Three glands are responsible for body odor. The secretions of the apocrine glands (located the underarms, genitals, and around the nipples) and the eccrine glands (found mainly in underarms, hands, and feet) produce an odor when they interact with skin bacteria. Oil produced by the sebaceous glands (scalp, face, and chest) has a slight odor with or without bacteria.
What can you do to chase body odor away? You know the basics — bathe regularly, wash pitted out, sweaty clothes, and use underarm protection. But here are some other ideas that can help keep you smelling fresh.
1. Watch what you eat
Certain foods have the potential to make our sweat more pungent. A diet high in the red meat increases body odor as does curry, garlic, and other spicy foods. “We don’t fully digest garlic, curry and onions so they leave the pores with the sweat and create a strong smell,” explains Debra Jaliman, MD, author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist.
2. Shave your underarms
If you have a lot of hair under your arms, it slows the evaporation of sweat so that you have more bacteria. (If your crotch area is a problem, consider grooming down there too.) And take pit stops, meaning, if you exercise a lot or sweat a lot, wash under your arms a few times a day and change clothing.
3. Wear breathable clothing
Natural fibers (linen, silk, cotton, light wool like merino) can breathe and decrease sweating. Also some of the high-tech fibers wick away moisture. Many exercise clothing now offer high-tech fabric that wicks away moisture from the body, so bacteria doesn’t have a chance to get at the sweat. (Clothing tags will identify them.) Dressing in layers also helps soak up the sweat.
4. Use a stronger antiperspirant and deodorant
An antiperspirant blocks the sweating action while deodorants have fragrance to mask the smell. Deodorants also make the skin more acidic, making it less hospitable for bacteria. If a regular product doesn’t work for you, try a stronger over-the-counter antiperspirant such as Secret Clinical Strength, Gillette Clinical, or Certain-Dri.
5. Apply twice
Studies have shown that applying deodorant in the morning on dry skin and at night before bed makes a big difference. Night-time application allows the ingredients to get into the sweat glands and clog them, as opposed to the morning, when sweat glands may already be full.
6. Change shoes often
If foot odor is your problem, give shoes a chance to dry inside by changing them often. Dust them and your feet with foot powder to maintain dryness.
7. If the smell still persists…
- See a physician about underlying disease. The smell can be caused by hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) or trimethylaminuria (a.k.a. fish odor syndrome), a metabolic disorder that prevents the body from breaking down a smelly compound called trimethylamine. “Diabetes, tuberculosis, Parkinson’s disease, and cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma also can cause excessive sweating,” says Dr. Jaliman.
- Ask about a prescription antiperspirant. Talk to your dermatologist about Drysol or Xerac, which have higher aluminum concentrations.
- Consider Botox. Botox injections shrink sweat glands on hands, feet and armpits. The effect lasts on average for about eight months.
- Consider electromagnetic therapy. For people with hyperhidrosis, a new procedure called miraDry, uses controlled, directed electromagnetics to destroy underarm sweat glands. (This cannot be used on other parts of the body.)