MEL for DSC Magazine, August 2020

In this month's issue, we're sweating it out.


Mistook your monthly magazine for a pack of One Wipe Charlies and flushed it down the toilet? No worries, here’s the online version!

In this edition:

  1. An Extraordinary Scents of Smell
  2. Why Do Butts Sweat so Much in the Summer?
  3. Why Does Sweat Attract Mosquitoes?
  4. Sweat, By the Numbers
  5. How to Stop Sweating the (Literal) Small Stuff
  6. Oh FAQ! What Should I Wear If I’m Super Sweaty?


Not sure if you’ve stepped outside, recently (like, ever, in the last four-and-a-half months) but it’s hot out there in August. And, naturally, where it’s hot it’s generally pretty humid, too. No, I’m not just talking about the weather — I’m talking about the moisture collecting in your pants, in your pits, on your back and on your brow. 

What I’m talking about is sweat.

Sweat is the great equalizer, in that we all do it. Some, more than others, sure — and there’s a reason for that, and everything else below, as you’ll find out inside — but we all sweat, nonetheless. We sweat in weird places (like around our butts!); sometimes we sweat through our clothes (don’t worry, we’ve got a guy for that!); we sweat so much it smells, for better (it creates jobs!) and for worse (animals want to take a bite out of you!); and we even figuratively sweat over the smallest things (like how small your small car is!). 

But as the hot, humid and sweaty days of August creep along, just repeat the mantra: “Don’t sweat it.” And if you do, remember, we’ve got plenty of antiperspirant and lots of Ball Spray

So, y’know, you’re covered.

1 – An Extraordinary Scents of Smell

If you’re sweaty, Dr. Pamela Dalton can smell your stink. No, seriously — as an olfactory scientist at Monell Chemical Senses Center, that’s her job.

Are human pheromones really a thing, and do we carry them in our sweat?
We don’t call them pheromones, but yes, absolutely, there is chemical communication among humans and some of that comes from chemicals emitted in sweat, some of it also in our breath and some even in tear fluid. 

How do you discern the tiny differences between all the odors you encounter?
It takes a lot of practice. I’ve worked with perfumers who can discriminate 20 different “rose” odors, while to me (at first) they will all smell pretty much the same.  But over time, we learn to identify the feature of each chemical that differentiates it from another. 

Do you have an extraordinary sense of smell?
I don’t think I have an “extraordinary” sense of smell, but because I’ve been using my olfactory ability for the past 30 years I believe that I’ve maintained it better than someone of my age. Bottom line, if I say the milk is spoiled, it gets tossed no matter what my spouse may think. Same if I think the garbage smells.

Is there objectively a ‘best’ and ‘worst’ odor?
There is far less agreement on what is a ‘best’ odor, but there’s pretty good consensus on ‘worst’ odors. We developed an odor for the Department of Defense that started with a formula for standard bathroom odor (think feces) with a sulfur overtone (think urine/rotting garbage) and then we added a ‘sweet’ scent to it. Everyone we tested it on said it was the worst thing they’ve ever smelled!

2 – Why Do Butts Sweat so Much in the Summer?

Just what causes that case of Gluteus Maximus Sweatius? Blame friction.

There’s arguably nothing as uncomfortable as a bad case of swamp ass. Unfortunately, in the middle of summer you don’t have much of a say in the muggy matter, but dermatologist Anthony Rossi has some tips on managing the moisture down under. 

Let’s get to the bottom of this! (Sorry.)

First, let’s look at why that area becomes a steaming bog every summer. “The perineal area is one of those places on the body that sweats more than others,” Rossi explains. “Science isn’t exactly sure why that is, but there’s not much ventilation, and there’s a lot of frictional heat caused by your butt cheeks rubbing together.” Also, it doesn’t help that the sweat glands located in the perineal area, which are known as apocrine glands, produce a stinkier form of perspiration.

Worse yet, says Rossi, “sweat trapped between your butt cheeks allows for an overgrowth of bacteria and yeast, which can eventually lead to a bad case of what dermatologists call pruritus ani, or intense anal itching.” Eek!

To combat this, Rossi recommends frequent undie-changing, and using zinc oxide to soothe any irritation caused by moisture. It also wouldn’t hurt to remove any hair in the area, since it can trap sweat and odor — no ifs, ands… or butts.

3 – Why Does Sweat Attract Mosquitoes?

Mosquitoes love — nay — they hunger for your sweat, and not in a good way. Here, entomologist Michael J. Raupp explains why.

