Imagine growing up with a condition that you always felt kept you chained and unable to make progress in areas that you desired. The more you tried to fight it and free yourself from its grasp, the more each chain tightened its pull. Metaphorically, this is perhaps the best way I can describe the hand-sweating I have faced since the age of 10 as an aspiring artist and musician. For years, I have tried a multitude of solutions that always led to the same result: intense hand-sweating that prevented me from fully learning the guitar and piano. On the guitar, notes would often not ring out due to my profusely sweating hands and, on the piano, my fingers would also slip off the keys, veering into the wrong notes. The more I tried to not think about my hand-sweating, the more my hands would sweat. It was as if a part of my genetic code was not ready to present itself as a musician; after all, most in my family had shied away from any artistic endeavors.
Hand-sweating is quite a common phenomenon. Otherwise known as palmar hyperhidrosis, it affects people of all ages and, from my experience, it can also be “learned” over time from others. Hyperhidrosis by itself seems to be an issue for about 4% of people in the United States, with over half of them not even telling their doctors of the condition. It also seems to predictably coincide with feelings of anxiety. Anecdotally speaking, I once took a ballroom dancing class, and when one person complained of hand-sweating, it seemed like suddenly everyone’s hands were sweating! Nature, nurture, or a mix of both, I have been wanting to get rid of it since starting music. I had stopped playing guitar after only a month of trying as a youngster and would come back to it numerous times in my 20s when I finally developed a habit of consistent practice. The culprit responsible for all the starts and stops was always excessive moisture on my fingers, tangible proof that my hands were unsure of themselves, making it markedly difficult to get a good grip on the guitar, and press the frets accurately during chord changes. As a result, any learning occurred at a snail’s pace.
By the age of 30, I had realized this can’t go on any longer. I needed to uncover a solution to the hand-sweating. In fact, it became such an issue that I was convinced I could not perform in front of others. Ironically, I’ve never had stage fright, but I knew that I would not be able to play accurately if this issue persisted. It was at this point I began looking for solutions.
Unfortunately, everything I tried was a massive failure:
(1) Meditation, deep breathing before playing, etc.
(2) Exercise (maybe, sweat it out?)
(3) Prescription creams (aluminum-based antiperspirants for the hands)
(4) Rubbing my hands with isopropyl alcohol
Some people recommended the baby powder gymnasts use, the very same which LeBron James ritually applies and throws into the air before games, but seriously? This would destroy my guitars and piano.
Eventually, I found out about iontophoresis, which, according to WebMD, “involves sending a gentle electrical current through water to shut down your sweat glands temporarily.” It seemed like from reading people’s experiences on Reddit and other online forums that people had generally positive results. Notwithstanding that, iontophoresis machines not only require a prescription, but are also quite expensive (a few hundred dollars at least). Because of this, I decided to make my own iontophoresis machine (there are a few DIY solutions) by using aluminum cookie sheets, electrical wires, and batteries. After about two weeks of trying this, though, it appeared to do nothing for me but make my wrists very dry and irritated. It also didn’t allow me to control and measure how much voltage/amps were going through my hands. Indeed, I was always thinking, “Am I even doing this right?” Needless to say, I summarily discarded my makeshift invention and had concluded that hand-sweating was something I was just going to have to live with.
A few years would pass before I came across other touted solutions for hand-sweating, which included Botox treatment in some form. My research on this topic concluded it was (1) not a viable long-term solution, (2) it would cost hundreds of dollars for each treatment, (3) treatments only lasted a few months, and (4) it was extremely painful as it required MANY injections over every area of your hands.
That leads us to today (congratulations if you got this far or found the perfect place to scroll down to)! I was browsing Facebook and found an advertisement for Dermadry, an iontophoresis machine for various types of hyperhidrosis, including the hands, armpits, and feet. I contacted Dermadry, shared them my story, and have been fortunate enough to receive a unit for this review.
