Despite the countless roles body odor might play in the game of attraction, one thing is for certain. When the odors produced by your body aren’t good, this can be a turn off instead of a turn on. If you are living with 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 near 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 Medscape in the United States it’s unclear how many people suffer from bromhidrosis because it's underreported. However, the diagnosis is likely to rise in countries where body odor is considered more off-putting. Many Asian countries associate body odor with physical distress, and therefore, more people might seek assistance.
If your body odor is affecting your life, there is a good chance you may have bromhidrosis. In our Ultimate Guide to Bromhidrosis, we take a look at the condition, its causes, and most importantly, what you can do to help fight B.O.
Bromhidrosis is a condition that causes bad body odor. Although many people associate body odor with sweat, your body has millions of glands that can secrete either sweat or a thicker, oily substance. It’s the oily substance that causes the odor.
There are two types of sweat glands:
There are two types of bromhidrosis:
The causes of bromhidrosis depend on the type. Although it is common for patients to have family members with bromhidrosis, there are also many other factors at play, such as:
As mentioned, bromhidrosis affects the odor produced by your body, while hyperhidrosis is characterized by the increase of sweat production. Other differences include:
Hyperhidrosis affects about 3% of the population, with both men and women affected equally. It produces a disproportionate amount of sweat compared to your stress level and the temperature. It is believed that an issue with your sympathetic nervous system could be at fault, although the true cause is not confirmed.
With hyperhidrosis, the excess sweat is caused by your eccrine glands, which means you will not necessarily produce a bad odor. In some cases, when the sweat is left on your skin to dry, it can cause an unpleasant smell that is a little musty, as opposed to an obvious body odor.
The condition is distressing and causes both physical and social issues. People who have hyperhidrosis can find socializing awkward, which means it can have a negative impact on daily life.
This condition causes offensive body odor due to secretions from the apocrine glands. The bacterial metabolism of apocrine sweat causes odor. In the case of eccrine bromhidrosis, the odor can be caused by other factors, including your diet, alcohol, and medications. It is more common in men.
The production of bad body odor causes severe social embarrassment, which can keep you from leading a fulfilling life. For some patients, they might develop selective anosmia, meaning they are unaware of their own odor. This can lead to further embarrassment as the patient will not take action to help combat the smell.
Bromhidrosis causes your body to take odorless natural secretions and transform them into odor-producing substances.
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. Because bacteria love dark, moist areas, they tend to collect in your groin and underarms. However, your feet can also stink.
As sweat breaks down, whether it is from apocrine or eccrine glands, the bacteria will keep producing the odor.
So, what causes odor? Here’s a list of some of the most smell-producing issues:
If you or others have noticed a strong, unpleasant body odor, you should speak to your doctor. Some signs you have bromhidrosis include:
Because bromhidrosis is a metabolic and functional disease, it can be difficult to diagnose. If your body odor is related to skin conditions, a physical exam might show the rash or issues with your body hair in the area affected.
In the case of eccrine bromhidrosis, if the degradation of keratin is causing it, your doctor might be able to spot a thick mat of keratin. Your doctor can also consider underlying metabolic disorders, in which case, they can request urine tests or even a sweat test. They can then look for the presence of abnormal amino acid.
In most cases, it will be the odor itself that will provide a diagnosis.
According to Dr. Mamelak, also of Sanova Dermatology, keeping the smelliest areas clean is always a good start. However, this means using specific products designed to fight bacteria. Antimicrobial and antiseptic agents can kill the bacteria and germs that are causing the odor. Deodorant or cologne can mask the odor but do little to combat it.
To put up a proper fight, try these tips:
If fragrant, 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.
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:
Your armpits should be thoroughly washed 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 can also keep skin fresh. Choose a cleanser containing glycolic acid to remove dead skin cells and sweat.
As mentioned above, 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 keep odors at bay. That is because some organisms and fungus can grow on your body hair.
Powders can help reduce moisture. Moisture can allow odor-causing germs to thrive.
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.
