Guitarist with hyperhydrosis and oily skin needs help
July 20, 2009 5:27 PM   Subscribe

I am a borderline professional guitarist who suffers from hyperhydrosis (excessive sweating) and also seems to have developed a very oil-extruding physiology. Is there anything I can do to make it so that I don't have to wash my hands between each and every song? If not, what is the most efficient way to clean up and dry off my hands every five minutes or so?

I am 39 years old and I have been playing guitar for 30 years. I play acoustic fingerstyle and I am pretty aggressive/hard in my approach to the instrument (but I don't dance around!). I don't eat an overly fatty or greasy diet and I am overall a pretty healthy person. I live in Ottawa, Canada, and despite what you might have heard this is an incredibly hot and humid location and my problem is particularly acute this time of year. I am open to suggestions of more moderate (and musical!) climates.

During the last decade my physiology has changed or some kind of perfectly awful storm of the extreme sweating I have always had (I think it is getting worse) and oily excretions has combined to make my favourite activity extremely frustrating and frankly it has made the prospect of returning to gigging scary. I wash my hands thoroughly using a standard bar of soap, rinse and dry, pick up my guitar and play a song and by the end of the tune my hands are wet and greasy. Hell, even just typing this question thus far (after having washed my hands for the 20th time today) I can feel the stickiness.

I am not OCD, this is a real impediment. Do any other musicians or folks who have dealt with this kind of situation have any guidance for me re. techniques to cope with this kind of problem? I know that there are dubious (nerve-severing!) surgeries for hyperhydrosis but I am not there yet: I am more interested in coping mechanisms that you might have discovered.
posted by sid abotu to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Wet wipes? Seems like it shouldn't be a problem to have those on stage and to just use them between songs. A bit odd, of course, but not particularly scandalous.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:31 PM on July 20, 2009

Hand gel containing alcohol?
posted by fire&wings at 5:32 PM on July 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Would it help to wear sweatbands on your wrists?
posted by thirteenkiller at 5:33 PM on July 20, 2009

Use a stick of scentless antiperspirant on your hands.
posted by stavrogin at 5:35 PM on July 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

Gloves with the fingertips cutoff?
posted by P.o.B. at 5:35 PM on July 20, 2009

Maybe ask your GP about Drysol (prescription clinical strength antiperspirant) or if it's available in Canada, a similar OTC product called Driclor. These antiperspirants have especially high concentrations of aluminium chloride, specifically for hyperhydrosis. According to wikipedia, some other brand names are Maxim, Odaban, CertainDri, B+Drier, Anhydrol Forte.

There are more drastic measures for severe cases of hyperhydrosis (hands positively dripping, etc.), but it sounds like Drysol/Driclor should work for you.

I had the same problem, and I found I was actually reading a lot less because I couldn't stand to handle my books with moist hands (I am a bit OCD). Pretty sure I screwed up some of my high school exams because of it too. I started using Driclor at night last week, and my hands are much drier!

Please follow the directions on the bottle/box, have some moisturiser handy in case you get overzealous with the antiperspirant, and IANAD. Good luck!
posted by carnival of animals at 5:38 PM on July 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Talk to a dermatologist. There are topical meds they can prescribe that are basically super-concentrated antiperspirant. I can't remember the name off the top of my head.
posted by radioamy at 5:38 PM on July 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

rock climbing chalk is designed to keep sweat off your hands.
posted by Morgangr at 6:04 PM on July 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Try chalk or powder (corn starch) on your hands.
posted by contessa at 6:09 PM on July 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Try out a bowlers rosin bag. They're cheap, so toss a couple in your case and put them in easily reachable spots. Bonus: no dust.
posted by EnsignLunchmeat at 6:11 PM on July 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'd talk to a doctor, but in the meantime, perhaps try one of those synthetic swimmer's towels. They're super absorbent.
posted by gen at 7:28 PM on July 20, 2009

I have extremely sweaty hands too, and I really crud up guitar necks when I play. If I was going to be jamming for a long time, I used to keep a bowl of water and a towel next to me so that I could do a quick dip n' dry. It's not as good as washing with soap, of course, but it was generally enough to keep the neck from getting too nasty provided that I wiped it down thoroughly when I was done playing.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 7:39 PM on July 20, 2009


I just did a quick Google of "botox palmar hyperhidrosis". I believe injecting into the palms would be very painful (I know a cosmetic nurse who self injected Botox into her sweaty feet - she said it was EXCRUCIATING) and one link I glanced at said some people may experience muscular weakness in the hands as a side effect, something I imagine would be of HUGE concern to a musician. However, the benefits could last for several months, so there are pros & cons as with most medications. I hope some of the less drastic/less expensive suggestions above are of assistance. I just thought I'd mention Botox as another option to explore with your doctor.
posted by goshling at 8:15 PM on July 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

I know someone with your condition who took the botox route and it works very well for her.
posted by tula at 8:35 PM on July 20, 2009

If he plays fingerstyle guitar anything like I play fingerstyle guitar, fingerless gloves won't fly. It's really a whole-hand thing.
posted by Precision at 12:08 AM on July 21, 2009

Definitely give Drysol a try. I have been blown away how big of a change it made for me.
posted by olecranon at 12:37 AM on July 21, 2009

Response by poster: Thank you so much, folks, for your replies, and thank you, carnival of animals, for linking to that previous question. I obviously need to refine my searching technique!

My life-long GP now works for a walk-in clinic chain so I should be able to see him soon and I'll ask some informed questions about everything from Drysol to botox to surgery and request a referral to a specialist if he thinks one would be better able to help. In the meantime I will try your other suggestions. Any improvement, no matter how slight, will likely make playing/practicing that much more enjoyable and thus help me along my musical road.

I'll definitely post updates here as I experiment and/or have any medical events or results to report.

Again, thanks so much!
posted by sid abotu at 6:12 PM on July 21, 2009

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