Let’s get one thing straight: Sweat doesn’t cause those gross yellow stains on your nice white shirt. The culprit behind those jaundiced splotches is aluminum, the active ingredient in most antiperspirants — and some deodorants — that chemically reacts with the protein in sweat to cause underarm yellowing. (It’s this same process, weirdly enough, that causes underarm whitening on dark clothing.) Since cotton is also a form of protein, this only adds fuel to the fire, which is why pit stains appear on undershirts and dress shirts after just a few sweats.
Now, there are a few methods to mitigate this yellowing effect, such as wearing breathable clothing, or switching over to aluminum-free antiperspirant alternatives (which are arguably less effective). But the truth is, you’re probably better off hiding pit stains than trying to stop them happening — after all, a small stain is still a better result than getting a reputation as the office B.O. Beast.
To that end, we asked L.A.-based stylist Rayne Parvis to advise us on which color shirts best cover up underarm staining. As you’d expect, whether it’s to hide yellow stains or just a bit of sweat-darkened dampness around the pits, Pavis recommends bold patterns and dark colors.
“The best colors to wear on a hot, sweaty day are patterns [like plaid] that camouflage sweat stains,” she explains. “If you want to remain cool and avoid sweating altogether, the best colors to wear are dark colors, like black and navy.” This might sound counterintuitive, but as she explains, dark colors absorb heat and energy from the body instead of reflecting it back, as light-colored clothing does. Of course, black and navy will eventually succumb to that lightening around the pits, but you’re playing the long game here, and dark colors are best at disguising daily dampness and immediate yellowing.
Parvis also emphasizes the importance of wearing lightweight natural fabrics, like cotton. “Avoid anything made out of synthetic materials [polyester and spandex],” she suggests. “Wearing synthetic materials is sort of like wearing a plastic bag.” Which, as you can imagine, will become an uncomfortably sticky mess on a blazing hot day — and the more you sweat, the more you stain.
Another option is to wear an undershirt that you’re okay with taking the brunt of the damage. “This will help capture all the sweat before it hits your overshirt,” Parvis explains. “Which reduces embarrassing pit stains and saves you money you might have spent replacing expensive dress shirts.”
Lastly, don’t get to thinking you can swerve pit stains altogether with perspiration pads: “I’ve found most to be unsuccessful at eliminating staining,” Parvis warns. “Plus, they move around, and they’re uncomfortable.”
So for your armpits’ sake, just stick to wearing black and navy when the heat’s on.