How To Reduce Body Odor
Body odor is something we all concern ourselves with every day, and especially during the warmer months. From daily showers and antiperspirant application, to less obvious ways to keep sweat to a minimum on the hottest days, we have compiled our top tips for staying odor-free all summer long and beyond.
Understanding Sweat and Body Odor
What causes body odor?
Sweat and body odor often go hand in hand. However, the relationship between the two is a bit more complicated than that. Sweat itself is an odorless liquid, and the smell associated with sweat (body odor) happens when sweat encounters bacteria on our skin, which breaks down the sweat and leaves behind a telltale odor.
Does sweat smell?
There are two types of sweat glands on the human body: eccrine and apocrine sweat glands. Eccrine sweat glands are present all over the body and excrete a clear, odorless liquid. This sweat is our body’s way of regulating body temperature. This is the sweat we produce following a gym workout, a run, or after being exposed to hot temperatures. It’s our body’s way to cool down and prevent overheating. This type of sweat (eccrine sweat) is not generally linked to body odor, because when you break it down, this sweat is mostly just saltwater. However, if left to linger on your body or clothing, it could lead to unpleasant odors and a lack of “freshness”.
The sweat associated with body odor, is the sweat that is secreted from the apocrine glands. These glands grow in relation to hair follicles and are most present in the underarm region. This type of sweat (apocrine sweat) is a thick, initially odorless liquid that contains proteins, sugars, ammonia, and fatty acids. When these trace elements come to the surface of the skin, they encounter bacteria, which feed on these elements and break them down, leaving a noticeable smell behind.
Is my body odor “normal”?
We all sweat, and we all have bacteria on our skin, so yes, body odor is normal! However, those who suffer from what can be classified as pungent or very strong body odor may suffer from a condition called bromhidrosis. This condition is particularly common in those who also suffer from hyperhidrosis, also known as excessive sweating. Constantly sweating in amounts exceeding what is needed for body temperature regulation means that bacteria have more sweat to “feed” on, which can lead to odor problems. Additionally, sweat lingering on the body and clothes for long periods of time also created the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and odor to thrive.
What is bromhidrosis?
Bromhidrosis is a medical condition characterized by a really foul-smelling body odor. There are two types of the condition that are named after the two different types of sweat glands affected.
Apocrine bromhidrosis is the most common type of the condition, which almost exclusively affects the underarm area. The ammonia and fatty acids present in apocrine sweat release a musty, pungent odor when broken down by bacteria.
Eccrine bromhidrosis is mostly linked to the ingestion of certain types of strong-smelling foods such as garlic and onions. It can also be the result of taking certain medications or various metabolic conditions.
Apocrine bromhidrosis is the more common type of the condition, that is usually a chronic problem. Meanwhile, eccrine bromhidrosis generally happens on the off occasion, after ingesting an odor-causing agent. For example, this could be someone eating a garlic or onion-heavy meal that makes them smell like the food they ate the following day, or they take a medication that lists body odor as a side effect.
Tips For Keeping Odor Away
We’ve compiled a list of our best tips to staying odor free! From amping up your daily hygiene ritual to employing lesser-known tips and tricks often employed by hyperhidrosis sufferers, these can help you feel fresh and clean on the hottest and most humid of days.
While antiperspirants are designed to minimize sweating in the region it’s applied to, deodorant is key in smelling your best! Most antiperspirants are a 2-in-1 with a deodorant. But even on days when you choose not to wear an antiperspirant, deodorant is still a good idea and can be purchased separately. When applied to the skin, deodorant makes the area inhospitable to bacteria, therefore reducing odor and preventing bacteria from multiplying.
Contrary to popular belief, deodorants do not have to have a perfume or fragrance. It is the chemical compounds in deodorant that eliminate odor-producing bacteria, not the fragrance. So scent-free deodorants are an option to those who are sensitive to fragrance or would simply rather not have the scent of their deodorant compete with any other perfumes they may be wearing. However, some prefer scented deodorants, and if you are one of those people, then picking a scent you like can be a confidence boost and help you feel certain that you’re smelling good all day! If you're looking for a deodorant that suits you, click here for a list of deodorant recommendations to help you smell fresh all day long!
Look for Antibacterial Properties in Clothing
Look for specially formulated clothing that has moisture-wicking or antibacterial properties. This is especially relevant for undergarments and socks and can prevent sweat and odor from reaching your nice clothing and shoes. Look for breathable fabrics that allow sweat to evaporate and your skin to breathe, including cotton, bamboo, and merino wool. Additionally, look for copper or silver-infused socks and clothing, which have antibacterial properties and can help combat odor. Stay away from synthetic fibers, such as polyester, which trap sweat in and create optimal conditions for bacteria to thrive.
Wash Your Clothes Properly
Wash right after wearing, don’t let it linger in your bag or laundry hamper. By washing your clothes as soon as possible after wearing them, particularly when you’ve been extra sweaty, will help prevent odors from lingering on your clothing. These lingering odors could lead to a permanently bad odor emanating from your body.
