goes into overdrive. It’s almost as though my body’s internal thermostat & stress regulator are broken and they just don’t know when to “turn off.” I don’t know if you can tell the difference in my hand in the photos below, but my skin is so swollen from being waterlogged in the photo on the left that I couldn’t even get my wedding/engagement rings on that day. I tried to capture the exact same angle on a different day when my hands were back to normal in order to give you an idea of how they’re supposed to look. (if the pic on the left weren’t such a painful situation, I’d laugh because my fingers look like little Vienna sausages! lol)

Over the years, I have talked to many doctors and dermatologists… their list of resolutions was always the same: Botox injections, surgery to cut the sweat glands, electroconvulsive therapy (also known as “iontophoresis”), and other topical medications that were incredibly uncomfortable and inconvenient to apply (looking at you, Drysol…). None of these options were viable for me so I had given up hope that I would ever be able to sustain a normal level of sweat to live a comfortable life. Come to find out, my family dermatologist in Florida had seen enough patients with the same excessive sweating situation (but in varying parts of their bodies) that he felt it would be worthwhile to research an effective solution for all of us. What he discovered was a medication called Ditropan (or generically: “oxybutynin”). A main side effect of this drug causes reduction of sweat and it has really been beneficial to me over the past ~7 years (thank you again from the bottom of my heart, Dr. Sultenfuss!!).

** I want to take this opportunity to say that it is unhealthy
to stop sweating completely so while I still sweat, the amount is
SO MUCH LESS than before I started taking oxybutynin.
Please discuss with your doctor if you are interested in taking this medication.**

Now that my husband and I are married, we’ve been having more serious discussions around family planning and I know that women have to be really conscious of what they eat and what medications that they take in order to have healthy pregnancies. I brought this up with my primary care physician at my most recent physical and she explained that while oxybutynin is not considered to be a high risk medication, it is strongly recommended to stop taking it while pregnant and nursing (the FDA considers it to be a “Category B” drug, if you’re curious). I was absolutely devastated to hear that my excessive sweating issues would return in conjunction with the arrival of [future] pregnancy discomforts (morning sickness, back/hip pain, etc). I was starting to dread an experience that I have been looking forward to my whole life!

Enter: Carpe Lotion

You guys, you can’t see me as I’m typing this, but I get teary-eyed every time I think about the blessing that this product has been in my life. I want to share Carpe Lotion with you because it has been a COMPLETE game-changer for me. About a year ago, my mom saw a late-night tv commercial for this product and called me immediately to tell me about it. I couldn’t type the information into my Google search fast enough! When the results populated, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Not only was Carpe Lotion totally affordable, it didn’t require a prescription from a doctor! Another thing that I noticed right away was that the website specifically cited the ailment by its medical term (which reassured me that they weren’t just trying to hawk some bogus product). 😉 Carpe was offering lotions for both hands and feet (also using their corresponding medical terms “palmar” and “plantar”!!). It seemed as though Carpe had been created just for me. I read through their list of testimonials written by individuals that had been living with very similar experiences to mine and these people were seeing amazing success as a result of using Carpe products. I can’t even begin tell you what a comfort it was to know that there were other people in the world suffering from the same ailment (not that I’m happy that other people are suffering too, but to know that I’m not alone) and that these products were actually helping them! I was, of course, skeptical in the beginning because honestly, this solution sounded way too good to be true.

When I received my initial shipment I put the products on right away as the instructions described. The lotion has a very light eucalyptus scent when it comes out of the tube, but once it dries there is no trace of fragrance. I will say that the barrier that the lotion creates on your hands and feet is mildly detectable, but just barely and absolutely not uncomfortable (again, looking at you, Drysol). It’s more like… a light and dry protective barrier? After using the product consistently (and following the proper instructions) for four weeks, I can honestly say that Carpe Lotion has curbed my excessive perspiration and has absolutely made a significant difference. It’s crucial to use Carpe products repeatedly and consistently or else they won’t be able to provide optimal results, so be sure to incorporate the product(s) into your daily routine!

I was so impressed by this lotion, but then began to worry that it was too good to be true. I was certain that this potent lotion that was doing so much to curb my sweatiness wasn’t going to be mild enough to use during [future] pregnancy. I sent tubes of Carpe to both my local primary care physician and my previous dermatologist in Florida (since he knows my medical history) to see whether or not it would be safe for me to use while pregnant. To my complete surprise, they BOTH replied with their stamps of approval!