There are medical treatments you can discuss with your doctor if these extra hygiene techniques are not working. Medical treatments can include:
Laser Apocrine Sweat Gland Removal: This sweat gland removal procedure uses lasers to remove apocrine glands and the stinky fatty tissue surrounding them. This is something to discuss with your doctor, as it can cause irreversible long-term effects like hematoma and scarring.
Superficial Liposuction: This uses suction to remove your sweat glands and fatty tissue. It tends to be a less invasive procedure.
Apocrine Gland Removal with Cartilage Shaver: A suction-assisted cartilage shaver is used to scrape away the skin tissue containing apocrine glands.
There are risks associated with surgery, including:
Because bacteria is one of the known culprits to cause odor, you can try topical antibacterial agents prescribed by your doctor. These include clindamycin, erythromycin benzoyl peroxide, and antiseptic soaps. All can help inhibit bacterial growth.
OnabotulinumtoxinA has been an effective treatment for hyperhidrosis. It can also assist with decreasing odor, including genital bromhidrosis.
Aluminum chloride is the active ingredient in antiperspirants. Your doctor can prescribe a prescription-strength antiperspirant that carries a far higher amount of the solution.
Botulinum toxin A, 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. Although its effects on apocrine gland secretions are unknown, it has been shown to decrease body odor in some cases.
You can try making changes to your diet to help reduce the intensity of your body odor. Some tips to consider include:
Carnitine is an amino acid found in beef and pork. This acid takes extra work for your body to break it down. Your gut contains enzymes to help break down amino acids, but in some cases, you might not have enough. If this is the case, your body can produce a fishy odor. Consider other protein sources such as chicken or plant-based protein, like beans, into your diet.
Processed foods combined with not eating enough fresh produce reduces the effectiveness of your body’s natural detoxification process. By eating more plant foods containing fiber, you can enhance your digestion. Eating more salads is an easy way to increase your fiber and plant intake. You can also choose more vegetarian foods when dining out. Use more vegetables, such as spiralized zucchini or cauliflower rice, when you cook at home.
That said, some veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage can increase body odor, so choose wisely.
Citrus fruits provide not only fiber but also acids that can flush out compounds in your body that lead to odor. Grapefruit makes a great breakfast option, while oranges are a great to-go snack.
Avoid using garlic and onion as your go-to ingredients and reach for fresh green herbs instead. Herbs contain chlorophyll, which can help combat body odor. Parsley, cilantro, and mint are great alternatives to stinky garlic and onions. You can add them to stews, veggies, salads, sauces, and smoothies. Another green friend is wheatgrass; you can drink it straight or combined with other fresh juices.
You’ve probably heard about using probiotics to promote a healthy gut. What you might not realize is that poor gut health can cause strong body odor. Some good probiotic-rich foods include:
If you suffer from body odor, chances are your clothes do too! If you have been tossing your clothes out due to odor, here are some at-home tips you can try.
There are some fashion tips you can try to help reduce body odor.
Try to buy only natural fabrics for your shirts. This includes wool (for the winter), silk, or cotton. These fabrics allow your skin to breathe so that your sweat will evaporate before it gets a chance to break down and cause odor.
Always wear clean clothes every day to prevent odor build up in your pits and undergarments. Your clothes should be laundered regularly and never left to sit in the laundry bin too long. That allows the odors on your clothes to mingle and set in.
Odor-blocking undergarments such as Ejis sweat proof basics will stop sweat from reaching your clothes while also reducing odor. The unique fabric uses a combination of materials to help wick away sweat while keeping you cool and comfortable.
Ejis undershirts contain embedded silver to fight odor-causing bacteria so that you can smell fresh all day. They also keep pit stains from forming to protect your pride and your shirts from damage.
If the odor is not confined to your underarms, you can also try Ejis boxer briefs. Armed with the same technology, the breathable micro modal fused with real silver fights odor-causing bacteria. The ultra-thin waterproof layer provides powerful sweat absorption in all the right places. You remain comfortable and dry, and so do your pants.
Using an Ejis sweat proof product makes good financial sense as it will reduce the cost of replacing pants and shirts damaged by odor and sweat. Although it can’t end your challenges with body odor, it can certainly help reduce it.
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