To my own frustration, I have discovered that I can suffer from body odor in certain situations. I have become better at recognising the situations when there is a risk, and get rid of body odor. Painfully I have to admit that I have only picked up on this after a few embarrassing situations.
But rather than worry about it, I thought I should research the topic how to get rid of body odor and write a blog post about how to survive school with body odor. Body odor is one of those disgusting topics that no one likes to talk about. Unfortunately it is a fact of life.
These are the questions I set out to answer:
- Which parts of the body can smell bad?
- Is body odor normal?
- What is body odor?
- When did I not notice body odor before now?
- What are the most likely causes of body odor?
- What makes you more at risk of body odor?
- How to get rid of body odor?
- What do I do if it is an ongoing serious problem?
- How can I detect body odor?
- How to tell a friend who has a body odor problem?
Which parts of the body can smell bad?
Here is the list in order of decreasing priority as I see it:
I will address each of these below, but first I will look at the overall topic of body odor as it relates to skin, as it will help to get rid of body odor. I will come back to the topic of mouth odor, which is also a very important topic, all the more so because it is difficult for you to detect it yourself.
Is Body Odor Normal?
Let us be clear on that first. Yes, body odor is normal. It affects everyone, and it sucks. For sure it is embarrassing, and you want to know how to get rid of body odor. But it is normal.
What is Body Odor?
Body odor originates from the growth of bacteria in your sweat. Although sweat itself does not have much of an odor, it is the trigger as the bacteria that multiply rapidly in the sweat create the smell.
To be more precise, even the bacteria themselves have no odor, but the bacteria breakdown some of the proteins in your sweat into a smelly acid. And bingo… that creates the smell. Sounds disgusting, but it is just an unpleasant fact of life!
Another cause of body odor that gets mentioned is that certain foods may carry the smell into your sweat. Foods like garlic, onion, curry may have that affect. However, this is a minor cause compared to the combination of bacteria and sweat.
So why was it not a problem before now?
This is where the explanation gets a little tricky, but it might one day be a question in a quiz so definitely worth staying with me here.
Basically it seems not all sweat is created equally. Some sweat glands, which are called eccrine glands, are all over your body and are active right from when your born. These sweat glands primarily act as a temperature control and deposit a salty sweat onto your skin. Because this sweat is very salty, it is harder for bacteria to breakdown so it is not a likely cause of body odor.
But at puberty a second set of sweat glands jump into action. These are called apocrine sweat glands and they primarily located in the armpits and groin area. These deposit sweat no so much on the skin as in the hair follicle and are active at the time of stress as well as higher temperatures. As the sweat from these glands is less salty and high in protein, it is prime feed for bacteria to thrive on.
To make it worse, puberty makes us sweat a little more as well. Basically we have a problem. (Mind you, as part of my research that pregnant women also sweat a little more so I guess pregnant teenagers need to pay special attention to get rid of body odor.)
The only good news is that this means you only get body odor in certain areas of your body, mostly your armpits and your feet, at least it is less likely on your face or hands.
So that is why body odor is no issue before puberty. Basically the apocrine sweat glands are not active yet. So besides homework, spots and making sure your parents grow up, now you also have to worry about how to get rid of body odor.
Where exactly do smelly feet come from?
To contradict myself, smelly feet generally come from the sweat of eccrine sweat glands. For sure, it is less likely to be broken down by bacteria but if you keep the sweat on the skin for long enough without evaporation, especially if those feet are wrapped in old socks or dirty shoes, sooner or later there be enough bacteria to create smelly feet.
You can think of this as an evolutionary problem – our bodies were not designed for socks and shoes and we have many sweat glands on our feet.
On top of that, feet can develop a fungus infection which can make it worse.
And what about stinky breath?
Well, the good news is that this does not seem to be sweat related, although bacteria play a part again. The more I looked into this topic, the more I realised it is a science in itself, but I will try to summarise as I understood the problem.
The main causes are:
- Bacteria breaking down leftover food particles in the mouth
- Poor dental hygiene
- Gum disease
- Bad breath from the stomach
- Other causes like a dry mouth or even diseases…
I will not address it in this article. Here is a source I was referring to: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bad-breath/symptoms-causes/syc-20350922
Why is Body Odor day worse one day than the other?
There are several reasons why one day can be worse than the next:
The simplest reason is related to the amount that you sweat. When you get hot, are under pressure or do exercise, your body produces sweat to reduce your body temperature. When that stress meets bacteria, you risk body odor.
But sweat is not the only variable of course. If you have not washed properly, are wearing dirty clothes or shoes, or even wearing the wrong type of clothes it can still create a problem on any given day even if you do not sweat so much.
Below I have made a comprehensive list of how to prevent body odor.
How to get rid of body odor?
If you want to be “odor-free” consider the following tips. Broadly the way to get rid of Body Odor is to eliminate the interaction of sweat and bacteria, so it follows that reducing sweat build-up and bacteria growth are the focus areas.
