10 ways to prevent body odour
Body odour is an umbrella term for natural smells originating from a person. The human body can produce a range of substances that carry a smell known as odorants. Many of these are important for regular bodily function and, in small quantities, do not lead to unpleasant odours. However, an excessive accumulation of the compounds on the skin can cause noticeable smells.
Body odour usually becomes more evident during puberty, as hormones and sweat glands become more active at this time. Obese people and individuals with certain medical conditions such as diabetes are also more prone to body odour.
The rapid multiplication of bacteria and their breaking down of sweat into acids can cause unpleasant smells. As a result, people who sweat a lot—such as those with hyperhidrosis—may be more at risk of body odour.
Body odour is most likely to occur in the following places: the feet, the groin, the armpits, the genitals, pubic and other hair, the belly button, the anus, as well as behind the ears. A person’s diet, sex, health conditions, and medications can create a unique body odour.
Although there is no universal treatment for the causes of body odour, taking the following 10 steps may help to control body odour.
Many times, the sweat from one’s skin is not the cause of body odour, rather it is the reaction between one’s sweat and the bacteria on one’s body that cause odour. Keeping oneself clean by showering at least once a day will help wash away sweat and get rid of some of the bacteria on one’s skin.
According to a dermatologist, Stephanie Gardner, sweat by itself is odourless. Gardner noted that when the bacteria that live on one’s skin mix with sweat, they multiply quickly and raise quite a stink. She said, “Washing thoroughly, especially the areas where you tend to sweat, can help prevent body odour.”
Use a deodorant/antiperspirant
The human body passes out waste through the skin pores like sweat. Since we live in the tropical part of the world, one will produce more sweat, especially in the warmed parts of one’s body, like the underarms and pubic region. This sweat when acted upon by bacteria causes the stench which is known as body odour.
Getting the right deodorant can help curb body odour. While it may take a few tries to find a deodorant that works well with one’s body chemistry and daily demands, it is necessary to find one. Deodorants are often alcohol-based and have the antibacterial power to temporarily kill bacteria before they cause body odour.
A healthcare practitioner, Debra Wilson, said, “Deodorants are formulated to eliminate armpit odour. When applied, they turn your skin acidic, which makes it less attractive to bacteria. Also, they usually contain perfumes to mask odours.”
Ditch fabric softeners
Most people, while doing their laundry, include fabric softeners. A fabric softener is a liquid used when washing clothes to soften the fabric and reduce wrinkles. However, since fabric softeners sit on the surface of the clothing fibres and prevent airflow and evaporation, they can cause body odour.
Wilson said, “Useful as fabric softeners are, they have this side effect if not managed properly. They can prevent you from getting the air you need to keep odour-causing bacteria at bay. It also makes it difficult for the detergent to get into the fibres and remove the sweat, bacteria, and body odours. Softeners can be irritating to the skin as well.”
Change clothes often
It is often tempting to wear the same clothes over and again after a day out or even after exercising. This is not advisable as odour-causing bacteria thrive in such conditions. It is best to take off sweaty workout clothes as soon as you are done exercising and also change your clothes after a long day at work.
Gardner said, “Change your clothes often when you are sweating heavily. Fresh clothes help keep body odour down. Be sure to change your socks as well, especially if you tend to have foot odour. Use deodorant powders in your shoes, replace insoles often, and go barefoot when possible.”
Watch your diet
What you eat directly affects your body odour. Foods that contain sulfur, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, can affect the way you smell. Onions, garlic, curries and other intense spices are frequent odour-causing food ingredients as well.
Wilson said, “Pay attention to what you eat. Skip, or cut back on the foods that might cause odours. Foods that tend to make you sweat more, such as hot peppers or other spicy foods, might also lead to body odour. The aroma of foods like onions or garlic can be carried in your sweat, causing odour-bacteria to thrive.”
Quit alcohol, smoking
Alcohol and smoking not only result in bad mouth odour but also body odour as it builds up toxins in the body. When you smoke, the smell tends to adhere to your clothes and body for a long time.
Substance abuse expert, John Mayer, noted that the body treats alcohol like a toxin but the liver can only metabolise about 12 ounces of beer an hour. He said, “The body gets rid of the rest through a process called oxidation, which breaks the toxins down into smaller parts called diacetic acid, carbon dioxide, and water that the body can metabolise and excrete through urine, breath, and sweat.
“But sweat may be more noticeable because drinking causes the blood vessels near the skin to enlarge, which causes people to feel hot and as a result, trigger the body to sweat and in many cases cause body odour.
Wear light clothes
Another golden rule and especially for hot climates is to wear natural fibres such as cotton and jute. Avoid synthetic clothes that do not allow the skin to breathe and avoid tight-fitting clothes. Wear loose airy clothes that allow air circulation, thereby keeping you cool.
Gardner said, “Though sweating is good for health as it releases the toxins through your skin, at the same time, it leaves you with awkward sweat patches which can be embarrassing, sometimes. To avoid such scenarios, choose light clothes made of natural fabrics to help your skin breathe. A garment that traps your perspiration is what makes you sweat more, further leading to discomfort and irritation. Choose fabrics like cotton, lightweight linen and light wool. They have moisture-absorbing properties and let the airflow through, keeping you from sweating as well as developing body odour.”
Use antibacterial soap
Bathing thoroughly with an antibacterial soap bar will help get rid of some odour-causing bacteria. Antibacterial soaps can target the bacteria on the body to lessen the foul smell they produce.
Wilson said, “You can consult a dermatologist to select an antibacterial soap agreeable for your skin type, so you do not have any kind of skin allergy or infection post using the antibacterial soap.”
Dry yourself well
Once you’ve showered, dry yourself completely, paying close attention to any areas where you sweat a lot. If your skin is dry, it’s harder for bacteria that cause body odour to breed on it.
Shave your underarms
Shaving your underarms won’t make you sweat any less, but it may help you to avoid bad smelling pits. Hair is porous and hence it absorbs odour that is caused by sweating. Excessive hair creates a swampy area which may result in bacterial growth, which is likely to make you smell bad. Also, too much hair traps moisture and slow down the evaporation process.
Gardner said, “To avoid all the fuss, simply grab your razor and shave it off. It will make you feel fresh and reduce the bacteria, thus lessening the smell. For further care, wash your underarms after any physical activity and change your clothes.”