Setting up Dermadry for the hands was quite easy. The plastic case that it comes with is almost briefcase-like. You open it up on your desk or tabletop, place the metal plates on each side, connect each plate to the unit, fill up each side with tap water, turn on the unit, set it to “Hands,” adjust the current strength to your liking, and place your hands inside to start. When using the Dermadry for hands, the electrical current strength can be set from 1 milliamp (mA) to 15 milliamps (mAs). The voltage will adjust automatically up to 48V. Treatment duration can’t be changed, so each time you start, it will only be for 20 minutes (instruction manual advises no more than this per day). However, during a session — after every 5 minutes — the unit will change the polarity of the electricity, and you may feel a slight contraction in the tendons of your wrists.
Seeing as my hand-sweating was at the level of very wet (thankfully never dripping onto the floor, but very close!), I decided to start my first day at 7 mA. On day two, I went up to 12 mA, and eventually got to 15 mA daily. I did it for about 4-5 days a week, with 2-3 days of rest, for about 3 weeks until I started seeing impressive results. Contrary to ionotopheresis being championed as “painless,” once you’re at 15 mA, it can get quite uncomfortable. Often, I would put on a Netflix movie or something to distract myself from the discomfort in my hands and wrists. In fact, afterwards, my wrists would become super itchy (this appears to be common for some according to online testimonials). Now, it is quite possible you can set it to a lower amperage, but anecdotal reports I’ve read indicate it will take a lot longer to see results if your hands sweat more than normal. In addition, the discomfort increases towards the end as the unit keeps switching the polarity. The best way I can describe it is that it kind of feels like your hands are on a hot pan and you want to desperately take them off, but can’t unless you want to cease treatment for the day. The beauty is, it’s not really a hot pan, so once the 20 minutes are up, the discomfort is gone and you can resume your day.
What about those impressive results?
Before I answer this question, please note you must be very patient with Dermadry or any iontophoresis machine. I repeat, be patient. If your hand-sweating is pretty severe, then you will likely have to set the electrical current to a higher level than others may have to. Being able to sit through the discomfort may be unbearable for some, but all I can suggest is to think about how much better your life will improve once you’ve gone through it. Remember, it’s only 20 minutes each session (per day), and if you’re able to do it for at least 4-5 days a week, you will eventually see results. Pull out the pop socket on the back of your phone, balance it on a hard surface, press play on an engaging YouTube video, and start the 20-minute session. Side note: It also was abundantly clear for me that the results were likely not placebo because results slowly, but surely, became apparent over time. The keys are grit and, as previously mentioned, patience.
Suffice it to say, using Dermadry has been a game changer! I already feel like I’ve excelled in areas of performing music that I never thought possible. My confidence has increased like never before and I am more determined than ever to hone my craft by adding more to my repertoire. It has truly felt like I’ve finally been able to break the chains of hand-sweating that for so long hampered my ability to reach the heights of musicianship I always envisioned. Now, I can resolutely follow through on the hopes I have for myself. The irony of all of this is that iontophoresis machines have been around for decades and perhaps what made this all possible is the smart advertising Dermadry has been doing all over social media. As someone who studies business, I honestly believe their approach has been brilliant, and is well-suited for marketing a product that resonates with so many people who are burdened by sweaty hands.
Anything you wish the Dermadry unit had?
The only areas of improvement I would recommend for future Dermadry products is to create an area where you can rest your wrists comfortably. Unfortunately, you do have to keep your wrists elevated during treatment. Additionally, the metal plates that come with the unit appear to discolor rather quickly but, on the bright side, this didn’t appear to affect treatment in any way. Beyond that, the unit has been working spectacularly. And although it takes a few weeks to see results, once you do, a whole new world truly does open up. Maintenance sessions and periodic cleaning of the unit will be necessary, but the good news is that you won’t have to pay for future treatments like Botox.
How much is Dermadry and how do I buy it?
In the United States, Dermadry is FDA-approved and is currently available for $399 (this is for the total package, which treats hands, armpits, and feet). They have slightly cheaper versions for just hands and feet or underarms/armpits. Although it requires a doctor’s prescription, Dermadry has conveniently partnered with a third-party provider to offer relatively quick prescriptions for those who endorse symptoms of hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating).
Photos of Dermadry unit are courtesy of Dermadry