In a humid country like Singapore, experiencing sweaty underarms is not uncommon at all. However, some people suffer from excessive sweating, otherwise medically known as hyperhidrosis. Epidemiological studies show that this condition affects about 1% of our population; while seemingly small, it doesn’t change the distress experienced by these patients.
I’ve had patients come to me with concerns that they cannot wear particular clothing or must always bring a change of clothes because the issue of excessive sweating is so real, and many feel painfully embarrassed being in social situations. This added anxiety causes even MORE sweating, which exacerbates the problem.
So why isn’t hyperhidrosis talked about enough? Well, firstly, this condition by itself is not life-threatening; secondly, many are unaware that there ARE effective treatments that can control sweaty armpits and yield long term results.
My therapy of choice is Secret RF microneedling.
But first, how can you tell if your sweaty armpits are a cause for concern?
If you have hyperhidrosis, you may notice:
Visible sweating without effort or exertion
According to The American Academy of Dermatology Association, a sign of excessive or unhealthy sweating is when you experience beads of sweat even when you’re not exerting yourself. However, this guideline will obviously differ in Singapore, where the climate is so humid you perspire even without effort!
As a general rule, I advise patients to observe their sweat patterns when they’re in a cool environment. Is there still lots of sweating, and is your clothing sweat-soaked?
Sweating interferes with your everyday life
Do your sweaty armpits require a change of clothes every few hours or so? Does sweat drip heavily on your immediate objects e.g. phone, laptop?
Your underarms are soft, white and even peel
Skin that is constantly wet tends to turn soft and white and in severe instances peel.
Do your armpits often get infections or rashes that resemble a heat rash?
Patients with sweaty underarms often give out body odour. It is not the sweat itself that smells bad, but rather the substances bacteria on the skin create when they come into contact with sweat.
Generally, if you feel like your sweaty underarms are impacting your quality of life and do not improve with top of the funnel treatments (e.g. antiperspirants), it may be time to seek help.
Next, your line of treatment would depend on the type of hyperhidrosis you have.
Types of hyperhidrosis in Singapore
Patients with primary hyperhidrosis are usually healthy and experience excessive sweating since they were a child. They experience:
- Focal excessive sweating, usually at the armpits
- Excessive sweating on BOTH sides of the body; for sweaty underarms, both underarms sweat excessively
- Sweating that begins shortly after waking up
Such patients would benefit the best from sweaty underarm treatment like Secret RF.
Patients with secondary hyperhidrosis experience excessive sweating as a result of another medical condition, such as:
- An overactive thyroid gland
In some cases, this type of sweating could also be caused by certain medications. For patients with secondary hyperhidrosis, I recommend complementing your current treatment protocol with sweaty underarm treatment to control the sweating.
What is the best treatment for underarm sweating?
There are a few treatment options available for hyperhidrosis, with the most common non-invasive ones being;
- Botulinum toxin
Both work to narrow or inhibit the sweat gland, but the former is not preferred for sweaty armpits and the latter produces transient results and is extremely costly.
The third most common therapy is surgery, which although effective comes with side effects like burning, scarring and significant patient downtime. About 18-20% of patients experience symptom recurrence too.
It is for these reasons I prefer microneedling RF to treat sweaty underarms as they fulfil the following criteria:
- Outpatient treatment that requires only local anaesthesia
- Short recovery time
- Long-term efficacy
- Efficient cost-wise
- It actually works
Microneedling radiofrequency for sweaty underarms work by destroying eccrine glands through a process known as thermolysis. This removal is permanent and the sweat gland cannot be restored, hence treating the problem entirely. But let the literature speak for itself — a handful of studies evaluating RF energy have shown that bipolar RF devices are safe and effective in treating hyperhidrosis.
In a 2016 study, patients were required to define the severity of their hyperhidrosis based on the scale below.
Prior to treatment, almost all gave their condition a score of 3 and 4, but on follow up visits after a year, most labelled their condition as a 1 or 2. 41.6% of patients did not experience relapse after one year. In another study, 30% also found that they no longer had armpit hair; but in general, all who were treated felt a sense of relief.
Why I prefer Secret RF for sweaty underarm treatment
While all novel bipolar RF devices work by the same mechanism, as an aesthetic doctor practicing at Ozhean Zoey, I prefer Secret RF due to the appliance’s gold-plated micro needles that allow for perfect contact with skin without bruising or bleeding. This protects both the upper skin layers and the structures beneath the subcutaneous fat.
Apart from sweaty underarms, Secret RF can also effectively treat acne. Read more here.
Do you have a question for me regarding treatment for sweaty armpits? Feel free to ask away and I am more than happy to help.
- Abtahi-Naeini, B., Naeini, F. F., Saffaei, A., Behfar, S., Pourazizi, M., Mirmohammadkhani, M., & Bolandnazar, N. S. (2016). Treatment of Primary Axillary Hyperhidrosis by Fractional Microneedle Radiofrequency: Is it Still Effective after Long-term Follow-up?. Indian journal of dermatology, 61(2), 234. https://doi.org/10.4103/0019-5154.177789
- Kirsten, D. (2013). Treatment of Hyperhidrosis [Ebook]. prime-journal.com. Retrieved 30 September 2021.