But what most Australians wouldn’t know is that despite her seemingly effortless energy on screen, Rowe has had to deal with a medical condition made all the worse by her high-profile career choice.
“I really noticed it when I started news reading,” she admits. “I would get nervous combined with adrenaline, and I would find that I would sweat a lot and it would be terribly embarrassing, because it’s a close-up shot and I’d have these big marks showing through my clothing.”
Rowe was diagnosed with hyperhidrosis (aka excessive sweating), a surprisingly common condition that can vary in severity. She’s not alone: although it’s hard to find concrete stats as many people suffer in silence, hyperhidrosis has been labelled something of a Hollywood secret, with celebrities seeking treatment to avoid sweat patches ruining priceless couture gowns on the red carpet.
But if anyone was going to be prepared to open up about their experience, it’s Rowe. Below, she details what it’s like to have excessive sweating, how she manages it and why it’s time to break the taboo.
How did you cope when hyperhidrosis first became an issue for you?
I was so embarrassed, initially; I would just keep my arms down all the time, which isn’t really practical. At work, I would get the makeup people to get the hairdryer to dry my armpits! It is just one of those situations where it made me feel less confident and distracted when I should have been focusing on the job at hand, instead of thinking, “oh my goodness, can everyone see these giant dark lines under my arms?”.
Most people would avoid the spotlight, but you built an entire career in front of it. How?
I am someone who has always been very determined and I would always find a way – I would look for certain fabrics that weren’t as obvious, using creams that you use overnight to help… I was always looking for different options. It is one of those things where it was embarrassing but it wasn’t debilitating for me, but for other people, it could very well have been.
How do you manage it now?
What’s important for people to do is to obviously try different things, as treatment is an individual thing and it is important to speak to their GP or a dermatologist to work out what treatment is best for them. This isn’t something you should have to live with, there are ways of dealing with it and it makes it far easier. We have enough stresses and anxieties going on in our lives without adding it into the mix.
What’s motivated you to speak publicly about it?
Why not? It’s surprisingly common. I am a big believer in over-sharing, not just for the sake of it, but to share helpful strategies. There is no need to be embarrassed about it. For many women, especially starting out in their careers and stepping up in meetings and conducting presentations, you don’t have to add to that pressure by thinking about what’s happening under your arms. So I’m talking about it because it is common and there is a way of managing it; you don’t have to deal with it on our own. My husband rolls his eyes at me, “do we really have to talk about this?” but I tell him that we do.
Do you think it helps if it’s out in the open?
Of course! For me, in work scenarios, I might be wearing particular clothes that make it so obvious, I can have a joke with the wardrobe or makeup girls so we can laugh about it, and they get a hair dryer to dry my armpits, as opposed to me thinking of trying to hide it from people. Humour, in so many ways, can make things so much easier.
How do you find people react?
We all laugh about it as opposed to a horrified reaction. I think with so many things, if you explain to someone close to you what is going on, that opens the conversation. We are all dealing with different things and we are all vulnerable. I do believe that when we share our vulnerabilities it can actually encourage other people to do the same. None of us are perfect and it is too exhausting to pretend to be anyway. I don’t think it’s something that you need to hide, because you should be putting your energy and focus into something more significant.
If you’d like to learn more about hyperhidrosis, visit excessivesweatinghelp.com.au.