Sweat Glands 101

We’re about to drop some hard truths here. There is no Sweat Fairy. It’s okay, you can have some time to come to terms with this. We’ll wait.
…are you good? Good. Okay. So since there’s no Sweat Fairy flying around out there, misting you with perspiration from her magical spritz bottle, we’ll have to fall back on the old “sweat comes from glands” explanation. There are two types of sweat glands in the human body: the eccrine and apocrine glands. Though both produce sweat, they differ in both function and secretions.

Eccrine Glands

Humans sweat to cool down. Sweating is essential to human thermoregulation–when it comes from the right glands. The eccrine glands are the heavy lifters of thermoregulation, activated by neurotransmitters which communicate when cooling is required. Eccrine sweat is odorless, 98-99% water, and necessary for thermoregulation. Eccrine glands cover most of the human body.

Apocrine Glands

The apocrine glands contribute very little to thermoregulation and are nonessential to the cooling process. The chemical composition of the sweat they secrete is different from that of eccrine glands; composed of lipids, proteins, and steroids. These glands are where body odor originates–while initially odorless, apocrine sweat gains its distinctive odor upon introduction to outside bacteria and subsequent decomposition. Apocrine glands are located in the axillae, palms, and soles of the feet and are responsible for excessive underarm sweat.

Now that we’ve established which glands are on our side (go Team Eccrine!), approaching the issue of excessive sweating gets a lot simpler. If the apocrine glands are the ones contributing to focal hyperhidrosis, those are the glands that need to be targeted for treatment. And, since the apocrine glands aren’t essential to thermoregulation, they can be treated without risk to any healthy bodily processes.

So basically, you don’t need to be sweating through your underarms, palms, and feet. This is good news! This means we can move on to eradicating that annoying apocrine sweat without sweating the health costs. Ready to start surviving?