Stink So Good
Mosquitoes are attracted to a variety of odors from the human body. A couple of really important ones are carbon dioxide when we exhale, and lactic acid, which is found in sweat. In addition to carbon dioxide and lactic acid, humans release a complex mix of dozens of volatile compounds and it is this unique blend that makes some people mosquito attractors, and others less attractive.”

Little Bugs Beget Bigger Bugs
“Bacteria also play a role. They’re part of the normal microbiota found on human skin and they, too, release volatile compounds that may attract mosquitoes and be related to differences in an individual’s attractiveness to mosquitoes. Mosquitoes have receptors that detect these volatile compounds much the same way we detect odors with our nose. Chemoreceptors in mosquitoes are found on their antennae and mouthparts.”

I Scoff at Your Antiperspirant
“Antiperspirants will have little or no effect on attraction as it has nothing to do with the production and release of carbon dioxide. Also, remember that lactic acid in sweat can be produced from skin all over one’s body.  Who wants to smear antiperspirant all over their body?”

But Take a Shower, Though
“Showers are always a good idea — not as a mosquito repellant, but more because you don’t want to repel your buds by being stinky.”

4 – Sweat, By the Numbers

What, you thought sweat was just this annoying thing that happens when you’re too hot? Evolutionary biologist Dr. Yana Kamberov says think again.

1. Humans have anywhere from 2 and 5 million sweat glands spread all across our body. If that sounds like a lot, that’s because it is — in fact, we have 10 times the sweat-gland density of chimpanzees, despite being close to the same size! 

2. Studies suggest that the body decides how many sweat glands to activate depending on the conditions we’re exposed to during the first two years of life. So temperature and humidity in the environment around you during this time period can have lifelong consequences on your thermoregulatory capabilities.

3. Sweat is almost entirely made of water, with a little bit of salt and some antimicrobial peptides — basically, the body’s first line of defense against bacteria, viruses, fungi and any other microscopic critter interested in doing us harm.

4. The fact that the vast majority of our sweat is produced by our eccrine glands is a bodily function almost entirely unique to humans. All other primates, and in fact almost all other mammals (with a few exceptions) rely heavily on other major mechanisms such as panting (think dogs) to cool off. 

5. A different type of sweat gland — known as apocrine glands, which are found in your armpits, groin and nipples — also produce sweat. Only this sweat stinks, isn’t there to cool you down, and unlike the continuous stuff that comes out of your eccrine glands, is only produced when we’re stressed out or turned on.

6. If you thought that your super-sweaty workout clothes were a sign that you were out of shape, you’ve got it backwards. In fact, fitter athletes tend to sweat more and sooner into a workout, because their bodies are acclimated to exercise and know that it’s time to start cooling things down.

7. Athletes can secrete up to one liter of water per hour, which we do to cool ourselves off. It’s really efficient, too, considering it takes 580 calories to turn just 1 gram of water into water vapor — energy in the form of heat that’s transferred from our bodies into the atmosphere.

5 – How to Stop Sweating the (Literal) Small Stuff

From driving a tiny car to having a small IQ, here’s how to live with all of life’s little shortcomings.

As humans, we spend an inordinate amount of time sweating the small stuff. And I don’t mean that metaphorically: We literally worry that our car is too cramped, that our personages are too petite, that our todgers are too titchy. So how to stop this needless fretting? Read on…

You’re Too Short
“In our culture, men often associate size with masculinity or with the amount of power they have,” says psychologist Roberto Olivardia. “Part of how we break through that is by realizing that there’s nothing inherent about your height that makes you seem less powerful or that has you taken less seriously.”

While he does admit that people generally do notice someone’s height, they probably don’t care at all about it, and likely see it the same way they view eye color — i.e., they’ll notice, then forget about it.

Olivardia adds, “If you’re insecure about something like height, and that insecurity causes you to be anxious or to avoid situations or leadership positions, then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.” Olivardia suggests that it may help to work on your assertiveness skills or your public-speaking ability.

It may also help to dress better, so that you can feel prideful about your appearance, or to work out more, which will also help you to feel better, as long as it doesn’t end up becoming obsessive (which also screams insecurity).

Most importantly, try to remember, “When you’re insecure about something, it’s always at the forefront of our minds, but that tape is only running in our own heads,” Olivardia says. Other people may not notice whatever it is we’re worried about, and we’re really only sabotaging ourselves by assuming they will.

