Chromhidrosis (Colored Sweat)

One of the things we’ve learned over the years is that no two people sweat exactly the same.

Chromhidrosis is a disorder of the sweat glands that manifests with colored sweat on the face, in the underarms, or on the areola of the breasts (the darker circle of skin around the nipples). Sweat may be yellow, green, blue, brown, or black. These colors are due to a pigment produced in the sweat glands called lipofuscin. Lipofuscin is common in human cells but, for some reason, people with chromhidrosis have higher concentrations of lipofuscin or lipofuscin that is in a higher-than-normal state of oxidation.

Chromhidrosis is quite rare with limited information about the percentage of people potentially affected. There appears to be no link between chromhidrosis and gender, geographic location, the season, or the weather. The condition does, however, seem to be more common in those of African descent. Some people with chromhidrosis may report a feeling of warmth or a prickly sensation before the onset of colored sweat. Others may have such mild sweat discoloration that they do not even notice it.

A more common type of discolored sweat is called pseudochromhidrosis. With pseudochromhidrosis, sweat takes on an unusual color after secretion from the sweat gland as it comes in contact with dyes, chemicals, or chromogenic bacteria on the skin (bacteria that produce pigments.)

Other possible reasons for the appearance of colored sweat include infection, blood in the sweat (hematohidrosis), excess bilirubin (an orange-yellow pigment formed in the liver), and/or poisoning. If you experience sweating in an unusual hue, talk to your healthcare provider. He or she will likely want to take the necessary steps to rule out potentially more serious medical conditions before making a diagnosis of chromhidrosis.

According to the medical journal Pediatrics, chromhidrosis can be treated with topical capsaicin cream 0.025% (applied to the affected skin 1-2 times per day). Others have noted that Botox injections can treat chromhidrosis. Either way, because the condition is chronic, treatment will need to be maintained for continuous results. (As always, talk to your healthcare provider about your individual situation to receive an accurate diagnosis before beginning any new treatment.)

The goal of treatment for chromhidrosis is to reduce symptoms in order to also reduce any related psychosocial impacts or stigma. Such psychological effects are likely very familiar to our hyperhidrosis readers and we welcome chromhidrosis sufferers to our community. We encourage you to subscribe to our email alerts and blog to stay on top of sweat-related news, research, and events.

For more informatin on chromhidrosis, visit this article from Dermatology Times (2023). 

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