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Prescription Antiperspirants - Do They Really Work?

Here is what you should know before you buy.

Book Review
July 5, 2012
Stop Sweating and Start Living - Mike Ramsey

I have absolutely no hesitation in saying "Stop Sweating and Start Living" will soon put antiperspirant companies out of business.

I was reluctant at first to endorse any product but this book was different. The remedies it suggests are all-natural and target the root causes of problem sweating.

My only complaint is that it is only available as an instant access ebook. It can't be purchased in bookstores or on Amazon.com, but I'm sure the instant download feature is popular with people overseas and those who are ready to get started.

I strongly recommend "Stop Sweating and Start Living" to anyone who sweats excessively in the underarm, hand, foot, face or back areas.

- James Chambers

Why would someone need prescription antiperspirants? Well prescription antiperspirants are a person’s first tool to control excessive perspiration and they work particularly well in the case of excessive underarm perspiration which is medically described as axillary hyperhidrosis. This is no ordinary perspiration that we are talking about but a situation where a person’s underarm is drenched with sweat until the perspiration actually runs down the sides of the body.

Such extreme underarm sweating may require long-term treatment but the immediate solution is to apply topical prescription antiperspirants to minimize sweating and underarm odor. Before we progress further we should mention that underarm odor does not inevitably follow sweating problems because sweat in itself is odorless. A slightly detailed discussion will make this point clearer so if we could have your attention...

The human body has over 2.5 million sweat glands which are divided into two categories: eccrine and apocrine. When we sweat and when the sweat does not evaporate immediately the situation is ideal for the growth of odor-causing bacteria and yeast. Since the underarm is an area from which sweat evaporates less rapidly than from more exposed surfaces on the body we tend to associate underarm sweating with underarm odor.

Additionally though technically classified under sweat glands apocrine glands chiefly secrete the chemical pheromone which gives each of us our personal odors. However sweat is also secreted from apocrine glands and is broken down by bacteria that grow on the skin causing body odor or bromhidrosis.

Obviously therefore if we can minimize underarm sweating we can also minimize the growth of bacteria and reduce underarm odor. This is where prescription antiperspirants come into the picture. Once again before we proceed we must make a distinction between deodorants and antiperspirants. A deodorant as the term suggests is any product that causes your skin to smell good but it cannot actually reduce sweating. That is the job of a prescription antiperspirant which affects the sweat-producing mechanism.

There are several varieties of prescription antiperspirants on the market. In some form or other most of them include one or more of the following ingredients: aluminum hexahydrate in alcohol tannic acid solution formalin solution and glutaraldehyde solution. All prescription antiperspirants can be used to control underarm sweating though

In broad terms aluminum chloride hexahydrate in anhydrous alcohol formula is a stronger version of aluminum chloride and is one of the strongest antiperspirants available. It is widely marketed under the trade name of Drysol (manufactured by Person & Covey Inc) and is obtainable under prescription from a doctor for the treatment of excessive underarm sweating. However there are also products like Odaban Anhydrol Forte and Driclor for those with acute underarm sweating and Certain Dri Maxim and 5-Day for milder cases of underarm sweating.

When choosing a prescription antiperspirant therefore you will not lack for choice. Most prescription antiperspirants contain between 5% and 20% of aluminum chloride in either water or alcohol base. It is commoner for the milder antiperspirants to use a water base but the negative impact of water is skin irritation that results as the chloride in aluminum chloride gradually dissolves in water to form hydrochloric acid.

In the case of stronger antiperspirants which use an alcohol base the presence of alcohol has a dehydrating effect on the skin that necessitates regular use of moisturizers. However since these antiperspirants do not use water the chances of hydrochloric acid forming are significantly lower though not totally absent because many of these products are available in roll-on or dab-on form in which case perspiration or moisture may contaminate the product as they seep in through the surface that is in contact with the skin. One way to avoid this is to make sure your skin is absolutely dry before you apply any prescription antiperspirants.

Tannic acid solution is another ingredient that is found in prescription antiperspirants. Tannic acid is most commonly found in tea and a lot of people use it as a home remedy for underarm perspiration by bathing the area in tea sans milk sugar or lemon. Though the tannic acid may form stains they are usually removable with soap and water. Tannic acid is also found in branded products such as Ivy Dry Zilactol and Zilactin.

Glutaraldehyde 10% aqueous (in water) solution can be made by any qualified druggist and should be applied to the underarms using cotton swabs. While a fairly effective mode of controlling underarm sweating glutaraldehyde produces a brownish discoloration which means you cannot display your underarms in public. That is the strong drawback indeed and one that makes glutaraldehyde more suited for treatment of excessive sweating of the feet than the hands or underarms.

Yet another kind of prescription antiperspirant is the 5% to 10% formalin solution but owing to its strong and unpleasant odor and its tendency to cause skin allergies in some people it is among the least used prescription antiperspirants.

How do antiperspirants work?

That is a big question. Most doctors will tell you that antiperspirants are the first course of treatment for excessive underarm sweating because they are the least invasive and potentially least harmful methods. Typically antiperspirants are applied to the surface of the skin and plug the sweat ducts thereby reducing the volume of sweat that reaches the skin’s surface. This also causes deodorization since the bacteria that cause underarm odor do not have a chance to grow in the absence of sweat.

However the biggest drawback of prescription antiperspirants is the fact that they offer only temporary relief and must be used repeatedly. Besides if your skin reacts negatively to the prescription antiperspirant that you use you may end up with stained or bleached underarms that can cause considerable embarrassment. Most people with sensitive skins who are liable to contract such skin problems as eczema are also likely to develop allergies to prescription antiperspirants. Furthermore anyone with a history of allergies from such substances as dyes may also develop an allergy to prescription antiperspirants.

So the strongest antiperspirants may not always be the most suitable for you. In fact an antiperspirant that contains fewer ingredients and has a water base is likely to be best when you begin your hyperhidrosis treatment. A few recent studies suggest that aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex glycine is an effective alternative to aluminum chloride because it is less likely to cause skin irritation or inflammation. So make sure none of the ingredients in your prescription antiperspirant affect you negatively.

Follow your doctor’s instructions to the letter because these instructions may vary from individual to individual. Generally most prescription antiperspirants are applied at bedtime when you are likely to sweat the least. For those who shave their underarms you must wait at least 24 hours before you apply the prescription antiperspirant.

There is always a chance that your skin will get irritated with prescription antiperspirants and if that does happen you can treat it with an anti-inflammation cream. However if the irritation persists make sure your doctor knows about it.