Do you need anything dampened, or made soggy?
May 18, 2010 12:04 PM   Subscribe

I have hyperhidrosis and could use some wardrobe recommendations to help me get through the summer.

I sweat a *lot*. The technical term is hyperhidrosis. Locations vary from person to person and most people seem to get it in their hands; with me, my hands are fine, it's pretty much focused on my torso (from my neck down to my waist or so, both front and back) and my arms. It's related to both physical activity and social anxiety - in other words, I'll sweat considerably more than normal when moving around or when it's hot, but I'll also start sweating in stressful situations (which I tend to encounter more often than I'd like). Antiperspirants are pretty much useless - even the strong stuff only works where you put it, and coating your entire torso in antiperspirant isn't really practical. Odor isn't really an issue - I'm careful about keeping clean, so unless I manage to soak my shirt early in an active day and keep it soaked all day, it's usually just a question of managing moisture.

This makes my choice of shirts pretty critical. The wrong shirt can make the difference between a good day and a really, really bad one. Cool days are great because I can wear fairly thick, dark, long-sleeved shirts with a basic cotton undershirt - the t-shirt absorbs most of the sweat and the dark shirt hides anything that makes it through. Hoodies and fleeces over a t-shirt work great too. Spring and summer days are much harder, though. I can sometimes get away with the same strategies but on a hot day, a heavy dark shirt can be murderous. (Once, on a particularly stressful *and* warm day, I managed to sweat all the way through a fairly thick hoodie.)

I know there are a number of fabrics which are designed to wick moisture away from the skin. I haven't really a chance to explore these fully yet because I've only recently been making enough to start spending more liberally on my wardrobe. From what I've seen so far though I get the impression that these kinds of fabrics are really designed and intended as active wear and not so much the kind of thing you'd wear to the office or just casually knocking around town. I don't necessarily want to look like I'm coming from the gym constantly.

So - in a hutshell - I'm looking for either undershirts (t-shirts), normal shirts, or some combination of the two that will keep me as dry as possible, and when dry isn't possible, they should fail gracefully (ie, I'm used to and okay with feeling a bit damp sometimes but if I can manage to not *look* damp, that's a significant improvement). These would be shirts for a fairly big guy (I'm about 48" across the shoulders). I tend to prefer button-down shirts both for work and play (my office is very casual, which is a huge help), so an ideal solution would be a combination of undershirt and long- or short-sleeve button-down shirt. (I'm a fan of rolled-up long sleeves so I can get away with those pretty much year-round.) I prefer simple and classic looks with little or no viisble branding, and a loose fit (at least for the over-shirt) is best.

What fabrics should I be looking at? What particular items from particular manufacturers would you recommend? I'm especially interested in hearing recommendations from folks who have found effective ways to cope with similar issues, particularly with average-looking 'street clothes', but I know we have a number of active sporty types here as well, so if you have recommendations on active wear that would help (and which would either pass for street clothes or would go under street clothes) let's talk about that too. Finally, any other tips or suggestions from others with hyperhidrosis are very welcome. I've been dealing with this for 20 years now but it's only been fairly recently that I've discovered that it has a name and a whole lot of other folks share it. Tell me about your own coping strategies.

Contact me directly if needed - Thanks in advance!
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I feel your pain, brother.

Have you considered botox? It's less invasive (and much cheaper) than the surgical option, and it dramatically cuts down your, uh, output.
posted by Oktober at 12:08 PM on May 18, 2010

I was looking for underarm shields (which I realize wouldn't take care of your all-over issues) and found this company that makes shirts that should protect you a bit more. No experience with such things, but they have three levels of shirt available in some styles, so you have a pretty good chance of finding something that's better than anything you can get at Target :)

Good luck!
posted by Madamina at 12:10 PM on May 18, 2010

I've been very comfortable in the summer in madras shirts over thin undershirts. This nice thing is madras shirts can be quite dark overall (thus concealing sweat) but still look summer-y and are lightweight. I like the onces from Uniqlo, which are currently $19.50 each. I like the cheap Puma undershirts I get from the outlet because they feel about 50% thinner than standard undershirts AND you can get them in both black and white.
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:19 PM on May 18, 2010

In warm months, you could try shirts in seersucker and other weave-textured cottons and linen/cotton blends. They actually do keep you cooler - the texture of the fabric keeps most of it lifted away from your skin - but their complex surface topography hides moisture spots really well. They dry fast, too.

