Body odour can get in the way of not just social and romantic relationships but work ones too, costing you opportunities and causing embarrassment and even offence. But with today’s know-how, products and treatments, it’s unnecessary to worry endlessly about how to get rid of body odour. Use these helpful strategies to ensure you beat BO.
1. Understand the cause of body odour
“We sweat to regulate our body temperature by evaporation,” says Dr Imraan Jhetam, a specialist dermatologist in Durban. He explains that we have two types of sweat glands: Eccrine glands occur all over our body and produce watery, odourless sweat that evaporates fast. But apocrine glands occur mostly in areas with lots of hair follicles (armpits, groin, bottom and scalp), and produce a thicker, fatty sweat containing cellular debris that bacteria love to feed on. They break down the keratin protein in the sweat into acids, producing that unpleasant pong.
Exercising and consuming warming foods and drinks will make you sweat more. You also produce more smelly sweat at puberty, when hormones produce body hair. “During adolescence, the hormones stimulate apocrine sweat, probably as the rudimentary effect of pheromones,” says Jhetam.
2. Stay clean
Body odour remedies include showering or bathing daily, and if you know you have a sweat problem, use antibacterial soap. You can also add a dash of vinegar or handful of baking soda to your bathwater.
3. Dry well
Towel down thoroughly after bathing, as it’s harder for the bacteria that cause body odour to breed on dry skin.
4. Apply an antiperspirant deodorant
A deodorant alone simply masks smell, whereas an antiperspirant usually has aluminum chloride to reduce perspiration. Opt for products labelled “high strength”, and if need be, apply them twice a day, with another shower or a wipe-down (with a damp cloth or wet-wipes) before the second application.
5. Keep cool
Wear cotton underwear and clothing that breathes, and change it daily. If you have smelly feet, wear thick, absorbent cotton socks, replace your insoles often, and go barefoot as much as you can. “If sweat is allowed to cool, this reduces the potential for odour,” Dr Jhetam says. Don’t always wear the same shoes – let them air dry for a day or two.
6. Watch your diet
Cut back on foods and drinks that make you sweat more, such as hot peppers, curry spices, coffee and alcohol. The pungent aromas of some foods will also come through in your sweat, so go easy on the garlic and onions.
7. Go smooth
The less hair you have, the less encouragement there is for bacteria to breed, so shaving or trimming armpit and groin hair can help.
8. Get checked out
If after these steps you still have BO, you may have an underlying condition, such as a kidney, liver, stomach or thyroid problem or diabetes, or you may simply sweat excessively, which is known as hyperhidrosis. Speak to your doctor or a dermatologist if you suspect you have a bigger issue.
If the problem is excessive sweating, you may be put on a prescription-strength antiperspirant, or given botox injections. These block the chemical signals from nerves that trigger the sweat glands, and last up to nine months. “Another treatment option is tap water iontophoresis, which is passing a mild electric current through water and through the skin’s surface to reduce sweating,” says Dr Jhetam.
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