We know this for certain: if you have bad body odor despite your best hygiene efforts, your life can be miserable. It can keep you from participating in social activities, hold you back in your career, and make it nearly impossible to find a partner. But how do you know when body odor is normal – or when it indicates something else, such as the medical condition bromhidrosis?
Where there are a number of issues, activities, and behaviors that can cause bad body odor, Bromhidrosis is one of the most underreported reasons (source). This is in part because of a lack of awareness that bad body odor can be tied to a medical condition – and because body odor has such a dramatic, negative effect on people’s quality of life.
If bad body odor is affecting your life, there is a good chance you may have bromhidrosis. But never fear – despite being a potentially scary-sounding medical term, bromhidrosis is not as anxiety-producing as it sounds. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about bromhidrosis. You’ll learn the medical definition of bromhidrosis, some possible causes of bromhidrosis, and common bromhidrosis symptoms. We’ll also cover bromhidrosis treatment options – including some home remedies for bromhidrosis you can try, and your options for medical treatment.
Bromhidrosis is a chronic medical condition in which excessive odor – usually unpleasant or bad odor – emanates from the skin.
While most people associate body odor with sweat, the two actually aren’t causally related. The human body has millions of glands that come in two types: they secrete either sweat (from the eccrine glands) or a thicker, oily substance (from the apocrine glands). It’s the oily substance from your apocrine glands that causes body odor.
There are two types of bromhidrosis, related to the two types of sweat glands that we have.
This is the most common type of bromhidrosis. With apocrine bromhidrosis, body odor is caused by bacterial decomposition of the oily secretions. They produce ammonia and short-chain fatty acids, which in turn produce bad odors. There are also axillary bacterial florae that can react with sweat to produce more acids and lead to odor.
Eccrine secretion is usually odorless. However, if you have eccrine bromhidrosis, the less common type of bromhidrosis, eccrine secretion can produce a bad odor. Eccrine bromhidrosis can be caused by certain foods, such as garlic or curry, as well as alcohol, medications, and toxins. It can also indicate an underlying illness.
The causes of bromhidrosis depend on the type of bromhidrosis you’re suffering from. As we’ve mentioned, it’s not sweating that causes body odor – it’s either apocrine secretion or the bacteria and germs on our skin. As they break down sweat, the bacteria and germs produce an odor. There are a number of reasons and behaviors that can cause either foul-smelling apocrine secretion or a bacterial imbalance that produces bad body odor.
Some of the most common causes of bromhidrosis include:
If you know you have one of these medical conditions, habits, or recent lifestyle changes, that can be tied to your bromhidrosis. Some of these causes might require speaking with your doctor to help better understand how they relate to body odor and to manage your bromhidrosis symptoms.
Speaking of symptoms, it’s essential to understand precisely what the symptoms of bromhidrosis are, so you can speak with your doctor if needed – or just make a few changes in your lifestyle to see if they improve.
As you might have guessed, the primary bromhidrosis symptom is foul-smelling body odor. This physical symptom can also create secondary symptoms, such as psychological distress and social ostracism.
To help diagnose bromhidrosis, your doctor can do a swab of the bacteria on your skin. Depending on which types of bacteria they find will help them better understand and develop a treatment plan. While many of the bacteria on our skin live in symbiosis with us, they can get out of control and cause the bad body odor characteristic of bromhidrosis.
Luckily, bromhidrosis can potentially be quite easy to treat and even prevent. These bromhidrosis treatments are easy to try at home or bring up with your doctor.
You might have noticed that “inadequate hygiene” was the first possible cause of bromhidrosis on our list above. And we get it: nobody wants to admit that the reason they’re experiencing body odor is that they’re not doing a good enough job keeping their body clean.
But there’s an easy way to test if this relates to your own bromhidrosis and bad body odor: practice better personal hygiene for two weeks and see if it improves. It’s non-invasive and literally can’t hurt you.Cleanliness is one of the best treatments for bromhidrosis; keep your smelliest areas clean and see if your body odor improves.
If heavily scented deodorants and antiperspirants aren’t working to manage your Bromhidrosis, try switching to an unscented product instead. Although this might seem counterintuitive, fragrances can sometimes interact with your body odor and make it worse.
This is an obvious choice, but often people do not realize they are using deodorant instead of antiperspirant. Deodorants mask smells, while antiperspirants stop sweating by blocking sweat ducts.
We have a whole guide on how to properly apply antiperspirant – yes, it more than just swiping a few times with the cheapest option from the store… Here are some additional tips:
Dead skin cells can also contribute to body odor as it gives bacteria something extra to feast on. This can compound bromhidrosis body odor, so combat it with a regular exfoliation schedule. You don’t need to use it daily, but a cleanser with glycolic acid can help remove both dead skin cells and sweat.
Hair removal is a good idea for a number of reasons. First, it can provide a clean surface for your antiperspirant. Second, it can help you to avoid skin conditions like folliculitis and hidradenitis suppurativa. Finally, it can also help reduce sweat and keep odors at bay. That is because some organisms and fungus can grow on your body hair; by removing that hair – such as by shaving your underarms – you can help reduce sweat and odor and thus help improve your bromhidrosis.
Did you know that certain foods make you sweat? If you are a guy who loves spice in your life or who likes to indulge in a few drinks, you might better manage bromhidrosis by limiting your consumption of these things. Pungent foods can be smelled in your sweat, while alcohol can make your body odor worse.
Here are some tips to change your diet and make healthier food choices to reduce body odor:
Again, these are changes you can make relatively easily but can have a huge impact on helping you treat bromhidrosis.
There are also medical bromhidrosis treatments that you can discuss with your doctor if the above bromhidrosis home remedies are not working. These treatments can include:
It’s always best to bring these up with your doctor to get their input and suggestions for a bromhidrosis treatment plan.
In addition to trying bromhidrosis treatments, you can also make small changes in your wardrobe to fight body odor. Specifically, look for clothing like undershirts, boxer briefs, and socks with odor-fighting materials. All Ejis undershirts, including our best-selling micro modal v-neck undershirt, have odor-fighting silver, as do our boxer briefs and socks. (Buy in our shop or on Amazon)
If you’re struggling with bromhidrosis, you now have a better understanding of what bromhidrosis is, the types, causes, and symptoms of bromhidrosis, and bromhidrosis treatments you can try at home or discuss with your doctor. You’re well-equipped to take this bromhidrosis business in hand and come up with a plan to deal with it. Oh, and once you get bad body odor control, don’t forget to learn how to get body odor out of your clothes.
If you're ready to take control over how bromhidrosis is affecting your life, Ejis products can help. We have anti-odor sweat proof undershirts, anti-odor sweat proof underwear, and anti-odor dress socks to help manage body odor wherever it affects you most.
This article was originally published in June 2019, and was updated in December 2019 and August 2020.
Want your clothes to work extra hard to manage sweat and odor? Learn about antimicrobial fabrics and textiles, which help manage odor, plus how they work.