You’ve Got Very Little in the Way of Savings (If Any)
“If you don’t have a family, who gives a s*** if you don’t have savings?” asks financial advisor Adam Ditsky. “You can do whatever you want. You can pick up and move to a cheap state to live in, like Montana, and as long as you’re paying the rent and feeding yourself, you’re good.”

Now, with a family, it’s a different story, and you probably want to have a little something in the bank, just to be sure everyone’s fed in the event of an emergency. The good thing is, “It’s never too late to start saving, because something is always better than nothing,” Ditsky says. This also applies to those nearing retirement age without a dime in the bank, so start now if you can.

To find a way to save, Ditsky recommends that you consider “the cumulative effect of small expenses.” Add up how much you spend each week ordering takeout, for example: If you spend, on average, $50 a week, you can put away $2,500 or even just $2,000 each year and still indulge on occasion.

The trick is to recognize your habits, so Ditsky recommends that you track yourself, much like you would for a food journal. A month may fluctuate too much, so he says to try and track an entire quarter and see where all your money is going. That’ll give you a good idea of what kind of money you’re wasting on stuff you don’t need.

You Drive a Small Car
Perhaps you’re not sure about that tiny car of yours, but Maggie, a saleswoman who sells small cars, says that tiny cars are the way to go. “I save a ton of money on gas and I can park basically anywhere. If you’re driving around with more than one or two other people it can get a little cramped, but for the driver themselves, it’s actually surprisingly roomy inside. You have to keep it clean, of course, as a little mess will seem all that much bigger in a small car, but I’ve always kept my vehicles clean. Honestly, I wouldn’t say there’s any adjustment at all with having a tiny car.”

You Live in Rhode Island (The Smallest State)
“We may be the smallest state but there’s quite a lot to do here,” says Gabby, of the Rhode Island tourism office. She goes on to promote the state’s “Fun-Sized” campaign, which embraces the state’s small size and all of the fun things that fit within its borders (during an ordinary year, at least). “We have biking tours, hiking trails and a brewery tour. You can also check out our historic lighthouses, and we have lots of outdoor festivals. There’s so much you can do!” enthuses Gabby. Okay then!

Your IQ Is on the Small Side
You might find solace in the fact that IQ tests are largely BS. A landmark study in 2010 found that IQ tests are wholly inadequate in measuring the full capacity of one’s intelligence. Not only that, but IQ tests have a long, disgraceful history of being founded in racist beliefs, and of still being utilized as fuel for racism. So instead of getting yourself all worked up about the largely irrelevant numbers that are spat out of an IQ test, just remember that we all have our own unique gifts.

And, You’ve Got a Small… Y’know…
Just remember, the only person who’s really worrying about it is you.

6 – Oh FAQ! What Should I Wear If I’m Super Sweaty?

Men’s style consultant Sean Ireton explains how to dress if you’re a perpetual perspirer.

1. All About the Fabric. “Choose the fabrics you wear wisely. Cotton is probably one of the worst things to wear — it can absorb a lot of moisture and really shows sweat. On the other hand, there are certain synthetic fabrics that are really great at wicking it away, because they’re hydrophobic and can’t absorb moisture. Just no polyester, ever.” 

2. Layer Up. “If there’s guys who don’t sweat a lot, but still sweat some, micromodal rayon undershirts are an option. But for the guys who sweat profusely, even uncontrollably — like they’ve got sprinklers under their arms — there are sweat-proof undershirts you can buy online that have sweat-absorbing patches in the armpits.”

3. Loosen Up. “If your clothing is too tight, that tends to make you sweat a little bit more. I never recommend guys wear clothing that’s way too big for them, but if they want something with a little bit more room, that’ll help keep things cool and give you some breathing room.”

4. Know Your Lining. “If you’re wearing a jacket or a sports coat, remember that the jacket lining is usually what seals in heat. So when you go into the store to shop, getting a half-lined or even ‘unconstructed’ — i.e, a jacket with no lining or padding whatsoever — can help a lot.”

5. It’s the Custom. “When you’re shopping for a suit, if you can get something custom-made, do it. You can often select things like the fabric, and whether you want to have it lined or deconstructed. At a store you might be able to find something here and there, usually summer suits. But not everything ‘off the rack’ is going to be like that.”

6. Medic! “If all else fails, consider getting your sweating problem taken care of by a medical professional. Talk to a dermatologist and ask. I know some people who have gotten Botox, which can stop sweat glands from producing sweat. So that’s gotta help, right?”

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