This is not a sponsored post, I just genuinely want to get the word out into the world that THERE IS A SOLUTION! And not only just a solution, but an affordable, accessible, non-invasive solution that is surprisingly effective! (Full disclosure: Carpe has previously gifted me a few samples for testing/feedback purposes).

carpe products.png

For those of you who deal with excess sweat in places other than your hands and feet, Carpe has developed solutions for: armpit, groin, breast, and face, as well as an all-over wipe (with more items in development!). I can’t speak to most of these other products because I haven’t tried them yet, but if/when I do I’ll be sure to update this post. If you’re too impatient to order online, you can find Carpe products in-store at: Target, Wal-Mart, and CVS. They’re also available on Amazon.com (so if you’re a Prime Member you can get that free 2-day shipping!)

Some other tricks I have learned along my Sweat Journey:

– I almost always have a small washcloth with me in my purse to help dry my hands in times of extreme sweating;

– I love wearing shoes by (1) Native because they’re made of rubber and there are no insoles to ruin (buy your normal size because they run a tiny bit big and will allow for some swelling), and (2) Rothy’s because they’re made of recycled materials and are machine-washable! (fit TTS, but if your feet swell like mine do after extended sweating sessions, I recommend going up a half size)

– I have seen companies creating undergarments for people who have excessive armpit/torso sweat (such as Thompson Tee, Knix, and Numi); I can’t speak to their effectiveness, but I’m glad to hear that there are solutions to try!

This blanket company has created a product that is made from eucalyptus and naturally regulates temperature so that you don’t get sweaty throughout the night! I haven’t tried it, but it sounds awesome!

– I am going to be trying CBD oil soon (my shipment is on its way) to see if it can lower my anxiety levels, thus causing me to be less sweaty from stress. I will report back with my findings in a dedicated blog post (with a small update here). *EDIT* The CBD oil has definitely helped to lower my stress levels, so I have only had temperature-related sweat to manage lately which is great! You can read my full CBD oil review here.

I also wrote a Hyperhidrosis Summer Survival Guide that shares all of my tips and tricks to help you find some relief during the summer months.

*Disclaimer: I may receive a small commission if you make a purchase from one of the links that I have provided. Thank you for your support!*

Do you suffer from excessive sweating? I would love to hear about your experiences and how you have managed your sweat in the comments below.

xx, Natalie

Comments

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  1. So proud of you for talking about this issue and potentially helping others.

  2. I have palmar hyperhidrosis too, ever since I was little! I appreciate and empathize with everything (especially sliding out of my sandals and how the sweating effected me in school), thank you for writing it. I remember being so uncomfortable on my first day of high school in a new town, realizing that there was no air conditioner! I was so uncomfortable to even have my hands on my desk because it would leave a visible puddle of sweat. I’m curious to know how you talk about this or “come out of the closet” about this with your husband/past relationships?

    • Natalie in the NW on

      Jennifer, thanks so much for your comment! Hyperhidrosis can be such a challenging ailment to deal with – no air-conditioning is my WORST nightmare, so I can imagine how uncomfortable that first day of high school was! 😭 Regarding your question, if I am being completely honest, my husband and I have been together for 6+ years now so I don’t remember exactly how/when I told him about my hyperhidrosis, but I bet it was probably the first time he tried to hold my hand. I just explained that I have a condition that causes me to sweat more than the average person and heat/stress are triggers. He was curious, but very understanding… that’s how I knew he was a keeper. 😉 I’ve also gotten to a point in my life where I have stopped apologizing for something that I can’t control (no matter how embarrassing it can be). Additionally, I don’t know how you’re currently managing your sweat, but Carpe lotion has REALLY been helpful for me — you should give it a try! I encourage you to be up-front about it with significant others (and even friends, classmates and colleagues); people are more understanding than you’d think. xx, Natalie

  3. I sweat excessively all over my body, head to toes. Excessively. Is there something in your product line for all over body, head, facial sweating?

    • Natalie in the NW on

      Hey, Susan — thanks for your question! I am not employed by Carpe, so I can’t speak exactly to what would work best for your all-over body sweat, but on their website it looks like they do offer body wipes as well as a lotion specifically for the face! https://www.mycarpe.com/shop
      That’s where I would start. I also encourage you to speak to your physician about Ditropan/oxybutynin to help control the excessive sweating! I hope that helps you to manage your sweat — I know first hand how frustrating it can be.

