The only time my sweaty hands have worked to my advantage was when I was 16 and took my driver’s test. I had soaked the wheel, and the poor instructor thought I was nervous so he let me skip the parallel parking.
What he didn’t know was that this had been happening for as long as I could remember. From greeting people to mastering the violin, my excessively sweaty palms have bothered me daily since I was child. In fact, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t constantly search for something to wipe my hands on. And let’s not even talk about holding hands on dates—rarely could I participate in this early sign of affection. Eventually the anxiety of being so clammy caused a self-conscious, self-perpetuating cycle where I would sweat, worry and then sweat even more.
It took a while to ask for help -- partly because I didn’t know what options were available and partly because my parents told me I would grow out of it. But as my hands dripped all through college, I realized I needed to see a doctor. But what kind of doctor? If you’re really lost, a good place to start is your primary care provider, who can send you to the right specialist. I went to dermatologist Dr. Kathleen Vine, who laid out the many options I had for treating what I now know is a condition called hyperhidrosis – excessive sweating.
The simplest solution is applying a cream like Drysol or Certain Dri every night in order to build salt clogs that stop the sweat from reaching the surface. (Cheryl tried this one.) Iontophoresis, a process that uses an electrical current to stop the sweating, is another option but it requires maintenance. Some people take a drug called Robinul, but Dr. Vine doesn’t prescribe it because, while it dries the problem area, it also dries everything else, like your nose, mouth and, um, other parts of your body you probably don’t want dry. Laser treatments are approved for underarm sweating and has shown great results but more research has to be done before it can be used on other areas. Endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy surgery is the most invasive option, but also the most long-term, but even that isn’t permanent. I opted for Botox.
Botox has many uses other than smoothing the foreheads of aging celebs. Like treating hyperhidrosis! It works by blocking the chemical signals from the nerves that stimulate the sweat glands. It’s also very likely that your insurance will cover Botox when it isn’t used for cosmetic reasons. (Mine did.)
After numbing my hands on ice packs, Dr. Vine quickly injected each palm 15 times. And yes, it was painful, especially in the fingertips -- I have a high tolerance for pain and I definitely wanted to scream a few times. The procedure took about 20 minutes total. Potential side effects include minor loss of muscle grip and slight bruising for a few days. (The loss of grip could be an issue if you're a pole dancer or circus performer.)
Dr. Vine warned it would take up to two weeks to see improvement, but a little over a week later, as I watched the back of my hands glisten during my spin class, I realized my palms were uncharacteristically dry. It’s now been the full two weeks and I’ve noticed a huge difference, one that made the painful process 100 percent worth it. So while I won't be pole dancing for a guy anytime soon, I'm happy that at least I can hold his hand.