Sweaty and sticky skin: What causes it?

The feeling of sticky sweat on the skin is never pleasant. Some people sweat more than others and they often wonder: “Why do my hands feel sticky? Or “Why is my sweat sticky?” It is true that when it gets really hot, we all feel that way, but some people are more anxious than others and that can also create sticky sweat. Here are some of the reasons why we sweat.

Sweat is Natural

Although unpleasant, let’s keep in mind that sweating is a natural function of our body, meant to regulate our temperature. It is the sweat glands that activate whenever they need to cool down the body that generates the sweat. Since we don’t have the same number of active sweat glands inside our own body, as we get older and depending on life conditions (living in a warm or cold country for example), that explains partly why some people sweat more than others. Whenever our body temperature gets too high, theses sweat glands go to work. They are the causes why you have sticky palms of hands.

Causes of Sticky Sweat from the Forehead, Hands and Feet

We have different types of sweat glands. One of them is called eccrine sweat glands. They are located behind our forehead as well as in the palms of our hands and in our feet. These glands are related to our nervous system, and they are the first ones to create sweat when we get anxious. It is quite normal for anyone to sweat from these areas of the body, but if it becomes excessive than it becomes a pathology which is called hyperhidrosis. When it refers specifically to the palm of the hand, it is named palmar hyperhidrosis (sticky palms of hands).

We are not equal when it comes to sweating from the eccrine glands. They can get to work right from the moment we are born, but they usually start their activity around the time when the infant becomes an adolescent. That is normally when the nervous systems starts to react more to its environment. It is possible for a person to experience this excessive sweat throughout his life, but others will only go through periods which may or may not come back.

Does Sweat Always Smell Bad?

When we talk about sweat, we immediately remind ourselves of the odour found inside gym locker rooms, back in our school days. It was usually strong and unpleasant. But the truth is, sweat does not always smell. In fact, the liquid itself is odourless. One type of sweat glands, called apocrine, is located mainly in our armpits and our genitals. Since they are rich in fatty substance, they attract bacteria (like the corynebacterium) and they are the ones that turn the odourless sweat into a bad smell.

What Are the Reasons Why Some People Sweat More than Others?

As we have already explained partly before, environmental conditions and different levels of anxiety can explain the variation in the quantity of sweat produced by each person. Let’s go into more details.

Anxiety/Stress and Fatigue

This is one of the most important reasons that cause excessive sweat. The eccrine glands connected to our sympathetic nervous system get activated as soon as we get nervous, anxious or we are lacking energy (fatigue). If our body were computers, you could actually call this a glitch in the system or a coding mistake. In fact, the sweat is triggered because it mistakenly confuses these factors (anxiety, stress and fatigue) with overheating of the body. Other stressing factors of life or particular conditions can have the same effect such as pregnancy, menopause or various mental health conditions.

Gender/Age and Heredity

You can inherit excessive sweating from your parents as it is hereditary. Depending on your age, you will tend to sweat more or less. Kids and elders tend so sweat much less than adults. Gender is also a difference maker when it comes to sweating. Women, until they get to menopause, will sweat much less than men. However, afterwards, they will go through heat waves that can cause excessive sweat.


When you catch a cold and you get a fever, sweat glands will become most active; this is what they were made for. They will make you sweat profusely in order for your body to cool down. But it is also true that sweating can be a symptom from a disease.  Here are some of them that can cause such a reaction from the body (the list is not exhaustive):

  • Allergies
  • Diabetes
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Lung embolus
  • Myocardial infarction (cardiac arrest)
  • Pneumonia

Is it Possible to Sweat Less?

Yes, it is possible to reduce sweating through a better physical and mental hygiene. Regarding the first one, you need to shower every day and wash your hands as often as possible (don’t use soap all the time or else your hands will become too dry.) Buy shoes that let your feet breathe, or use talc which will absorb the sweat.

In regards to mental hygiene, try to reduce your stress level, as much as possible. Don’t get to bed too late, so you can have a proper night of sleep and you feel rested in the morning. Don’t rush anything and make sure you can keep some time to yourself.


Steve C.

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