Sandwiched between an armpit and a bulging backpack in a crowded Tube carriage, I quickly began to feel pools of perspiration forming. First at my temples and above my perfectly lined lips, then a few seconds later my nose was wet, and I knew my foundation had begun to separate.
As the first bead of sweat trickled down my face, I got hotter and sweatier from sheer panic – how and where was I going to fix my face before I headed into my meeting?! Then the train jerked forward and I accidentally made eye contact with a fellow commuter, and as they scanned my sweaty face I wished the floor would open up and swallow me whole.
Our bodies contain anywhere from two to five million sweat glands, with a higher density in the underarms, palms, soles and face. When we overheat, our nervous system responds by altering our breathing and blood flow patterns. This activates our sweat glands and they begin to secrete water and chemical compounds to cool us down. However, I’m one of the two million people in the UK* who seem to suffer from hyperhidrosis – excess sweating – caused by overactive sweat glands.
For some it affects the whole body, while for others like me, it’s one or two specific areas. I’m not a shy person, but my sweaty face has stopped me in my tracks over the years. I’ve avoided nights out knowing the venue isn't air-conditioned and I’ve not introduced myself to guys I’ve fancied, or made the most of a networking opportunity, all because I can’t make eye contact when my face begins to perspire.
Living in an air-conditioned bubble isn’t an option and after years of embarrassment I’d had enough. I desperately needed to find a solution. Thankfully one of the perks of being a beauty journalist is having the best aesthetic doctors on speed dial, so I reached out to Dr. Maryam Zamani for advice. "Aluminium is the industry standard anti-perspirant ingredient," she says. "It works well on the body but the face is a tricky area to treat as it tends to be more sensitive, making irritation and breakouts commonplace. While prescription medication is an option, the long list of side-effects, from a dry mouth and constipation to blurry vision, don’t render them particularly appealing. However, Botox, when administered correctly, makes for the perfect failsafe option," she explains.
Botox has traditionally been used in cosmetics to improve the appearance of expression lines by temporarily paralysing the muscles responsible for causing them. It does this by blocking neurotransmitters that tell muscles to contract. The same process is employed in a bid to stop sweat, however this time, the Botox is injected into the skin rather than the muscle to prevent the same neurotransmitters from activating our sweat glands.
After being reassured by Dr. Zamani that I wouldn’t end up sweating more elsewhere, I booked in for the procedure at London's Cadogan Clinic. With no numbing cream and the thought of having multiple injections in my face I was a little nervous, but need not have been. We discussed where exactly my face sweats the most – my nose, upper lip, temples – and Dr. Zamani went to work injecting each area.
She injected 60 units into various areas of my face, which is about the same amount of Botox as someone would use on one area of the face when inhibiting muscles to target fine lines. Across the UK, Botox prices range from £150 to £400 for one area – the cost of my treatment was £295. It took less than 10 minutes and was relatively painless. I couldn’t wait to jump on the Tube and test it out, but Dr. Zamani explained that it would take about a week to kick in.
The following week I headed to sunny Lisbon for the ultimate road test. How would I fare in the city of seven hills, I wondered? Actually, not as well as I had imagined. Perhaps rather unrealistically, I was under the impression that I’d simply not sweat on my face at all for the next three to six months, but on my first long walk around the city I discovered that I was still perspiring. Granted, it was 30 degrees and I wasn't sweating as much as usual, but I was still a tad disappointed.
I looked to Dr. Zamani for advice and she informed me that this was normal, that I’d still sweat a little during physical activity. She also warned me that it’s incredibly important to administer Botox on the face cautiously, as it can seep into the muscle and cause asymmetry. Wonky eyebrows did not appeal so I was glad she had been cautious, and felt reassured that I could top it up if I needed more.
Later that week I went on a first date with a cute guy I’d met. During the summer I’d usually apply my makeup with a fan on full blast because it’s impossible to perfect your base when your face won’t stop sweating. But I didn’t have a fan in my Lisbon digs and was surprised to discover that I didn’t need one. As I made my way to the trendy rooftop bar he’d suggested, the nerves kicked in, but the usual sweaty upper lip that has accompanied them in previous years didn’t appear. On arrival I got out of the taxi and almost slipped on the cobblestones, arms flailing, eyes wide in panic as I clocked him looking directly at me (why had he not waited upstairs as planned?). I was sure the mortification I felt would leave me dripping in seconds, but my face remained dry – result.
There’s obviously nothing I can do about my propensity for klutziness or nervousness, but thanks to Botox at least my sweaty face will no longer be a source of embarrassment.
*Figures released by NHS