An easy trick rooted in Japanese tradition claims to be able to curb embarrassing pit stains and the social ills they cause.
With summer in Japan fast approaching, people everywhere are scrambling for ways to keep cool. And once people everywhere realize that that’s impossible they will start searching for ways to at least alleviate some of its more socially unacceptable symptoms like sweating.
Among the most embarrassing and unappealing forms of sweating probably stem from the armpits. A quick Google search reveals the top ways to combat pit-sweat is through chemicals, staying out of the heat (duh), and even surgical procedures.
However, a writer for the Japanese magazine Spa! interviewed Dr. Tsuneaki Gomi of the Gomi Clinic who offered this advice to battle sweaty arm pits.
“The simplest way is to just stick something in there.”
And by “something” he doesn’t mean an ice pack, antiperspirant, or special cooling balm. In fact, he recommended the Spa! writer put an ordinary plastic bottle up in there to reduce perspiration. So the guy did it and after a 15 minute walk in 31℃ (88℉) heat he claimed to have one miraculously dry pit where the water bottle once sat.
The reason is what is called in medical terms a hemihidrotic reflex wherein putting pressure on the side of the pectoral muscle inhibits the production of sweat from the corresponding armpit. Therefore if you push a plastic bottle against the side of your left pectoral muscle then the left pit will sweat less if at all.
According to Dr. Gomi, this is a technique used by the Maiko to withstand stinkiness while wearing all those layers of clothing and make-up. Part of the customary clothing includes a sarashi, which is a tight band worn directly around the bust that is said to trigger a hemihidrotic reflex.
▼ It must do wonders for your posture too.
Experiments on hemihirdrotic reflexes have been done in the past, but the results are largely inconclusive, leaning towards this theory being untrue. On the other hand, we now have the good doctor and his interviewer claiming that it works.
The only way to find out was to try it for myself. So, following the doctor’s orders I took a plastic bottle and “stuck it in there.” However, I used an empty bottle since one with water in it would clearly have a cooling effect, and I wanted this to purely rely on the hemihidrotic reflex.
I put the bottle under my left arm so that it pressed against my left pectoral muscle. I then hit the blazing hot streets of midday Osaka which offered next to nothing in terms of shade. Being only June this was still a far cry from an actual summer’s day, but it should be enough to work up a sweat.
I walked for about 40 minutes on asphalt in 30℃ (86℉) weather while constantly keeping the plastic bottle pressed against my left side. The trick to not looking like a weirdo was to constantly hold a smartphone. This gave the appearance that I was too occupied with hands to hold the bottle properly.
After returning to the office I analyzed my pits…
Well, as we can plainly see, not only did the plastic bottle not reduce sweat, the side with it actually came out remarkably sweatier than the arm which didn’t have a bottle. It was beginning to look like the hemihidrotic reflex was full of it…
However, I decided to give it a second go. Thinking that perhaps I held the bottle in the wrong position or didn’t press it strongly enough, I tried a different method. First, I firmly taped up my chest in an effort to recreate the effect of a Maiko’s sarashi. Next I grabbed a somewhat heavy folder filled with paper that I could use to press against my entire left side, thus ensuring I hit that magic pressure point wherever it may be.
Clutching my pretty pink folder firmly to my side as if my life depended on it, I hit the streets again. I used the same route in an effort to produce the same amount of sweat as the previous attempt.
However, when I got back…even more sweat was there.
And again the left arm was much sweatier than the right. It stands to reason. I was wearing more and exerting more effort to carry the folder, but I couldn’t see any hemihidrotic effect whatsoever.
This seems to agree with the few studies I’ve read that have failed to find compelling evidence to support the existence of the hemihidrotic reflex. However, they do suggest the possibility that certain people – such as Japanese people – might be genetically predisposed to it. So, if you want to try it for yourself, there certainly isn’t any harm in it and it may still work for you.
As for me, it’s a total bust. So, I guess it’s back to the old wipes and cooling spray down my pants. It’s definitely a bummer but on the bright side, I just got paid for making you all look at pictures of my sweaty armpits, and that’s pretty cool.
Source: Spa!, Quarterly Journal of Experimental Physiology and Cognate Medical Sciences, Nagasaki University Academic Output Site