When it comes to body odour, staying or getting clean is the biggest weapon in your arsenal while still managing your sweat. Most often, too much of sweat triggers the odour, according to expert.
Body odour is most likely to occur in the following places: feet, groin, armpits, genitals, pubic hair and other hair, belly button, anus, behind the ears, the rest of the skin, to a lesser extent.
A pungent body odour won’t give you that confidence whenever you are in the public. Often, you are withdrawn because people find your body scent unpleasant. At this point, you are concerned about health issues and want to save a little money on personal care products as well as having a backup plan when your deodorant applicator runs dry.
The eccrine glands, which are located on almost every part of the body, produce body cooling sweat that is mostly water. According to research, the apocrine glands, which are located in the armpits and in the groin, among other areas, produce sweat that performs a number of functions, one of which is to work as a kind of waste removal system that offloads microscopic bits of fat and other matter.
Experts say the sweat from the apocrine glands is the big problem with body odour. Bacteria feed on the fats and other secretions, and their waste products produce that distinctive fetid odour that announces your presence before you enter a room. You will notice, after a vigorous workout, that your sweat smells okay, not great, but at least clean and healthy. Wait a couple of hours and the bacterial feeding frenzy that ensues will transform your healthy smelling sweat into something pretty foul.
The strength of the odour a person produces depends on how much sweat his or her glands secrete as well as the number of bacteria on the skin. People with strong underarm odours carry two to three times as much underarm bacteria as other people. The best way to prevent body odour is to wash away sweat and bacteria thoroughly and regularly. Clean the underarm and groin area with water and soap, preferably a deodorant soap, at least once a day and more often if necessary.
According to a medical expert, Olalekan Sunday, body odour is the smell of bacteria growing on the body, but it is actually the result of bacteria breaking down protein into certain acids.
He said: “When a body gives off a scent others may find unpleasant, it is known as body odour. Body odour usually becomes evident if measures are not taken when a human reaches puberty. People who are obese, those who regularly eat spicy foods, as well as individuals with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, are more susceptible to having body odour.
“People, who sweat too much, such as those with hyperhidrosis, may also be susceptible to body odour. However, often the salt level of their sweat is too high for the bacteria to break down. It depends on where the excess sweating is occurring and which type of sweat glands is involved.
“Sweat itself is virtually odourless to humans. It is the rapid multiplication of bacteria in the presence of sweat and their breaking down of sweat into acids that eventually causes the unpleasant smell.”
Also, a family medicine specialist, Hina Syed, said body odour can act as a powerful looking glass that reflects your health status.
“Generally, a simple shower can mitigate the stench. But select cases may require a more systematic approach, attacking the odour at the source. Some conditions and diseases even produce a signature aroma,” he said.
When asked how one would know if one has a problem, he said: “You start by identifying whether body odours are physiological. For instance, if you are someone who sweats a lot and your sweat always smells a certain way, that’s normal. But if you notice a change in the smell or you are sweating more than usual, that is worth investigating.”
Syed said some people sweat more than others. Kids going through puberty, for example, may produce a signature odour, as do people who are overweight or obese. Diabetes can also produce “off” scents in terms of body odour.
“But if you notice a sudden change in the amount or smell of your sweat, it could indicate a health problem. Conditions ranging from overactive thyroid to menopause can cause excessive sweating at night or during the daytime. If the issue is not medical, use deodorant more frequently; shower often and wear lightweight clothing,” he said.
Sunday said body odour is caused by bacteria breaking down sweat and is largely linked to the apocrine glands.
He said: “These glands are found in the breasts, genital area, eyelids, armpits, and ear. In the breasts, they secrete fat droplets into breast milk. In the ear, they help form earwax. Apocrine glands in the skin and the eyelids are sweat glands.
“Most of the apocrine glands in the skin are located in the groin, armpits, and around the nipples. In the skin, they usually have an odour. They are scent glands.
“The apocrine glands are mainly responsible for body odour because the sweat they produce is high in protein, which bacteria can break down easily.”
Causes of foot odour
Most of people wear shoes and socks, making it much more difficult for the sweat to evaporate, giving the bacteria more sweat to break down into smelly substances.
Moist feet also raise the risk of fungi developing, which can also give off unpleasant smells.
Smelly feet are less of a problem socially than underarm odour because the unpleasant smell 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.
To tackle this, wash your feet at least once a day, using warm water, to kill bacteria. Make sure you dry your feet thoroughly afterward, including in between your toes.
Note that bacteria thrives on dead skin. If the soles of your feet have patches of dead skin remove them with a pumice stone. 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 with appropriate medication.
Whenever you can, walk around barefoot or at least slip out of your shoes regularly.
Prevention of odour
The following steps may help control armpit odour:
Keep the armpits clean: Wash them regularly using anti-bacterial soap, and the number of bacteria will be kept low, resulting in less body odour.
Hair: When armpits have hair, it 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 odour control in that area.
Deodorant or antiperspirant: Deodorants make the skin more acidic, making it more difficult for bacteria to thrive. An antiperspirant blocks the sweating action of the glands, resulting in less sweating. Some studies, however, have indicated that antiperspirants may be linked to breast cancer or prostate cancer risk. This study suggests that current research is inconclusive on the risks of antiperspirant sprays.
The following steps may help control body odour:
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.
Avoid spicy foods: Curry, garlic, and other spicy 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 odour.
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.
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 excessively under the arms.
The individual 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.
According to Sunday, when self-care and medicinal measures are not effective at treating severe body odour, a doctor can perform a surgical procedure called endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy (ETS), which destroys the sweating-controlling nerves below the skin of the armpits.
“This procedure is a last resort and runs the risk of damage to other nerves and arteries in the area. It can also increase sweating in other parts of the body, known as compensatory sweating,” he said.