10 Things You Didn’t Know About Sweat
Everybody knows cousin Ricky is uncomfortably moist at all times. What you probably didn’t know? Sweat is partly responsible for our dominance on this planet. Keep reading and discover this and more delightful droplets of knowledge we gleaned with a little help from Chris Putman, a member of Gillette’s Global R&D team for Antiperspirants and Deodorants.
You’ve Got About Four Million Sweat Glands
That’s more than two sweat glands for every man, woman, and child in Philadelphia, or four million sweat glands for every Philadelphian who cheers for that football team from New York.
You Sweat Way More Than You Realize
Those who are used to super hot climates can expect to sweat up to 8 pints an hour. Not empirically inclined? That’s a two liter of soda plus another liter of soda plus a little bit more soda just in case.
Sweat Is Why We’re The Top Of the Food Chain
Humans are mammals. Mammals have this cool property: they’re warm blooded. This means we can regulate our temperature without sunning ourselves on a rock like some doofus snake. When we’re hot, we sweat. That sweat evaporates, cooling us off. Pretty simple. But humans have one of the most efficient cooling mechanisms in the animal kingdom. With no fur, we sweat through our skin, giving us a massive surface area to chill out with.
Our furry buddies aren’t so lucky. Back in hunter-gatherer times, humans chased animals for hours and hours (sometimes days) until those animals dropped dead from heat exhaustion. In fact, some groups still practice this ancient hunting technique today. Our efficient sweat system is a key reason why we’re able to dominate creatures that are faster, stronger, and way more claw-ier than ourselves.
Sweat Doesn’t Smell
Most sweat (we’ll get to the different kinds, don’t worry, sweaty friend) is about 99% water and 1% salt. Neither of those smells much like anything, but that telltale stank is very much thanks to the effect of sweat, because…
There Are Two Kinds
Eccrin sweat is that mostly water mixture. This is the stuff the flows out of most of your body. Your underarms and groin contain the much more flavorful apocrine glands. These produce the sweat that -- in addition to water and salt -- contains fats and protein. Bacteria love this stuff, and they love the wet, dank environment you carefully shield with an artfully distressed band tee and a pair of faded jorts. It’s the bacterial waste that produces that all-too-familiar stench.
And They’re Controlled By Two Separate Parts Of The Brain
The hypothalamus controls the hormones that regulate body temperature; it’s where the mechanical process of “sweat glands off” or “sweat glands on” happens. Things get interesting deep inside your temporal lobes. Ever notice you get sweaty in uncomfortable, stressful, or otherwise scary situations? That’s thanks to the amygdala, which plays a role in regulating physical responses to emotional stimuli.
And Nobody Is Sure Why
Whether it’s part of our flight or fight response, a chemical signal to predators or friends, or some other crazy ancient purpose that’s not really helping you ace that job interview, the reasons behind anxiety-induced sweating are still not fully understood.
Though It Could Help You Find A Mate
Studies have shown that smell is a key factor in picking a partner. And, no, it’s not the cologne you’ve spackled yourself with -- it’s that lovely bacteria generated odor we mentioned earlier. The theory goes: that smell is strongly linked to your immune system, and we naturally gravitate towards partners with an immune system that compliments our own. Why? The production of children who can inherit resistance to lots of diseases. It just so happens that bikini models have a very robust immunity to Spanish influenza, see?
Sweating Too Much Is A Disease
And it’s called hyperhidrosis. Afflicting up to nine million Americans, this condition is characterized by uncontrollable sweating from the hands, armpits, feet, and other areas. Far any beyond any need to regulate temperature, this sweating can be socially debilitating as it ruins clothes and makes power executive handshakes very difficult. Long-term solutions include botox injections or even surgery.
So Is Sweating Not Enough
Hypohidrosis or anhidrosis is a failure for your body to correctly release sweat when needed. If you can’t sweat, regulating your temperature becomes super duper hard. While hyperhidrosis is embarrassing at a cocktail party, hypo can leave you dead from heat exhaustion. There are some drug treatments, but mostly the prescribed course is “Uh… don’t do anything that would make you hot? Sorry, bro.”