Beat the Sweat: 7 Japanese Tips for Staying Dry, Fresh, and Sweat-Free All Day
Excessive sweating can be tough to deal with. It can make you self-conscious and seriously limit the clothing choices. I know it well because I sweat more than the average person, a problem which was only exacerbated when I moved to Japan 15 years ago.
Japanese summer is a worst-case scenario for a sweating person: I'm talking 40 degrees with 80% humidity! It was certainly challenging for me to stay dry and cool, but my Japanese friends around me seemed to be pulling it off effortlessly. It got me curious (if not a bit jealous!) so I started to investigate.
Experts may chalk the phenomenon up to Japanese people having fewer apocrine sweat glands in places like the armpits. While genetics is certainly a factor, that's not all it is! The imminent daily experience of standing for 40 minutes with your nose in someone else's armpit is a big factor. Let me explain.
You may already know that Japanese cities are notoriously overcrowded, so you end up standing very close to others and literally huddling together very often. In fact, during rush hour, you spend an entire commute with your nose in someone's hair, chest, or... armpit. Just imagine the embarrassment of having sweat stains or body odor in such a situation! That is enough of a pressure to make everyone almost obsessively careful with their hygiene and to make sure they smell good or neutral.
It took me a while to discover all of the Japanese habits and tricks that keep them fresh, but today, I enjoy the Japanese climate with little concern for sweat. I am really excited to share those secrets with you and hope that they will help you to stay sweat and scent-free. Try them out for yourself and let me know how it went!
Beat the Sweat: 7 Japanese Tips for Staying Dry, Fresh, and Sweat-Free All Day
1. Soak Up the Suds
You may already know Japan is famous for its hot springs and spas! Did you know the most Japanese people also love pleasant baths at home every single day? It's truly immersed in their culture and daily routines. Even when it is close to 40 degrees outside, they'll step into that steaming hot tub and indulge in a long soak.
When I first moved to Japan, I couldn't bring myself to do that. It was just too hot, and besides, I was always exhausted from my grueling days. Fortunately, I did eventually try it on the recommendation of my doctor. Let me tell you, it was actually life-changing. It turns out that hot baths are fantastic for regulating and soothing your nervous system because they are extremely relaxing and calming. And when your nervous system is balanced, you sweat less - especially in socially stressful situations.
Also, if you steep in that hot water, you're going to open up all your pores, clean them out from debris and sweat, and get rid of toxins from your body that actually contribute to odor.
And last but not least: Japanese believe that hot baths actually train the body to cope with extreme heat and humidity, so make a bath a daily ritual, and see if it helps.
2. Wash It Down the Drain
Toss those generic soaps, washes, and gels away! Once you try specially formulated Japanese products that actually target adult sweat and their scent (Japanese call that distinct smell kareshu), you'll never go back to pharmacy brands again!
What's the secret behind them? With a truly Japanese meticulousness, scientists researched and analyzed the chemicals that cause adult sweat to smell so strongly. They discovered that "diacetyl," a compound found in adult sweat, is a culprit behind that middle-age odor.
Then, they developed soaps, shampoos, and deodorants that actually break down and prevent that chemical from forming. I tried them, and I can tell you that they are super effective and work like magic.
3. Never Cover It Up
Are you trying that new, rose-scented deodorant? Or combating odor with a strong body spray or perfume?
Instead, do as the Japanese do! They shake their heads at any overwhelming scent, considered 'smell harassment.' Think about it - it forces other people to smell strong perfume whether they want to or not! Plus, it never solves the problem. In fact, it can combine with your sweat and make your smell so much worse.
Of course, you can enjoy your favorite perfume or body spray (I do!), but first make sure you are smell-free using antiperspirants and scent-free deodorants.
And - especially when visiting Japan - be considerate and make sure the amount of scent you wear is not overpowering to others.
4. Wipe It All Away
It's true that some of us can't help sweating, especially when that thermometer goes up! If that sounds like you, simply follow in Japanese fashion and carry a small cotton hand towel (oshibori). You can lightly pat yourself dry when you feel yourself forming those dreaded sweat beads.
If you ever have the pleasure of visiting Japan, you'll notice that everyone carries these little face towels or uses body/face wipes. You'll see high school students, moms, and businessmen alike wiping their foreheads and necks whenever a little warmth comes their way (extra tip - pay special attention to your neck area - this is where a lot of the smell comes from!). Of course, they'll head to restrooms to wipe down more private areas like their underarms or chests. This strategy is extremely effective; since they never let sweat sit on their skin, it never has a chance to produce a smell!
5. Dress for the Weather
You may be great at dressing for colder weather, bundling up to the extreme to stay warm. Yet, summer weather dress may not be so natural to you. But it's never too late to learn - and you will definitely stay cooler and drier in the process!
Japanese people have always worn cotton, silks, and linens to combat the heat. Follow in their footsteps and try light, airy fabrics known for their temperature regulation and moisture-wicking natures. As an added perk, these materials are incredibly beautiful, soft and skin-friendly, and flowy.
It’s also why I use these natural, high-quality fabrics for my luxurious bow tie dresses and art dresses! For example, I use 100% Japanese silk and high-quality Cupro-cotton lining so you’ll always feel cool and comfortable. Feel free to check them out if you’re looking for gorgeous summer clothing!
6. Stop the Sweat in its Tracks
Still sweating excessively?
Don't let that discourage you; there's still something out there for you. Opt for sweat-proof specialty goods, like underwear with sewn-in sweat patches. They are oh-so-effective, and I have a drawer full of them ready for every summer.
You can also get sweat pads that you glue into your clothing or directly on your body. They come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and absorption level types. There are even some 'invisible' kinds, truly magical strips of see-through tape you can glue on your armpits when you are wearing a sleeveless top!
The great advantage of glue-on sweat patches is that, if you are a really heavy sweater, you can change them many times a day. You may still feel moisture, but it'll be soaked up immediately and prevent sweat stains and odors
7. Turn to a Radical Solution
Tried everything, and nothing works? You can turn to aesthetic surgery to cure your sweat and odor woes once and for all. If you were a Japanese resident and had this problem, it would be a social necessity, so, it would actually be covered by health insurance, believe it or not!
Of course, in other countries, it’s most likely considered elective by your insurance provider. But, $500 to $1000 USD is all it takes to remove sweat glands from your underarms. Just remember to consider all the surgery and recovery risks if you want to take the plunge.
Looking for a less intense option, you say? Some aesthetic salons offer "laser deodorant" treatments! Experts use a laser to zap away your sweat glands over the course of a few sessions. It may be pricier (around $2000 USD), but it may be a small price to pay to go "sweatless."
I truly feel for you if you are dealing with a sweat or body odor problem. It can be complicated to deal with, and I've learned that even relatively "normal" amounts of sweat can cause lots of distress. Japan has a lot of knowledge to offer us, and these seven secrets to staying fresh and dry all day long are just a little bit of that magic.
The summer heat became easier to beat with airy silk and cotton-lined clothing. Please look at my Dress Your Color shop if you want to invest in high-quality clothing that keeps you cool and refreshed.