Let's Talk About Anxiety Sweat

Sweat stinks! Or does it? Whether we like it or not, stress is a part of all of our lives. Our days are busier and more hustled than ever.

Stress can show up in different ways, depending on how our bodies react. You're probably familiar with the always unwelcome anxiety sweat, but did you know it's different than sweat induced by being active or overheated?

Girls face with sweat

The different kinds of sweat

Let's dive into why stress sweat is different. Inside the body, there are a number of glands with different functions, but the eccrine, apocrine, and apoeccrine glands are the ones that produce sweat. The average person has anywhere from 2 to 4 million sweat glands, and the majority are eccrine glands. These glands cover most of the body, but are found in substantial numbers on the palms of our hands, soles of our feet, our forehead and armpits. Apoeccrine glands are also located in the armpit1.

Regular sweat

The autonomic nervous system (which regulates a number of bodily functions) signals the eccrine sweat glands to kick in when the body temperature rises from natural environmental factors or physical activity2. This type of sweat is mostly made of water, with a small amount of salt and lipids. It’s a natural response to cool the skin and lower body temperature1.

Anxiety sweat

When we're stressed, however, the apocrine glands are queued to turn on3. These larger glands are found in areas of the body with higher numbers of hair follicles, such as the armpits. Anxiety-related sweat happens when the body perceives a threat and switches into survival mode, aka "fight or flight" response4. The sweat glands are activated triggering a rush of adrenaline, cortisol, and other stress hormones.
So why does it smell different? Well, anxiety-induced sweat smells funkier than “regular” sweat because the apocrine glands produce a thick, lipid-rich milky substance which, when combined with the natural bacteria on the skin, can create strong body odor4.
Friends taking a yoga class

How to manage anxiety sweat

So how do we combat stress-induced and anxiety-associated B.O.? Here are a few tips on how to move through a spike in tension or anxiety:

  1. Focus on your breathe and meditate
    Take a mental break from what's causing your stress and take deep breaths. Breathe in, hold for a few seconds and slowly release. Repeat. Deep breathing slows your heart rate which, in turn, reduces sweating.

  2. Stay hydrated
    If you're hydrated, your body won't feel the need to sweat as much.

  3. Wear breathable clothing
    Let your skin breathe. Opt for natural fabrics like cotton or bamboo, and avoid synthetic fabrics like polyester.

  4. Invest in calming products
    We use essential oils in our products, not only to add a pleasant smell to your odor-combatting deodorant, but also to relieve stress and tension. A whiff of your favorite scent can elevate your mood and bring a moment of calm, thereby reducing the work of those unhelpful apocrine glands.

These are just a few ideas that that we came up with at Humble Brands HQ. How do you combat that pesky anxiety sweat?



1. National Library of Medicine. Physiology of sweat gland function: The roles of sweating and sweat composition in human health.
2. Cleveland Clinic. Autonomic Nervous System.
3. National Library of Medicine. Psychological sweating: a systematic review focused on etiology and cutaneous response.
4. ro.co. Why does stress make us sweat?

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