      Sending love and encouragement,
      Natalie

  4. […] pairs, but their price tags are just a bit too steep for me to be able to pull the trigger. (My hyperhidrosis ruins all shoes so, unfortunately, footwear isn’t something that I can really invest in. […]

  5. I’ve tried the lotion and it works pretty well but not great in southern humidity. Also it turned my toenails yellow. How did the medication you too compare to the lotion?

    • Natalie in the NW on

      Laurie,
      Thanks so much for your note! I grew up in Tampa, FL so I totally understand the challenges of southern humidity. Which lotion are you referring to? Carpe? I find that it helps me the best when I apply it consistently and after a nighttime shower / before bed; applying it when my hands/feet are already sweaty is pretty ineffective. Additionally, it significantly minimizes the volume of sweat I produce, but doesn’t stop it altogether.
      Regarding your note about yellowing nails, I get gel (shellac?) manicures and pedicures so I haven’t ever experienced any yellowing of my nails, but it’s certainly something to report back to the company and maybe discuss with your dermatologist?
      I find the medication to be fairly effective, but I was never crazy about taking a long-term medication because I didn’t know what else it was affecting in my body (liver, kidneys, etc). It also doesn’t stop the sweating altogether, but certainly helps to manage the volume. I personally prefer to use the lotion, but I think it’s important to find the sweat management system that makes the most sense for you and your lifestyle!
      Best of luck in your sweat journey! Sending [sweaty] digital hugs. 😉
      -Natalie

  6. Carpe sucked for me. As soon as I have a swearing episode, it makes me hands STICKY. I threw mine away. I too have Hyperhidrosis in hands, feet, groin and armpits. Fortunately and surprisingly, drysol works great for me along with Robinul (similar to ditropan). I am 32 and family planning so I plan to stop my oral meds and continue with drysol.

    • Natalie in the NW on

      Diana, I’m so glad to hear that you found a solution that works for you! Drysol was incredibly painful for me and felt like a million little needles piercing my hands whenever my body felt like it needed to sweat. I absolutely hated it, but if it’s working for you I‘m super glad to hear it! It’s nice to be able to stop taking the oral medication and use safe topical options. 🙂 Congrats as well with the family planning — so exciting!
      xx, Natalie

  7. […] up to buy the real thing (I want to support designers by buying their products!), but because of my hyperhidrosis I tend to RUIN shoes in a very short time so I just can’t justify the cost of these adorable […]

  8. […] even assumed that due to suffering from hyperhidrosis my nails would emit some kind of moisture/oil and cause the the stickers to lift, but they have […]

  9. […] I always dread summertime. It seems to be everyone else’s favorite season, but I can’t stand it. I already have to manage my hyperhidrosis year-round (likely due to my high anxiety levels) so the addition of high temperatures and humidity to the mix makes me ABSOLUTELY MISERABLE. Over the past couple of decades I’ve discovered methods and products that help me to better manage my Sweaty Life, so if you or someone you know also suffers from hyperhidrosis, this post may be helpful to you / them. If you’re interested in reading more about my Hyperhidrosis Journey, I have a super in-depth post about it here. […]

  10. I always get emotional hearing these stories. I was a similar age at school when I recall being confused why I wasn’t ‘strong enough’ to climb up and across the monkey bars. A few years later it was very clear I was different to my classmates. Sometimes it was a novelty, seeing how many drops I could collect on my desk, but very quickly my life was consumed with hiding my problem. By year 5 I would wear tshirts and shove tissues under my armpits to try and hide the dark patches on my school dress, and by year 6 my toenails were engulfed with a severe foot fungus that 15yrs later I still struggle with. Doctors told me I was just going through puberty, and my sister with germaphobic OCD would become disgusted when I touched her and her things. Then touch screens came, suddenly I couldn’t text when i was in an episode. And exams, art, sport… I began wearing gloves. A clinic that specialized in hyperhidrosis opened in my city; it was the most exciting appointment. But at 15 I was told by the specialist that I had the most severe case they had ever seen, and due to my age, treatment would likely be dangerous or ineffective. 2 years after I left school, and since I was wearing my own clothes and avoided certain situations, I remember having for the first time “days” where i was not thinking about my condition.

