As human beings, we tend to react quite similarly to stress. Your palms get sweaty, knees weak, arms can feel heavy. There might be vomit on your sweater already (mom’s spaghetti?). But for some people, excessive sweating in social situations can become a real problem. A new device described in the journal Skin Research & Technology aims to stop overactive sweat glands in their tracks using a high-pressure Botox spray.
Sweating is an adaptive response most commonly triggered by a spike in temperature. When we get hot, the heat increase is detected by our brain's hypothalamus, which triggers a physiological response to maintain the body’s ideal temperature (approximately 37°C, or 98.6°F). Sweating occurs when small glands in the dermal layer secrete a fluid that then evaporates from our skin, cooling us down in the process. Sweating can also occur when we’re sick or be triggered by emotional stimuli that cause us to feel nervous, stressed, or anxious.
Speaking to New Scientist, Samantha Eisman at Sinclair Dermatology, a skin clinic in Melbourne, Australia, reported that 5 percent of those who suffer from extreme perspiration find it affects their confidence, relationships, and performance in the workplace. Excess sweating can result in clothes needing to be changed several times throughout the day, and lead to further embarrassment during common interactions such as shaking hands or hugging.
Conventional treatments to tackle excessive perspiration currently include surgery, medication, and medicated deodorants, but there is not yet an effective solution free from unwanted side effects. Surgical solutions often move the problem rather than cure it, as the cessation of sweating from the palms and armpits leads to more sweating elsewhere on the body.
The botulinum toxin, commonly known as Botox, has already been used to treat sweating as it can block the nerves that trigger sweat glands in the same way it blocks nerves in the face when used for cosmetic anti-aging treatments. Unfortunately, as sweat glands exist throughout the surface of our palms and underarms, the toxin must be repeatedly injected at a depth of 1 centimeter (0.4 inches) across the skin’s surface, which can cause extreme pain even when anesthetic is used.
A new technique developed by Korean researchers removes the need for painful injections by instead administering the toxin by firing liquid Botox into the skin using a high-pressure jet nozzle. After using this technique to treat the palms and underarms of 20 participants who suffered from extreme palm and underarm sweating, every participant reported that they had near-enough stopped sweating from these problem areas completely, and these findings were backed up by chemical analyses of their skin.
While the procedure was not without pain, participants only reported a scale of 16 out of 100 (with 0 being no pain at all and 100 being extreme pain) for underarm application and 33 out of 100 when used on their palms. Apart from this mild discomfort, there were no further reports or evidence of any unwanted side effects.
While the results of this small initial test appear promising, the study has some way to go in terms of increasing sample size and carrying out direct comparisons against conventional Botox injections to validate the novel technique. For now, excessive sweaters, wear your perspiration with pride – these robots can only dream of glowing like you.