Bonus: you can pretend you are Mark Twain, or Gregory Peck in To Kill A Mockingbird
posted by peachfuzz at 12:37 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's mentioned by a couple of people in this thread that the moisture-wicking clothing and poly blends tend to hold on to smells.
posted by moira at 2:16 PM on May 18, 2010

It sounds like what you need is clothing made from merino wool. It wicks moisture away from your body, doesn't absorb moisture, dries quickly, doesn't itch and doesn't accumulate odour like synthetics. Even when exercising I've worn the same shirt for multiple days with no odour accumulation whatsoever.

The big downside to merino wool is the cost. You can expect to pay about double what you would for a cotton or synthetic equivalent. Icebreaker is the big name in merino and they have some snappy looking clothing.
posted by talkingmuffin at 2:55 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

In addition to wardrobe changes, might I suggest this stuff? I have never had any luck with any antiperspirants before, and was beginning to think the whole thing was a hoax until I came across this stuff. Put it on and go run 5 miles on a muggy August afternoon-- I am not exaggerating when I say your pits will remain bone dry. If you sweat a lot, this stuff is a total game-changer.
posted by holterbarbour at 7:17 PM on May 18, 2010

You may want to check into Ex Officio. Most, if not all, of their clothing is moisture-wicking, and much of it would look fine in your average American office. They also come in XL and XXL sizes.

There is stuff that is specially made to wash moisture-wicking fabrics and kill the odor. The brand name escapes me, but any good camping/outdoors store will have it.
posted by desjardins at 8:14 PM on May 18, 2010

Also, Patagonia, which lasts fucking forever and is thus worth the price (lots of their stuff contains cotton, though).

Also also, here's the detergent stuff I was thinking of.
posted by desjardins at 8:18 PM on May 18, 2010

My husband suffers from this - he swears by the underarmour T-shirts (and it looks like they make regular shirts too). He got his at a sporting goods store.

Also, he is a huge fan of all-linen or all-silk shirts. JC Penny sells pretty reasonably priced ones. Also he has a hiking shirt from Columbia that has a vent in the back similar to this that he's able to wear to work.
posted by selfmedicating at 7:50 AM on May 19, 2010

I sweat a lot. I don't know how you feel about synthetic fabrics, but I've had good results switching from cotton undershirts to these synthetic ones from under armour. They're a bit pricey, but I like them because they dry quickly, wick the moisture away and (most noticeably for me) don't change shape during the course of the day like cotton does. However I know some folks really don't like wearing synthetics all the time so YMMV.
posted by dyslexictraveler at 9:15 AM on May 19, 2010

Follow the lead of old-timey gentlemen in the tropics and look for lightweight (tropical weight) wool for suits and pants and LINEN for your shirts. Linen is the hot-weather moisture-wicking textile of choice going all the way back to antiquity. Cotton gets clingy and clammy when you sweat in it; Linen is stiffer, keeps itself away from the skin nicely, can absorb many times its weight in moisture without feeling wet, and is super-classy looking. And, unlike the high-tech microfiber wicking whatevers which easily turn to stink magnets, linen is fairly hard-wearing, washes well, and does not hold odor. I am a fairly heavy sweat-er who got into historical costuming as a hobby and discovering the glories of linen and wool absolutely changed my (sartorial) life.

If you must get cotton, follow the advice above and look for light, textured-weave cottons like seersucker; the texture will help hold it away from your skin for better airflow.

You will be cooler, drier, more comfy, and stylin'.

The downside is, you will pay more for linen and wool than for cotton, and they will be a bit more stringent in their care requirements than your average poly/cotton no-wrinkle garment. Many of these clothes will say they are dry clean only. This may or may not be true. Linen in itself is not a fragile fiber - many ancient civilizations cleaned their hard-working linen garments by, like, beating them in the river on rocks, and they held up fine - but it is often treated with various treatments (sizings, wrinkle releasers, stain resisters, etc, etc) or lined or faced with something that can't be washed normally. These treatments may also interfere with the linen's natural absorbtion qualities. So... be aware of these factors when you're shopping.
posted by oblique red at 12:47 PM on May 20, 2010

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