To minimise the amount of sweat build up
- Avoid sweating. Avoiding hot spaces or crowded rooms, etc. It may not always be possible, but at least it is good to be aware of a situation that may cause additional sweat.
- Needless to say , being out of shape will increase sweating as your heart beat will be higher than if you are in shape. That will increase the need for your body to cool itself down, hence increased sweating. In addition, if your obese then folds of skin may trap sweat and create a bigger risk of body odor. Another good reason to get a little fitter?
- Ensure sweat can dry quickly on your skin. Ensuring your wear clothes which can breathe and therefore allow sweat to evaporate can help control levels of sweat on your skin.
- Avoid clothes which increase heat and reduce evaporation. So wear more cotton and linen and less artificial fabrics like polyester. This can be major factor difference as many cheap clothes are made with polyester
- Wear some kind of undershirt which is designed to absorb sweat can also help to control sweat on the skin. You can find them online
- Avoid excess of certain foods which can cause extra sweating such as caffeine or spicy foods. Spicy foods can also cause sweat itself to have more odor as well as stinky breath, so anyway it makes sense to be more cautious here
Whether it is fair or not, body odor will be associated with bad hygiene. And although it is no guarantee, good hygiene is critical in hwo to get rid of body odor
- A through shower each morning before setting off, with a thorough clean will reduce both sweat and bacteria from the evening.
- The ideal is a shower in the morning and in the night, but this may not be an option for everyone
- When you take a shower, if you use a anti-bacterial wash, you specifically target bacteria build up. For some reason this does not work so well for me, I find a more normal shower gel works better, but you should experiment with this for yourself.
- Thoroughly washing your skin with a wet wash cloth and soap, after your have been sweating, will help to avoid body odor.
- Carrying some disinfectant wipes with you in case of emergency is a good idea as it reduces bacteria and cleans up some sweat. They can be found in the supermarket.
Reduce or prevent the growth of bacteria
- Besides good hygiene, the cleanliness of your clothes is a big factor. Wearing clothes which are not washed regularly, or not hot enough, means that there will be bacteria in the clothes. So change your clothes regularly and ensure they are washed at the right temperature
- Especially wash your workout clothes often. Sweaty gym clothes are a bacteria-breeding ground.
- Shaving your underarm regularly will help prevent the accumulation of bacteria and can reduce sweat and odor.
Use a deodorant or an anti-perspirant
- Deodorant and anti-perspirants work in different ways.
- An anti-perspirant will reduce seating, either by covering up the sweat glands (for a while) or by absorbing the excess sweat like talcum powder.
- Deodorants can either simply cover the smell, or have any microbial elements which kill bacteria. All deodorants also include chemicals to kill or block bacteria from creating chemical reactions.
- And of course deodorants can also contain a nice fragrance for immediate impact and which can cover the smell for a while
- I don’t want to over-simplify this topic of the best deodorant for kids, but I have been using Rexona for the last few years and I found it works excellently. But there are different types and you should experiment a little. (And I am not getting any financial benefit or otherwise from saying that.)
- Basically it is important to always carry a deodorant with you, just in case…
- By the way, for the guys out there who don’t get this, smelling nice is a very important part of attracting girls, so it is doubly worthwhile to have a good deodorant….
- In case of smelly feet, the most important is to change your socks every day, ideally of natural fibres.
- If the shoes have become to smelly, you may have to throw the shoes out. However, you can get deodorants for shoes which are worth trying.
- Many sneakers can also be put in the washing machine….
- If you get a condition like athletes foot, you can get treatment for it, either over the counter or speak to your doctor.
Avoid certain types of food
- In some cases a diet of fatty foods or strong-smelling products like curry, garlic, or onions can make body odor worse. Especially if you are prone to sweating.
What to do if I have excessive sweating?
A lot of websites make reference to excessive sweating. It seems about 1% of the population have this problem, which is called hyperhidrosis. So, it is unlikely to be you, but not impossible.
Practically it means that you need to double down on all the efforts to ensure sweat can dry quickly and bacterial growth is limited as much as possible. In severe cases there may be medical help available and I guess your doctor can give your guidance there.
And, most difficult of all, if you have friends with a problem…better to tell them however uncomfortable that may be for both of you. That is what friends do….
How can I detect body odor?
Basically at the very least you have to smell yourself and your clothes on a regular basis. Especially when you know that you are at risk after a long hard day or exercise etc. If your are not sure, better to be safe than sorry and apply some anti-perspirant or deodorant. No real downside, right?
Watch also the behaviour of people your speak with. Sometimes their body language will tell you, especially with stinky breath which is anyway harder to detect.
You can also just ask your friends to let you know, or if you are worried just to tell you. Not comfortable may be, but still better than going around smelling bad?
How to tell a friend who has a body odor problem?
If the person is a friend, just tell them. It might be embarrassing, but still the right thing to do to.
If you have other ideas on how to get rid of body odor, please share…