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Could the use of anti-perspirant give benefit in extreme cold climate where sweating can be a significant problem.

I've read many articles regarding keeping warm when alpine climbing in the extreme cold of winter in say, the alps. Commonly, sweating is described as being potentially dangerous, and is avoided by removing layers or exerting less.

Sweating is obviously an important bodily function, especially during physical exercise. So whats the tradeoff, and could the use of anit-perspirant be beneficial, or detrimental?

  • 3
    Not enough to warrant an answer, but: You sweat because you get too hot. It's a life saver. In order to prevent sweating (thus losing minerals and water, both undesirable), get cooler by taking clothes off instead. Also: You cannot (or rather should not) apply anti perspirants, which contain unhealthy aluminum compounds, to large portions of your body (read the fine print). Anti perspirants are only meant to be applied under the arms. Therefore the prevented sweating there would be compensated by increased sweating elsewehere. – Peter - Reinstate Monica Jan 19 '15 at 12:26
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    Perhaps you are talking about vapor barrier layers. Their purpose is to keep your equipment dry from your sweat in several-days winter trips - not a very common scenario, that's why they are rare. Here's a great article about those. andrewskurka.com/2011/vapor-barrier-liners-theory-application – Dakatine Jan 19 '15 at 17:00
  • @Dakatine thanks for the link. I've read something by andy kirkpatrick stating the use of a plastic bag around a socked foot. I expect this approach would be more beneficial than any application of chemicals. – ldgorman Jan 20 '15 at 10:55
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When I was in central Alaska, courtesy of Uncle Sam, we wore vapor barrier boots. They are great for extremely low temperatures, but of you are heavily exerting in milder weather* (down to -23C/-10F range), your socks would get downright soggy. Some soldiers did put anti-perspirant on their feet to help with cold and trench foot symptoms.

If plastic mountaineering boots don't breathe, anti-perspirant could be helpful.

  • milder, not mild
  • you've made a really good point here, i'd love some for info if you can provide it. – ldgorman Jan 20 '15 at 17:43
  • @Ldgorman Vapor barrier, or "Mickey Mouse" boots stick your feet in their own protected environment. Moisture from your feet cannot escape and makes for conditions that make feet vulnerable to trench foot. I'm no medical expert, but I'm pretty sure that trench foot takes a few days to develop. By blocking the foot's ability to sweat, the user makes the inside of the boot less swampy. For my winter activities, I can just run in a circle for a bit to warm my feet. If you are roped in doing a difficult pitch of ice climbing, you don't have the same option. – orangejewelweed Jan 20 '15 at 20:47
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Could the use of anti-perspirant give benefit in extreme cold climate where sweating can be a significant problem.

TL;DR answer: Unlikely. The issue is the sheer amount of water your body will secrete during physical exercise. It would be impossible for anti persperant to prevent this amount of moisture.

To clarify Anti-perspirants work by:

Aluminium-based complexes react with the electrolytes in the sweat to form a gel plug in the duct of the sweat gland. The plugs prevent the gland from excreting liquid and are removed over time by the natural sloughing of the skin. The metal salts work in another way to prevent sweat from reaching the surface of the skin: the aluminium salts interact with the keratin fibrils in the sweat ducts and form a physical plug that prevents sweat from reaching the skin’s surface. Aluminium salts also have a slight astringent effect on the pores; causing them to contract, further preventing sweat from reaching the surface of the skin.[16] The blockage of a large number of sweat glands reduces the amount of sweat produced in the underarms, though this may vary from person to person.

Source

As you say, sweating is an important part of your body's thermoregulation. As you exercise, your body heats up. Your body regulates this heat by sweating. Even in cold climates you will need to sweat to regulate your body temperature. An important part of this is the waters potential to evaporate off the skin (taking the heat with it). If the water didn't evaporate (because it was being stopped by some kind of super antiperspirant) and your temperature didn't lower your body would simply produce more sweat.

The best way to deal with this is to allow this process to work as it naturally should, i.e. to allow the water (sweat) to evaporate away from the skin and though your layers (breathable clothing). This will cool you when you need it to but prevent the moisture from becoming trapped and "chilling" you.

  • 3
    I don't think antiperspirant absorbs the sweat/moisture at all. It's there to prevent (like @PeterSchneider wrote) the arm pits to get moisty that easily. It is like a physical barrier for the sweat (see comment of @Dakatine). Therefore it helps to distribute the sweating more evenly. Of course you sweat the same amount of water. Still, distributing the moisture better will allow your clothes/layering system to work better. – Wills Jan 19 '15 at 21:49
  • Yep, having done a quick google, I think your right @EverythingRightPlace. I'll update now – user2766 Jan 20 '15 at 9:14

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