The Best And Worst Fabrics For Sweat-Proof Clothing

Thanks but no thanks, unwanted pit stains.

by Katie Patton
Originally Published: 
Linen is a breathable fabric that helps minimize sweating.
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Sweaty people of the world, it is once again time to unite on the quest for best breathable fabrics for sweating. For people with overactive sweat glands, embarrassing amounts of salt water exiting through your pores at all times is a constant battle. So finding the right fabric makes a world of difference in preventing those annoying, ever-present pit stains. Excessive perspiration and awkwardly positioned sweat marks can be combated by focusing on curating a wardrobe of breathable fabrics and leaving any and all sweat-inducing materials behind.

Sure, everybody sweats, but not everybody has to like it. An event as simple as a summertime BBQ can quickly make the turn into perspiration station, and it doesn’t seem like many people are stoked about having to deal with visible under-boob sweat. But it’s not even like the hotter months are the only times when sweating becomes a problem. It can be the dead of winter, and the sweating will persist.

Yet, it is actually possible to raise an arm in public without fear, even as a sweaty person. You have to choose your wardrobe wisely, and it all starts with a little material education. Below, everything you need to know about choosing a breathable fabric to minimize sweating.

Cotton Versus Polyester Breathability

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As all sweaty folks know, “glowing” doesn’t always feel so glam, especially when you are sweating in a garment that has no breathability. To avoid trapping your perspiration and intensifying the issue, opt for clothing that is made of a lightweight cotton fabric, whether it's a dress or top. “Cotton is one of the most breathable fabrics because its natural fiber structure is loose compared to synthetic fibers like polyester,” Joanna Angeles, head stylist at Tobi, tells Bustle.

DO: Wear cotton whenever possible. A good quality, lightweight cotton is one of the most breathable fabrics around, so it will allow a little airflow for drying out the dampness. “Some cotton pros include its softness, absorbency, and hypoallergenic nature, which makes it more comfortable in sweaty situations,” Angeles says. Since cotton is a natural fiber, it absorbs moisture rather than repelling it. Just try to steer clear of bold colors if you don't want the underarms of your bright pink shirt absorbing your pit sweat for all the world to see.

DON’T: Choose clothes with a polyester base fabric. Polyester is not that breathable, so if you sweat, you might want to avoid this fabric. “Polyester ... is heavier and more dense compared to cotton,” Angeles says. “It is also hydrophobic, which is what causes it to trap moisture ... and it also clings to sweaty skin.” Lots of sweat with nowhere to go could cause irritation and overall discomfort.

Linen Versus Rayon Breathability

If you want to avoid sweating, be sure to (once again) focus on natural fibers instead of synthetic ones, even those that are commonly believed to keep you cool.

DO: Choose clothes in a lightweight linen. Like cotton, linen is created from natural fibers, so it is super absorbent with a fast drying time. “Linen fabric is made from flaxseed, making it a plant-based natural fabric like cotton,” says Angeles. “Also, it tends to be relaxed, so it won't cling to your body. It has similar qualities such as high absorbency, breathability, and comfortability, and is known for its thermoregulation. It's the ideal fabric to keep you cool in warmer months but will also keep you warm in colder temperatures.” Linen does often get a bad reputation for its tendency to easily wrinkle, so if this is a concern, choose a linen blend for both excellent absorption and anti-wrinkle capability.

DO: Wear Rayon for working out. Rayon is breathable and absorbent. “This makes it ideal for activewear because it doesn’t retain heat and keeps you dry,” says Angeles. “Rayon is a semi-synthetic fabric that can mimic the look of linen and has similar characteristics. However, linen is still the better option when considering perspiration.” Rayon also does have a tendency to shrink when wet, so it requires higher maintenance than other options like linen.

Chambray Versus Denim Breathability

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According to Angeles, both chambray and denim are made from cotton, but the key difference is how they’re woven.

DO: Opt for chambray over denim when it’s hot out. “Chambray is a plain-weave fabric that is softer in texture and lighter in weight, though more absorbent than denim,” Angeles says. Chambray is having a bit of a moment, so it is fairly easy to find shorts, shirts, rompers, and jumpers made out of this denim alternative. A lightweight chambray is flowy and breathable, and it won't be too constricting if you run sweaty. And if you choose a darker shade with a natural finish, it will expertly absorb a majority of your sweat without leaving a visible mark.

DON'T: Wear denim in heat or heavy-sweat situations. “Denim is a twill-weave fabric that makes it heavier and thicker,” says Angeles. And while it’s breathable and absorbent thanks to the cotton, it dries very slowly. “This makes it impractical for sweat,” says Angeles.

Moisture-Wicking Fabrics Versus Cotton-Spandex Blends

Sure, it would be totally amazing if you could just decide that you aren’t going to sweat, but since that isn't possible, consider choosing moisture-wicking fabrics.

DO: Choose stretch fabrics with moisture-wicking properties like polyester blends and nylon blends. Yes, it is true, many of these fabrics include polyester, but fabrics that have magical moisture-wicking powers are woven in a way that allows them to be more permeable — AKA they make your sweat disappear. It's a beautiful thing. “When these synthetic fibers [like polyester and nylon] are mixed with a natural fiber content such as cotton, it adds the elements of breathability and absorbency,” Angeles says. When shopping for clothing that is stretchy and tight-fitting — mainly workout wear, leggings, tops, and t-shirts — make sure you are taking home a polyester blend that boasts moisture-wicking weaves.

DON'T: Choose cotton-spandex in the warm months. “The cotton-spandex blend tends to be warmer, which could be a better option for colder months,” Angeles says. If you choose a cotton-spandex legging when it’s hot out, you might end up sitting in your own sweat. The blend is often a heavier weight cotton, and when combined with lycra, spandex, and your sweat, it basically suffocates your skin.

But during winter or fall, this blend is a great option for fighting sweat. “Spandex blends are comfortable fabrics due to [their] softness, smoothness, and light weight,” says Angeles. “[This fabric] is resilient against perspiration, making it moisture-wicking as well. Cotton adds the breathability and comfort factor when combined with spandex.”

Now you’re ready to take on your perspiration like a champ with all of the most breathable fabric options in your arsenal. No sweat stains in sight.

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