What is Bromhidrosis? Causes & Treatments

December 17, 2019 6 min read

what is bromhidrosis

Despite the countless roles body odor might play, one thing is 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.

Many potential issues can lead to bad body odor, from hygiene to diet and underlying illness to your family background. It could also be a result of a condition called bromhidrosis. According to the medical website Medscape, it’s unclear how many Americans suffer from bromhidrosis because it's underreported (source).

If your body odor is affecting your life, there is a good chance you may have bromhidrosis. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know: what bromhidrosis is, what causes bromhidrosis, bromhidrosis symptoms, and bromhidrosis treatments – including home remedies for bromhidrosis and medical treatments to consider.

What is Bromhidrosis? The Official Definition

According to Medscape, bromhidrosis is a common phenomenon in post-pubertal individuals. It is a chronic condition in which excessive odor, usually an unpleasant one, emanates from the skin. (source) Although many people associate body odor with sweat, your body has millions of glands that secrete either sweat or a thicker, oily substance. It’s the oily substance that causes the odor.

If your body odor is affecting your life, there is a good chance you may have bromhidrosis.

Types of Bromhidrosis

There are two types of bromhidrosis, related to the two types of sweat glands that we have.

  1. Apocrine bromhidrosis: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.
  2. Eccrine bromhidrosis: 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 bacteria and germs that break down sweat are really the odor-causing troublemakers.

Causes of Bromhidrosis

The causes of bromhidrosis depend on the type. Although sweat is usually the culprit, it is not at the root of bad smells. According to Dr. Miriam Hanson, board-certified dermatologist at Sanova Dermatology, the bacteria and germs that break down sweat are really the odor-causing troublemakers (source). As sweat breaks down, whether it is from apocrine or eccrine glands, the bacteria will keep producing the odor.

So, what causes bromhidrosis? Here’s a list of some of the most smell-producing issues:

  • Inadequate hygiene
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Intertrigo
  • Trichomycosis axillaris
  • Erythrasma
  • Colonization of bacteria
  • Adverse effects of laser hair removal
  • Nasal foreign body
  • A diet rich in garlic or spicy ingredients
  • Some medications
  • Hyperhidrosis

Bromhidrosis Symptoms

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.

how odor affects relationships

Bromhidrosis Treatment

Cleanliness is one of the best treatments for bromhidrosis. According to Dr. Mamelak, also of Sanova Dermatology, keeping the smelliest areas clean is always a good start (source). Other bromhidrosis treatment tips to help you combat odor include:

Use Unscented Products

If heavily scented deodorants and antiperspirants aren’t working, try an unscented product instead. Although this might seem counterintuitive, fragrances can sometimes interact with your body odor and make it worse.

Properly Use Antiperspirant

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. You should also make sure you’re using your antiperspirant properly with these steps:

Step 1: Choose an antiperspirant with a higher content of aluminum chloride, which helps block sweat ducts.
Step 2: Apply your antiperspirant at night to give it time to set in while you sleep. When you apply it during the day, you begin to sweat before it has a chance to start working. Your sweat washes it away, defeating the purpose.
Step 3: Apply a thin layer of antiperspirant only after making sure your pits are completely dry. Do it outside the bathroom as the humidity in this space can keep your armpits moist.
Step 4: Apply your antiperspirant based on the type you use, such as:
  • Aerosols: Shake it really well, or you might not get anything but air when you spray it. You should hold it about 6 inches from your armpit and use short, sharp sprays. Do this once or twice under each arm.
  • Sticks: Use two or three strokes for each underarm.
  • Roll-ons: This needs a good shake as well, and then one or two strokes per underarm. You also must allow it to dry completely before you get dressed.
Step 5: You can also add an additional layer of antiperspirant first thing when you get up in the morning to allow it to set in before you get dressed.
facts about smell

Remove Dead Skin Cells

To fight underarm odor, wash your armpits thoroughly twice a day. Use soap and water with an exfoliator to remove dead skin cells. According to Dr. Hanson, an exfoliating cleanser used every couple of days keeps skin fresh. Choose a cleanser containing glycolic acid to remove dead skin cells and sweat.

Remove Excessive Hair

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.

Change Your Diet

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 reduce body odor 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:

  • Reduce beef and pork consumption, as these meats contain an amino acid that can contribute to body odor.
  • Increase your fiber intake, and reduce processed foods in your diet, to help your body’s detoxification processes run more efficiently.
  • Eat more citrus fruits, as these can help flush out compounds from your body that can contribute to body odor.
  • Use the right herbs in seasoning your meals, substituting stinky garlic and onions for parsley, cilantro, and mint.
  • Eat foods that promote gut health, like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, and pickles.

Pungent foods can be smelled in your sweat, while alcohol can make your body odor worse.

Medical Treatments for Bromhidrosis

There are bromhidrosis treatments that you can discuss with your doctor if these extra hygiene techniques are not working. Medical treatments can include:

  • Surgery, including Laser Apocrine Sweat Gland Removal, Superficial Liposuction, and Apocrine Gland Removal with Cartilage Shaver.
  • Antibacterial Agents, including clindamycin, erythromycin benzoyl peroxide, and antiseptic soaps. All can help inhibit bacterial growth.
  • OnabotulinumtoxinA, which has been an effective treatment for hyperhidrosis. It can also assist with decreasing odor, including genital bromhidrosis.
  • Aluminum Chloride, the active ingredient in antiperspirants. Your doctor can prescribe a prescription-strength antiperspirant that carries a far higher amount of the solution.
  • Botulinum Toxin, also known as Botox®, can decrease sweat production. Injections can denervate your eccrine sweat glands and have proven to be an effective treatment for hyperhidrosis.

Adjust Your Wardrobe

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 causes bromhidrosis, and bromhidrosis treatments you can try at home or discuss with your doctor. Along with trying out new treatments and/or lifestyle adjustments, learn how to get body odor out of your clothes... so it isn't a repeat offender.

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.


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