The neurotoxin Botox stops nerves from firing by blocking the uptake of acetylcholine, one of the neurotransmitters that tells muscles to contract, explains Heidi Waldorf, M.D., director of laser and cosmetic dermatology at The Mount Sinai Hospital. When injected in the face, it essentially freezes the nearby muscles, which smoothes wrinkles and prevents expression lines that could cause even more wrinkles to form. It’s the same mechanism at work when used to stop sweat, but it acts on glands instead of muscles. Botox intercepts the message telling the glands to secrete sweat, so they don’t.
Just to be clear: Sweating is an essential and totally normal bodily function that keeps humans from overheating. Botox is used as a localized treatment, so stopping the sweat in one area doesn’t affect the other areas of the body (read: your body can still sweat in other places to regulate its internal temperature). Waldorf also explains that the efficacy of this treatment varies. It could work really well for some and totally flop for others. Generally the effects last about six months. And after testing it out, I can honestly say I have totally forgotten where my antiperspirant spray is.
The entire process takes about 30 minutes.
When I arrived for my Botox appointment with dermatologist Cynthia Yalowitz, M.D., I was completely shaved (I knew there would be pictures involved). However, you don’t have to clear the area of hair for the injections to be effective. Then, I had two options: Some numbing cream or none. I wanted to be numb because…needles. And while I was getting pain protection, Yalowitz mixed the Botox, which comes in powder form and is diluted with saline to become a liquid. This particular treatment requires a full bottle of Botox, which is why it comes with a hefty $1000 price tag.
Yalowitz then drew a map around my armpit to mark the injection points. “There’s a starch iodine test you can do to see where the sweat glands are, and then you can target,” she says. “Most doctors don’t do that test prior to the injection because it’s pretty routine where people sweat from, especially if you don’t have excessive sweating.”
Finally, she began to inject the Botox. It didn’t hurt. Honestly it felt more like pin pricks with the occasional stinging in deeper spots. For the armpit area, Botox is injected into the muscle deeper than when you would on the face. “There are different techniques in terms of depth of injection depending on which part of the body we’re injecting,” explains Yalowitz. “Around the crow’s feet we go a little more superficial. [But around the armpit], it diffuses a little bit.” Immediately after the treatment, there is potential for bruising or pain. But I had neither.