    Things I have discovered:
    1. stone paper (or tradie paper) its like, waterproof and has a plasticy feel.. this was a gamechanger in uni for me
    2. We often carry shame that our condition is not “serious” when in fact its extremely debilitating. No one is “disgusted” by someone with a missing limb, or a disability. We are naturally never going to pursue certain careers, yet receive no funding for destroyed clothing, electronics, treatment, $20 deodorants etc.
    3. Stop giving people permission to treat you differently. I always tell partners early on (A month or a few dates in is always preferable) “Sorry my hand is sweaty, I have a condition called Hyperhidrosis. If that grosses you out, I can’t be with you. I’ve lived with it and hidden it since I was a child, so I can be respectful of your discomfort, its uncomfortable for me to, but I will never be made to feel ashamed of myself.”
    4. If youre just meeting someone and know you have to shake hands, its not worth the convo, tell them either “sorry i just washed my hands” before shaking to opt out or make it a natural quick experience
    5. I am thankful for Hyperhidrosis. It has taught me to have a kind of empathy and compassion for people that are “different” in society.

    • Natalie Riendeau on

      Thank you SO much for sharing your story and helpful tips! I think it’s super important to share all of the things that we have found to be helpful and to help create an inclusive community for people with hyperhidrosis — I certainly didn’t have that when I was growing up and I felt like such an outsider because of it!

      Sending you [sweaty] hugs! 😉

  11. Lindsey Schober on

    Hello Natalie, Thank you so much for writing about this! I was diagnosed with Hyperhidrosis when I was 6 and had the ETS surgery when I was 17. I was the youngest person that my doctor had ever performed this surgery on and he told me it wouldn’t be permanent. I will be 35 years old in February. The 5 years following my surgery were great! I could wear flip flops, tank tops and had SO much confidence. And then it started to regress. My right hand has not sweat in 18 years which I’m incredibly thankful for since I’m right handed and an artist. And my left one only gets clammy when I’m really anxious. My auxillary sweating (armpits) improved tremendously after the surgery too and still aren’t a problem. I used to live in huge hoodies and wear multiple layers to avoid sweating through them easily. And brought extra shirts to school with me. Now, my feet are the only thing that has completely regressed. I work in a business professional environment and I can’t even tell you how many pairs of shoes I’ve ruined. I hate that I dread social events where I should be excited to wear that cute dress and heels but I’m not. I’m terrified that I’m going to break an ankle or trip because I’m sliding around in my heels. Or that people will notice the beads of sweat on my feet or how red and swollen they are. I tried Carpe but felt like I applied wax to my feet nightly and the feeling would actually wake me up at night. I recently discovered Qbrexa though. It’s for auxiliary hyperhidrosis but after asking the dermatologist about it, decided to try it on my feet. It works pretty well but does require a prescription. And then I just bought SweatBlock Antiperspirant Lotion on Amazon and like it a lot!! No weird wax like film, no Rx and it’s very reasonably priced. My husband and I will be trying to start a family soon too and I’m very apprehensive. I should probably stop using it but I’m not sure. I’m so nervous about being huge and pregnant and sliding around in my shoes all the time. I don’t know. What are your thoughts? All of these products contain aluminum and it’s all topical but I’m just concerned.

    Thank you
    Lindsey S.

    • Natalie Riendeau on

      Hi, Lindsey!

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience here and for sharing the products that work for you! I think other readers will find those suggestions helpful. We all have different ways of managing our sweat that work best for our needs, bodies, and lifestyles so adding these to the list of resources is so appreciated. 🙂

      I understand and mirror your concern regarding aluminum in the anti-perspirant products… I think it comes down to: (a) what your doctor says (always consult your physician on all medical questions!). I asked both my primary care physician and my dermatologist if Carpe lotion would be safe to use for a future pregnancy and they both agreed that it would be okay for me to use throughout pregnancy; and (b) mitigating your aluminum exposure if you are still concerned. Personally, I have switched from an antiperspirant deodorant to a clean deodorant in order to minimize my aluminum “intake” (this being said, I do not have an issue with hyperhidrosis in my armpits, so this may not be applicable for everyone).

      Lastly, I personally believe that it would be more dangerous to [potentially] fall while pregnant from slipping around in your shoes than to use a topical antiperspirant (physician-approved, of course), but it may also be worthwhile to invest in a pair of comfortable sneakers or washable Rothy’s to eliminate the shoe slipping concern!

      I’m always happy to chat further, if you’d like. Admittedly, I’m most responsive via DM on Instagram: @natalieinthenorthwest 🙂

      Sending [sweaty] hugs,
      Natalie

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