The smell is perceived as unpleasant, many believe, because most of us have been brought up to dislike it. Body odor is most likely to occur in our feet, groin, armpits, genitals, pubic hair and other hair, belly button, anus, behind the ears, and to some (lesser) extent on the rest of our skin.
Body odor can have a nice and specific smell to the individual, and can be used - especially by dogs and other animals - to identify people. Each person's unique body odor can be influenced by diet, gender, health, and medication.
When to see your doctor
Some medical conditions may change how much a person sweats, while others can alter how we sweat, subsequently changing the way we smell. For example, hyperthyroidism (an over-active thyroid gland) or the menopause can make people sweat much more, while liver disease, kidney disease, or diabetes can change the consistency of sweat so that the person smells differently. You should see your doctor if:
- You start sweating at night
- You start sweating much more than you normally do, without any logical reason
- You have cold sweats
- Sweating disrupts your daily routine
- You body smells differently - if it is a fruity smell it could be due to diabetes, liver or kidney disease often makes the individual have a bleach-like smell
- Armpits - a large concentration of apocrine glands exist in the armpits, making that area susceptible to rapid development of body odor.
- Keep the armpits clean - wash them regularly using anti-bacterial soap, and the number of bacteria will be kept low, resulting in less body odor.
- Hair under the armpits slows down the evaporation of sweat, giving the bacteria more time to break it down into smelly substances; shaving the armpits regularly has been found to help body odor control in that area.
- Deodorant or antiperspirant - deodorants make the skin more acidic, making the environment more difficult for bacteria to thrive. An antiperspirant blocks the sweating action of the glands, resulting in less sweating.
- Botulinum toxin
- this is a toxin produced by Clostridium botulinum; it is the
most poisonous biological substance known. However, very small and
controlled doses are today being used in various fields of medicine. A relatively
new treatment is available for individuals who sweat excessibely under
The patient is given approximately 12 injections of botulinum toxin in the armpits - a procedure that should not last more than 45 minutes. The toxin blocks the signals from the brain to the sweat glands, resulting in less sweating in the targeted area. One treatment can last from two to eight months. In countries where free universal healthcare is available, such as the NHS (National Health Service), UK, botulinum toxin therapy for excessive underarm sweating is not usually available and most patients will have to do it privately (pay for this specific treatment).
- Wash daily with warm water - have a shower or bath at least once a day. Remember that warm water helps kill off bacteria that are present on your skin. If the weather is exceptionally hot, consider bathing more often than once a day.
- Clothing - natural fibers allow your skin to breathe, resulting in better evaporation of sweat. Natural-made fibers include wool, silk or cotton.
- Spicy foods - curry, garlic and some other spicy (piquant) foods have the potential to make some people's sweat more pungent. Some experts believe a diet high in red meat may also raise the risk of developing more rapid body odor.
- Aluminum chloride - this substance is usually the main active ingredient in antiperspirants. If your body does not respond to the home remedies mentioned above, talk to a pharmacist or your doctor about a suitable product containing aluminum chloride. Follow the instructions given to you carefully.
- Treatment for smelly feet (bromodosis) - smelly feet are less of a problem socially than underarm B.O. because the unpleasant odor is usually contained by shoes and socks. However, the smell may become obvious if the person with smelly feet visits a home where shoes are taken off before entering, as is the custom in various countries and homes. The following steps may help control food odor:
- Wash your feet in warm water regularly - this means at least once a day. Remember that warm water is better at killing off bacteria than cold water. Tea-tree oil, when added to water, helps kill off bacteria (do not apply tea-tree oil directly to skin). Make sure you dry your feet thoroughly afterwards, including in between your toes.
- Socks - they must allow the sweat to evaporate. The best socks are those made of a combination of man-made fibers and wool. Wear a clean pair of socks each day.
- Shoes - if you wear trainers or shoes with plastic linings make sure it is not for long. A leather lining is better for sweat evaporation. If you have a problem with sweaty feet, do not wear the same pair of shoes two days in a row - shoes do not completely dry overnight.
- Pumice stone - bacteria thrive on dead skin. If the soles of your feet have patches of dead skin remove them with a pumice stone.
- Deodorants and antiperspirants - ask your pharmacist for special foot deodorants and antiperspirants. If you have athlete's foot you should not use deodorants or antiperspirants - treat the fungal infection first with appropriate medication.
- Go around barefoot - whenever you can walk around barefoot, or at least slip out of your shoes regularly.