When people ask me if I ever have Botox and I say, ‘ Yes, but mostly in my armpits,’ they look understandably confused. There aren’t many wrinkles in the armpits, after all — but these days Botox is about more than relaxing wrinkles.
Injections of the toxin around the hairline can prevent migraines; in the jaw, they can reduce tooth-grinding and in the armpits, Botox is used to prevent sweating. It’s an FDA-approved procedure for treating a condition called hyperhidrosis — aka excessive sweating — and it is also a tactic deployed by celebs who don’t want to ruin their borrowed ballgowns by sweating into them at awards ceremonies. Doctors have been treating armpits with Botox for years but recently it has become better known and talked about – the August edition of (UK) Tatler even has a whole feature on treatments that prevent sweating, so now it’s fashionable, too.
Botox works by inhibiting the ability of nerve cells to pass on signals; in the armpits, what it blocks are the signals that prompt the sweat glands to get going.
It wasn’t something I had serious considered trying until I was commissioned to write an article about the increasing trend for young City traders — yes, men — to have the procedure in order to help them look calm in their high-pressure working environment. A few shots of toxin under the arms means with no giveaway ‘armpit pizzas’ sweat patches soaking through their shirts when the pressure is on and the adrenaline levels are high. It costs £300 a go, but that’s small change for them.
I don’t suffer from hyperhidrosis but, curious as to what the experience was like, I offered my armpits up to Dr Mica Engel, a cosmetic doctor based at the Waterhouse Young clinic in Marylebone (she treated me without charge, by way of research). Dr Mica has lots of youngish City achievers on her client list and this particular section of her clientele loves the fact that for the armpits, Botox is a medically approved treatment. That means they happily brag about it, which spreads the word and encourages their colleagues to book in. Once they’re in the clinic, Dr Mika says, they often ask for Botox on their faces, too (no one wants to look old and tired particularly in such an ambitious and youthful field of work) though they keep pretty quiet about that part of their treatment.
The lads may like to boast about their armpit Botox once it’s done, but they’re wimps when it comes to needles and require anaesthetic cream beforehand. I take the view that sitting around waiting for the cream to do its work is a waste of half an hour, so I skip that part. Really, it’s a series of tiny pinprick injections – about 50 in each armpit – and while it’s not exactly comfortable, it only ranks about 3 out of 10 on the pain scale; way less than a bikini wax.
My armpits don’t look too pretty afterwards – each injection raises a small pink swelling – but they don’t hurt and within three or four days, the swellings have gone and the effects start to kick in. Not that there’s an ‘effect’; just an absence of sweating and the smelliness that goes with it, which is brilliant (and no, it’s not dangerous for the body) and lasts for around eight months. I can see why those City boys get hooked on it.