Allure Magazine Featuring Dr. Hilary Reich and The Science Behind Why You Sweat Less as You Age


Article edited by Skinsage Dermatology Team.

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Sweat is more complex than you may think. In fact, there are actually two different kinds of sweat glands in the body – eccrine sweat glands and apocrine sweat glands.  Eccrine sweat glands secrete water and electrolytes and they are found in the skin over most of the body’s surface, including the palms and soles, says Hilary Reich, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City. Apocrine sweat glands, on the other hand, are only found in hair-bearing regions such as the underarms, groin, perianal area, areola and eyelids. These glands release an oily fluid that contains lipids and proteins.  

Sweat becomes foul-smelling when it’s exposed to the (totally normal) bacteria and fungi on the skin’s surface.  “Sweat does not smell.” Rather, it’s that bacteria feeding off of sweat that creates an odor, confirms Dr. Reich. Bromhidrosis, the medical term for smelly sweat, is caused exclusively by apocrine sweat glands.

Why do you sweat less as you age?

As we age, the depth of the sweat glands within our skin becomes shallower, says Further, citing a 2021 study, conducted by the International University of Health and Welfare in Narita, Japan, and published in dermatology journal Skin Research & Technology.

Because skin gets thinner as you age, the sweat gland ducts rise closer to the skin surface, explains Dr. Reich. More specifically, as we age, we lose collagen– one of the main structural proteins found in the skin – which means there is less of it surrounding the sweat glands.

“When there is less collagen surrounding the glands, the glands get squished or compressed against the skin surface and cannot function properly,” says Dr. Reich. “When they’re compressed in this way, it may make it harder for sweat to come out.”

This has day-to-day benefits (who wouldn’t want to sweat less?) but may present problems for some older adults when it comes to tolerating heat waves. Older people do not have the ability to produce sweat at the same volume as younger people do, which makes it harder for the body to cool down. “The diminished ability to sweat makes the elderly less tolerant of heat and more susceptible to heatstroke,” says Dr. Reich. Since the body isn’t sending its usual cues, it’s important that older people are extra vigilant when it comes to seeking respite during long periods of heat.  Not all individuals decrease sweating as they age since some medications, particularly antidepressants and SSRIs, and specific medical conditions, like diabetic hypoglycemia, can make you sweat more.

How does menopause affect sweat?

While you might be sweating less on a daily basis as you age, sweat can come in waves if you’re experiencing menopause. 

During a hot flash, which is a common symptom of menopause, the body can experience a sudden feeling of intense heat that can rapidly spread across the face, neck and chest and make you break out in a sweat. Hot flashes are believed to be set off by the hypothalamus – a part of the brain that functions as the body’s thermostat – in reaction to declining estrogen levels in the body, says Dr. Reich. When your body is experiencing a hot flash, the hypothalamus misfires and the body heats up abruptly. To compensate, the body attempts to release excess heat by directing blood flow to the surface of the skin and then cools itself down by sweating.

How often should you consider a new deodorant?

No matter how old you are, with heat waves occurring more frequently, you may find that your typical deodorant isn’t cutting it in the high temperatures.

In these cases, Dr. Reich states that “Washing your underarm areas helps prevent a buildup of bacteria, which can cause odor,” she says. “A thorough washing of the underarms once or twice a day is super important if you are prone to heavy or smelly perspiration.”

And even though the amount we sweat may change or fluctuate over time, most people benefit from regularly using an antiperspirant or deodorant, Dr. Reich says, adding that it’s important to understand the difference. Deodorants are fragrance-containing products that help neutralize or mask the smell of bacteria and sweat, but they don’t actually prevent you from sweating. To reduce the amount of sweat, you’ll need to use a reliable anti-perspirant, which typically contains an aluminum compound to help prevent sweating from occurring. These formulas have tiny aluminum molecules that plug up sweat gland ducts and prevent the propulsion of sweat, says Dr. Reich.

There’s long been chatter about the safety of using aluminum-based antiperspirants. And while the decision is, as ever, totally up to you, the scientific evidence of such claims just isn't there. That said, according to Dr. Reich, “as one ages, there may be less need for an antiperspirant, and switching to a deodorant may be sufficient.”

What is the best way to manage sweat?

Getting in the habit of washing your armpits in the same way you’d wash your hands is an important practice if you’re looking to smell and sweat less, Further emphasized.

Before you reapply deodorant, she recommends giving your pits a thorough lather-rinse-repeat washing, like you would with your hands, and if you want to take it a step further, focusing on using ingredients like apple cider vinegar and salt. These natural antibacterial ingredients will leave a salty film on the underarms and help fight off the bacteria that comes from sweat.

“You can avoid sweating altogether by sitting isolated in a room temperature chamber devoid of all activity,” says Dr. Reich. In other words, it’s nearly impossible.

If the amount of sweat you’re experiencing is affecting your quality of life – even after using a daily antiperspirant – reach out to a dermatologist for a consultation. There are a variety of treatments to help with excessive sweating, including prescription glycopyrrolate, Botox injections and devices like Miradry, which uses suction to bring sweat glands closer to the surface, accelerating the same process that happens with age.

Aging is a normal and natural part of life, and whether or not you’re a naturally sweaty person, the slowdown of sweat is a perk that comes with it.

Skinsage products we love for sweating: 

LUME 72 hours: http://go/lume

DEGREE: http://go/degree

Prescriptions: Visit or email and schedule a tele-visit with Dr. Reich for:  20% aluminum chloride, topical glycopyrrolate, oral glycopyrrolate.  

To review the Skinsage protocol for Supplements for hot flashes and peri-menopausal concerns, please click on the following link: http://go/menopause