The heat of summertime means sweat. And sweat means stockpiling deodorant and expelling everything light gray from our wardrobes in hopes of avoiding the oh-so dreaded, oh-so inevitable pit stain. But if we acknowledge this routine is habitual for us all, we come face-to-face with this truth: We all sweat. So if our bodies universally perform this process, can it really be so bad? The answer is: probably not.
In the early 1900s, people regarded deodorants and antiperspirants as frivolities; few believed them to be worth the investment. James Young, one of the most renowned advertising copywriters of the 20th century, had recently been hired by antiperspirant brand Odorono, and did what any advertiser (unfortunately) would do: He capitalized on the insecurities of young women. With ads reading, “If you long for romance, don’t let your dress offend with armhole odor” and “Beautiful but dumb. She has never learned the first rule of lasting charm,” Young and his contemporaries were able to effectively paint perspiration as a social faux pas. Alas, a century and an $18 billion industry later, here we are, sniffing our armpits in fear every few minutes when the weather gets hot.
But, as it turns out, the amount we sweat is neither an indicator of our adeptness at finding romance nor our physical health. “A lot of it comes down to biological variation,” Dr. Craig Crandall, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, told Time. “Everybody’s baseline is different, so it’s hard to say what amount of sweat is ‘healthy.’”
The amount we sweat is dictated by a series of factors: genetics, environmental conditions, gender, age, and fitness level. Science actually shows that the two groups that sweat the most are fit people, who sweat earlier and easier during workouts, which is evidence of their bodies’ superior temperature regulation systems; and overweight people, because they have more body mass to cool down, which is the main function of sweat. When not serving to cool us down, our friend Sweat also stops by when we’re stressed, anxious, or hormonally charged (hubba hubba). And in spite of the anti-sweat campaign Young started back in the day, sweat actually does us a lot of good. It soothes muscle soreness, opens up pores, regulates mood swings, and prevents colds and other infections.
Sweating should only be seen as cause for concern if it’s affecting your day-to-day life. If you sweat in noticeable excess or in unusual places, you might have a condition called hyperhidrosis, and it’s recommended you speak with your doctor. Furthermore, over-sweating can be a sign of diabetes or thyroid disease.
Otherwise, perspire in peace.
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(Photo via Getty)