Some additional tips in regards to laundering your clothing are to use cold water (heat can set in stains), the recommended amount of detergent (not too little as it could be ineffective, and not too much as that can leave residue in your washing machine). In terms of drying your clothes, air drying or using a dryer at a lower temperature is ideal, as heat can set in stains. It’s also best to avoid fabric softeners, as while these may temporarily make your clothes smell nice, they can leave a residue/barrier on your clothing that traps odor in.
Shower Twice Daily
It may seem excessive, but if you’ve had a particularly sweaty day, it’s best to shower as soon as you get home as to not let sweat, bacteria, and odor linger on your skin too long. A shower in the morning before going about your day is key in feeling your best, fresh self all day long! At the same time, take the opportunity to throw your clothing in the wash as you hop in the shower.
Apply antiperspirant after your shower, right after you have dried off. Antiperspirant is most effective when applied the night before, and will not wash off if you have a shower in the morning.
Change of Clothes
If you can’t take a shower or you know you’ll get sweaty or smelly before a major event (e.g. a work presentation) then bring a change of clothes. Sometimes the situation you are in doesn’t permit you to take a shower, like if you are going from work to a night out with coworkers right after, then bring a change of clothes.
Some hyperhidrosis sufferers swear by buying multiple pairs of the same item in order to swap them out discreetly throughout the day!
Hair, which is porous, can trap odors and let it linger, especially in hair-dense areas like the underarms. Staying freshly shaven can help you feel clean and prevent hair from trapping unwanted odors. It also helps cut down the amount of bacteria and makes it easier to clean and apply antiperspirants and deodorants, which makes them more effective.
Stay Away from Odor-Causing Foods
Odor depends on the types of bacteria found on the skin, as well as the different types of food you are eating. Garlic and onions are known odor-causing foods, and probably the first that come to mind. Some other known offenders are cruciferous vegetables, and other sulfur-rich foods that contain compounds your body can’t break down, and release an odor when evaporated from your body. It’s best to stay away from these as ingesting these foods could lead to a really unpleasant body odor. If you’ve noticed a change in the way you smell, it’s best to assess if you’ve had any dietary changes that can explain it. Certain foods can cause an odor when it comes into contact with the unique bacteria on your body.
Stay Moisturized and Hydrated
Water really is your best friend, in more ways than one. First off, maintaining proper hydration helps regulate body temperature, which will help you sweat less, and therefore smell less. Swapping out sweat triggers like caffeine and alcohol, which can dehydrate you and is known to cause odor, for water is a quick and easy way to stay hydrated.
It’s important to keep your skin hydrated and moisturized, as deodorant, perfumes, and makeup will stick better to well-moisturized skin. This will ensure you get the most out of the products you are applying to your skin, and your perfume and beauty products will adhere to your skin better.
Sometimes you need a little ‘pick-me-up’ during the day, to ensure you are staying fresh and feeling your best. We recommend carrying a body spray, and deodorant (wipes or roll-on) to reapply and keep some dryer sheets in your bag to keep your stuff smelling clean. Carry refreshing spray, wipes or leave some dryer sheets in your gym bag.
Soak Up Sweat
Carrying a towel or reusable cotton pads can help soak up sweat and prevent sweat stains, discomfort, and odor. We recommend reusable eco-friendly cotton pads for facial sweating, as these usually come in a pack of multiples, and can quickly and easily be washed and reused! We recommend microfiber cloths or towels for sweat on larger areas of the body, as these are super absorbent and fast-drying, so they won’t remain damp in your bag through the day. As these are reusable and durable, they are the best choice for the environment, and for you as you do not need to keep re-purchasing more of the same.
Odor can be a sweat problem, such as hyperhidrosis or bromhidrosis (or both, in some cases). Hyperhidrosis In many cases, treating hyperhidrosis to the point where sweat has diminished to a tolerable or “normal” level, can effectively treat bromhidrosis as excessive perspiration is generally what makes bromhidrosis worse.
Body odor can also be the result of an underlying condition, such as diabetes, or a side-effect of a medication you are taking. If this is the case, bring up your worries with your healthcare provider to assess the situation, and find the potential root cause for your body odor.
Get Your Sweating Under Control
The 2 biggest culprits for body odor on the human body are the underarms and feet. Fortunately, they are two of the zones that are most easily treatable and have many specially formulated products. For underarms, deodorants, powders, creams, antiperspirants, and protective clothing shields are available. You can mix and match to find what works for you, but be sure to follow application guidelines to ensure you are using the product properly.
Similarly, there are countless specially formulated deodorants for feet, the most popular being odor-controlling foot powders. Applying these properly to dry feet right after getting out of the shower can help extend your post-shower freshness and keep sweat and odor under control.
Another more long-lasting solution is iontophoresis treatment, which can treat excessive sweating of the hands, feet, and underarms. This treatment is done with tap water and can effectively replace traditional antiperspirants, creams, and powders! To learn more about iontophoresis treatment click here!