Why Do I Have Body Odor?

Sweat itself doesn't have a smell. Body odor is actually the fault of the bacteria that live in sweaty areas of your body.

Bacteria thrive in moist environments, like your armpits. When you sweat, the bacteria break down certain proteins in the sweat into acids. So, it's not the bacteria that stink. It's the by-product of the bacteria breaking down the sweat.1



Tips for Reducing Body Odor

Body odor can be embarrassing, but luckily, in the majority of cases, it doesn't signal a serious problem. There are things you can do to banish B.O., or at least tone it down a notch.4

Shower at least once daily. Use soap or shower gel and lather up thoroughly, especially in areas prone to B.O. In especially hot, humid areas, a twice-daily shower may be in order, but using a washcloth to wash jut your armpits, groin and skin folds is effective as well. It goes without saying—shower ASAP after working out or sweating.

Use an anti-bacterial soap. If regular showers aren't doing the trick, use an anti-bacterial soap or body wash like Dial, or a benzoyl peroxide cleanser. These washes can help reduce the number of bacteria on your skin so there is less to turn sweat into stink.

Get the right underarm product. Did you know there are differences? Deodorants make your underarms a less hospitable home for bacteria. They also help mask B.O. with fragrance. Antiperspirants, on the other hand, block the sweat glands to reduce perspiration. If you don't sweat much but get body odor, deodorants are the way to go. If you're a sweater, make sure you get a product that is labeled both an antiperspirant and deodorant. If you get major B.O., look for a stronger product with higher percentages of active ingredients. If over-the-counter products aren't keeping you fresh, talk with your doctor about getting a prescription antiperspirant/deodorant.

Wear breathable fabrics. Natural fabrics, like cotton, are better than polyesters, nylon, and rayon at keeping B.O. at bay. Natural fibers breathe, allowing the sweat to evaporate away. Avoid fabrics that trap sweat against the skin. These allow for a better breeding ground for body odor to develop. When working out, opt for moisture-wicking fabrics.5

Eliminate or reduce spicy or pungent foods from your diet. Strong smelling foods like curry, garlic, spicy peppers, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and onions can cause a more pungent sweat. Even alcohol can have an effect on the smell of your sweat. If you eat these types of foods regularly, try reducing them or eliminating them altogether and see if that doesn't help sweeten your sweat.

Shave or wax. Apocrine glands are concentrated in areas covered by hair, namely the armpits and the pubic area. The hair holds sweat and makes a good environment where bacteria can thrive. Removing hair can go a long way in controlling body odor. Yes, guys, that means you may want to consider shaving your underarms. If you prefer not to go completely bare in any area, trimming the hair up short can also help reduce B.O.

Medical Treatments for Body Odor

If you've done everything to help reduce body odor and aren't noticing an improvement, give your doctor a call. You may have something different going on that needs addressing (a fungal infection, for example). Or, you just may need a stronger treatment to get body odor under control. Some options:4

  • Prescription antiperspirants/deodorants are stronger than what you can get over the counter and are typically the first treatment step for body odor.
  • Antibiotics, topical and oral, can help reduce bacteria on the skin.
  • Botox reduces your eccrine glands' ability to produce sweat. This is not a permanent fix, though, and treatment needs to be repeated every few months.
  • Laser treatment reduces hair follicles, but may not help with B.O.
  • Surgery to remove sweat glands is done in extreme cases.

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