It’s common to get sweaty feet, especially in hot weather or when wearing closed-toe shoes and socks. The moisture caused by sweaty feet can lead to foot odor, athlete’s foot, blisters and other problems. This has led some people to start applying antiperspirant – the same stuff that reduces underarm sweating – to their feet. But is this a good idea? Here’s a look at the safety and effectiveness of using antiperspirant on feet.
How Antiperspirants Work
Antiperspirants work by temporarily blocking the sweat glands to reduce the amount of sweat that reaches the skin’s surface. The active ingredient in most antiperspirants is aluminum-based compounds such as aluminum chloride or aluminum chlorohydrate. When applied, these aluminum salts interact with the outer layers of the sweat glands and cause them to swell. This squeezes the pores shut so that less sweat can get through.
Antiperspirants also contain ingredients like silicone and starch that help absorb sweat and keep the aluminum salts in contact with the skin. The blocking effects of antiperspirants usually last from 24-48 hours before sweat production returns to normal. This makes them work well for controlling underarm sweat, which is why antiperspirants are so popular as a daily morning routine.
But do they work as well on feet?
Effectiveness on Feet
Using antiperspirant on the bottom of your feet can indeed reduce sweating, at least to some degree. Since the antiperspirant mechanism of blocking pores and absorbing moisture remains the same regardless of where you apply it, it stands to reason that it will have some effect.
However, experts note that antiperspirant is unlikely to completely eliminate foot sweating. The sweat glands on our feet tend to be larger and more active than those under our arms due to the feet’s vital role in temperature regulation. So while antiperspirant may curb excessive sweat, it likely won’t keep feet totally dry.
There are also concerns that antiperspirant applied to the feet may get rubbed off more quickly than in the underarms, limiting its sweat-blocking duration. Frequent reapplication may be necessary if using antiperspirant on the feet.
Potential Benefits for Foot Odor
Even if it only provides partial sweat reduction, antiperspirant could still help control foot odor. The bacteria that cause foot odor proliferate in the moist environment created by sweat. By curbing sweating, antiperspirant limits the “fuel” for that bacterial growth.
Some antiperspirants also contain antimicrobial agents, like triclosan, that can directly battle the odor-causing bacteria. However, triclosan may also come with health risks, so make sure to check the ingredient list if this is a concern.
The other advantage of antiperspirants is that they help dry out sweat that does form. This creates a less hospitable environment for bacteria. Between the pore-blocking, bacteria-fighting and moisture-absorbing effects, antiperspirant can make feet cleaner and less smelly.
Potential Downsides to Use on Feet
While antiperspirant on feet has some benefits, there are also some potential downsides to consider:
- Skin irritation: The aluminum salts and other chemicals in antiperspirants can cause skin irritation in sensitive individuals. The thin skin between the toes may be especially prone to rashes and itching.
- Slippery sensation: Excess buildup of antiperspirant on the soles can create a slippery, gummy feeling underfoot. This could potentially affect grip and balance.
- Shoe/sock staining: Ingredients like aluminum salts can rub off and cause discoloration of shoes or socks, especially with excessive application.
- Blisters: By making feet drier and less supple, antiperspirant could potentially make blisters from friction more likely.
- Masking other conditions: Reducing foot sweating could allow underlying problems, like toenail fungus or warts, to go unnoticed. This could delay proper treatment.
So while antiperspirant may help control odor, it requires prudent use to avoid adverse effects. Mild formulations and limited application to problem areas is best.
Other Effective Alternatives
If antiperspirant on the feet does not seem like a good solution, there are other ways to curb excessive foot sweating and odor:
- Wear breathable socks and change them regularly to limit moisture buildup.
- Use antimicrobial foot powder on clean feet to help combat bacteria.
- Wear open sandals when possible to allow air circulation.
- Soak feet in vinegar water to control odor-causing bacteria.
- Use an iontophoresis device that limits sweat via electric current.
- Have Botox injections to temporarily block sweat glands.
- Consider prescription medications like Glycopyrrolate pills that reduce overall sweating.
- Get professional pedicures to remove bacteria and exfoliate feet.
With a combination of hygiene, breathable footwear and targeted treatments, you can keep your feet fresh without necessarily needing antiperspirant. But antiperspirant remains an option for those looking for extra odor-fighting power in problem areas. Moderation and caution are advised if applying it between the toes.