Beauty Health

How to Survive Boob Sweat Season

Boob sweat is unavoidable, which is a good thing (biologically speaking) because perspiring is how you stay cool on scorching hot days or during intense workouts. But boob sweat dripping down your chest and soaking through your clothes can be physically uncomfortable for numerous reasons. And when moisture accumulates to form underboob sweat, you may experience intense itching, skin irritation, or an infection, which is enough to ruin an otherwise-blissful summer day.

“Excessive moisture on the skin, especially when there isn’t appropriate airflow, can result in rawness or what we call intertrigo, which is basically a rash that occurs in skin creases,” Sherry Yang, MD, an assistant professor of dermatology at Jefferson University in Philadelphia, tells SELF.

Intertrigo is caused by skin-on-skin chafing or skin-on-material rubbing, which gets worse when you sweat. If this becomes a chronic issue, you could develop tiny breaks in your skin, making it easier to develop a bacterial, fungal, or yeast infection, Dr. Yang says. Ouch.

Sweating is a necessary process, but it shouldn’t make you so uncomfortable that you can’t think of anything else. Read on to learn how dermatologists recommend tackling underboob sweat and moisture-related discomfort.

Why do boobs sweat?

“Sweating is the basic biological function to regulate body temperature and keep us cool when our body temperature is increasing,” Dr. Yang says.

In order to operate as it should, the human body needs to maintain a core—meaning internal—body temperature ranging between 97 to 99 degrees Fahrenheit.1 If your core temperature gets too hot, your brain tells your sweat glands it’s time to release moisture to the surface of your skin. Then your sweat evaporates, allowing your body to cool and return to its ideal state. Body temperature increases for a variety of reasons including warm weather, exercise, and hot flashes. Cue the sweating. When it comes to boob sweat, perspiration tends to accumulate in the cleavage and under the boobs thanks to skin folds that prevent moisture from drying.

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Why does the sweat between my breasts smell?

Some people may notice an odor when they perspire even though sweat itself is odor-free. There are two types of sweat glands, eccrine and apocrine,2 and the latter causes smelly sweat. In addition to sweat, apocrine glands release substances like fat and proteins that can lead to body odor when sweat mixes with the normal bacteria found on the skin. Apocrine glands are mainly located in the groin, armpits, and around the nipples, so these areas may have an odor.

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What can I do about sweat under my breasts?

You can’t stop boob sweat, but you can make some lifestyle and skin-care tweaks to decrease perspiration, reduce odor, and prevent irritation. Try the following tips to help you get through those brutal summer months.

1. Avoid wearing skin-tight shirts.

Loose-fitting tops allow more airflow between the breasts, which prevents sweat from pooling in your skin creases. Another reason to keep things flowy? Tight clothes create the perfect humid environment for bacterial, yeast, and fungal growth, which could lead to an infection if you have intertrigo from chafing.

2. Opt for breathable fabrics.

“Cotton clothing keeps your skin much cooler than a lot of non-breathable synthetic fabrics that really trap moisture into the skin, which can make people a lot more prone to sweating and irritation,” Megan Rogge, MD, a board-certified dermatologist with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, tells SELF. In particular polyester clothes tend to hold in sweat and odor more than cotton.3 Though cotton can help keep you from getting so sweaty, it’s not the best at facilitating evaporation since it absorbs moisture. So if you know you’re going to get really sweaty—for example, when you’re working out—choose clothes made with moisture-wicking fabrics like polyester or polypropylene that can help pull sweat away from the skin, per Cleveland Clinic.

3. Choose lighter-colored clothes.

Dark fabrics are better at hiding sweat stains, but they tend to absorb heat from the environment, which is then passed onto your body.4 To keep cool during the warmer months wear lighter colors like white to help reflect heat.

4. Swipe an antiperspirant onto your chest.

Antiperspirants aren’t just for your armpits—they can help reduce sweat on your chest too. Generally, products that don’t irritate your armpits can be used on your chest, Dr. Rogge says. Keep in mind that over-the-counter antiperspirants and deodorants labeled as “clinical strength” can be irritating for some people, so if a product causes a rash under your arms, then you don’t want to use it on your chest, Dr. Rogge says.

