Never Let Them See You Sweat

A few years ago when I was speaking at the Washington Press Club, I shared the podium with a roster of people who had been invited to speak at a conference.  One of the men who preceded me gave a fascinating talk, but mid-way through his presentation, I noticed that he was perspiring heavily.  So did several others.  One attendee even asked him if he was okay, thinking maybe he was having a health crisis, but the speaker brushed it off with a joke about speaking being the number one fear, and his sweating being a prime example of why.

By the end of the talk, which was excellent, he looked like he’d been sitting in a sauna for an hour with his clothes on.  He also didn’t smell so great.  When he disappeared right after his presentation, I assumed I’d seen the last of him. I was wrong.  Within the hour, he was back in the room looking and smelling as fresh as a daisy.  Evidently, he’d run back to his hotel room after his talk, showered, changed clothes, and returned.

I applaud his actions for two reasons:

First, he got up and talked in spite of his fear.  A lot of people wouldn’t have.  They would have used that excuse as a reason NOT to extend themselves, too afraid of looking foolish. Fortunately, this man didn’t, and I learned a lot from him as a result.

Secondly, he had a plan.  He knew he was going to perspire heavily during his talk, but he refused to look and feel like a damp washrag for the rest of the day.  As the saying goes, you can react or you can respond to a problem; this man chose to respond, and impressed many with his fortitude, including me.

So what does this have to do with you?

Everyone has days when they perspire uncontrollably.  Even if you don’t normally have a problem, you can find yourself in a sticky situation that leaves you damp or smelling bad. Often it’s when you need to look your best, like for a presentation, a celebration, or whatever, and the accompanying dampness (and/or odor) can zap your confidence and impact your day.

But how can you prepare for such situations, especially when you don’t know they’re coming? How can you plan for the unforeseen?

By making appropriate choices in products and clothes that help prevent or mask your perspiration.  Here are a few tips:

*Start with an Effective Antiperspirant

Not all antiperspirants are created equal, and you may need to try several to find a formulation that works well for you.  You may also need to switch products from time to time, as hormones, pregnancy, menopause, etc. can impact the effectiveness of your favorite brand.  Antiperspirants help keep you dry, deodorants help eliminate odor, and products labeled antiperspirant/deodorant help do both.

If you perspire heavily and nothing you’ve tried seems to work, try Certain-Dri®, available at drugstores.  It’s a smidge pricey, but it really stands up in tension-filled situations.  If that doesn’t work for you, consult your  doctor.  You may need a prescription antiperspirant.

*Try Dress Shields

Dress shields fit into the armhole of a garment and provide an extra layer between your underarm and your clothes.  This was what was used for centuries before antiperspirants were invented, and they’re still a popular choice today.  They come in a variety of designs that allow you to attach them different ways, including sewing them in, pinning them in, attaching them to the garment with a light adhesive or holding them in place with a strap that goes over the shoulder. Try them if that extra layer would give you extra confidence, if you’re allergic to most antiperspirants, or if you prefer not to risk damage to a garment with your antiperspirant (such as to a vintage garment). 

*Opt for Breathable Fibers

Natural fibers like cotton, wool, and linen “breath” better than man-made fibers like polyester, acrylic, and rayon.  They wick away the moisture from your skin while allowing air to circulate around your body.  If your plans on any given day take you out in the heat or put you “under the gun,” opt for clothes with natural fibers or with a high percentage of natural fiber content (more than 50%).  You’ll be much more comfortable when you perspire.

*Mask Moisture with Color

Ever wonder why sailors, tennis players, and old-time Southern gentlemen dress head-to-toe in white?  Not only does all-white command attention, it deflects the sun and hides perspiration.  Navy and black also tend to camouflage sweat better than other colors.  If you know you’re going to be in the heat but don’t want to call attention to your venting, opt for colors that mask the moisture.

*Try Layers

If you know you tend to perspire heavily in certain situations, wear a jacket or sweater to hide the stains.  A lot of business people do this, but I also saw singer Ricky Martin do it on a morning show one time (no snickering emails, please).  After his first number, he had two large, wet rings under his arms.  When the show returned from a commercial break, he was wearing a snazzy leather jacket.  Since it was summer I know he was hot, but he persevered during the next number and ending up looking HOT (I repeat, no snickering emails).  This trick also works well for image-savvy women and men who neither sing, dance, or swivel their hips for throngs of adoring fans.

*Have a “Plan B” in Place

Like the speaker I mentioned earlier, you should have a “Plan B” in place in the event of an unforeseen (or even foreseeable) situation.  Keep antibacterial wipes and a spare bottle of antiperspirant in your desk drawer or glove compartment so you can wipe off the odor and reapply your antiperspirant.  Keep a jacket at the ready to throw on over stained clothes.  Or, if you always have to look spot-on, you might consider keeping an extra top or even a complete change of clothes at the office or in your car. A good backup plan will give you piece of mind.

Perspiring is a natural part of our makeup, but it doesn’t have to be an image-killer if you take appropriate action.  By using effective antiperspirants and making appropriate clothing choices, you can look calm, cool, and collected even when you feel like you’re melting.  With a little forethought and planning, no one ever has to see you sweat.

Need some more help pulling together an image-
savvy wardrobe?  Download a copy of WARDROBE MAGIC,

to see how easy dressing well can be.

Diana Pemberton-Sikes


Published by:

Top Drawer Publications, LLC
256 S. College Ave.
Newark, DE  19711 USA

Copyright © 2006 by Diana Pemberton-Sikes All
rights reserved.

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