5. Soak up sweat with cotton inserts.

Cotton bra liners are a real thing and they can save you from dealing with underboob sweat and rashes, according to Dr. Rogge. These inserts, which can be washed after every use, are placed between your bra and skin to absorb sweat so moisture doesn’t pool under your boobs. There are many types of liners, but Dr. Rogge recommends using cotton liners like this highly rated option from More of Me to Love ($30, Amazon). In a pinch, you can use organic cotton panty liners instead, Dr. Yang says. “Maxi pads are very absorbent, as we know,” she says.

6. Change garments frequently.

It’s impractical to always carry a backup shirt and bra that you can switch into after breaking a sweat. If you want to and can, then great. At the very least Dr. Rogge recommends changing out of your workout clothes and sports bra as soon as you can to minimize your risk of developing skin irritation and infections.

7. Go braless if you feel comfortable doing so.

Remember when we said your breasts need airflow? One easy way to give them ample breathing room is to go braless as often as you can. There’s no better time for that than in the heat of summer.

8. Try using absorbent body powder to soak up sweat.

When the overall goal is to stay dry, Dr. Yang recommends using over-the-counter Gold Bond TalcFree Powder ($4, Amazon), which includes cornstarch to help absorb moisture and reduce friction. If you have a higher risk of developing fungal infections, like if you participate in contact sports or have a weakened immune system, then you may want to use a medicated product like Zeasorb Antifungal Treatment Powder ($11, Amazon), Dr. Yang says. “It’s going to absorb, and it also usually has an active ingredient to combat the overgrowth of yeast,” she explains. Before using any product, try testing a small amount on the target area to make sure it doesn’t irritate your skin.

9. Wash with an antiseptic cleanser if you’re prone to bacterial infections.

If you have recurring bacterial infections in the breast area, talk to your doctor about using an over-the-counter antiseptic cleanser like Hibiclens, Dr. Yang says. The soap contains chlorhexidine gluconate, which is an ingredient that helps reduce pathogenic bacteria.5 Some people with sensitive skin may find antiseptic cleansers irritating, so it’s important to follow the recommended usage instructions on the bottle.

10. Use a benzoyl peroxide cleanser to manage inflamed bumps.

“Sometimes, people get folliculitis in areas of excessive sweat,” Dr. Yang says. Folliculitis happens when noninfectious bacteria cause inflammation in your hair follicles, producing bumps that can look a lot like acne. In that case, Dr. Yang recommends washing your chest with an over-the-counter cleanser that contains benzoyl peroxide to kill the bacteria and reduce inflammation.

11. Apply skin-barrier balm to reduce irritation.

“For people who have issues with chronic chafing, I recommend using Body Glide sticks,” Dr. Yang says. Keep in mind these won’t reduce sweat, but they can be used in conjunction with cotton inserts to help reduce uncomfortable rubbing. You can find BodyGlide at drug stores or online retailers ($9, Amazon). Or you can look for the Vaseline All-Over Body Balm, which may be easier to find in drugstores ($19 for a pack of three, Amazon).

12. Be aware of sweat and odor-promoting foods and drinks.

If you regularly consume alcoholic beverages, caffeine, and spicy food like chili peppers, we regret to inform you that all three can lead to increased sweat output. Additionally, eating foods high in sulfur such as cabbage and broccoli can lead to smelly sweat, per the Cleveland Clinic. Sulfur, which smells a lot like rotten eggs, can be excreted through sweat and produce an odor. If your body odor or the amount you perspire changes after consuming a particular item, you may want to consider cutting back on that food or drink. (Or at least minimize your triggers during the warmer months when it’s particularly hot or before attending an event where you’d rather stay dry and fresh.)

13. Revamp how you sleep to tackle night sweats.

If you wake up with boob sweat, Dr. Rogge recommends sleeping braless on your back since lying on your stomach restricts airflow. If you can, keep your room between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the recommended sleep temperature for getting good sleep, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Otherwise, use a fan and wear breathable pajamas if you prefer to wear clothes while sleeping.

14. Visit a board-certified dermatologist if nothing helps.

If you can’t stay dry even when the weather is mild and you’re constantly worried about boob sweat, it’s worth consulting with a dermatologist. They can help determine if something else is causing your symptoms, such as hyperhidrosis, which is a condition that happens when your sweat glands are overstimulated and produce excessive sweat. Generally, hyperhidrosis affects the hands, underarms, and feet, but it can impact your breasts.6 Thankfully, there are several treatments, including prescription-strength antiperspirants as well as topical and oral medications like glycopyrrolate that help reduce sweat production, according to the Mayo Clinic.