Most of us have probably noticed a hint of body odour at some point, whether it’s during a workout, racing to work or running around after the kids. Body odour can instantly zap your confidence, leaving you feeling in desperate need of freshening up.
On this page, we look into what body odour is, what causes it, and how deodorant can help get rid of it.
Where does body odour come from?
Well, the answer is kind of gross! The armpits are home to the apocrine glands—these glands produce sweat that contains fatty acids and protein which bacteria love. As the bacteria feed on the apocrine sweat, they give off an unpleasant smell.
Armpits are warm and moist, and this environment encourages bacteria to feast on the sweat, making the odour even smellier.
Armpit odour may not be pleasant but it’s totally normal. If you find you regularly feel self-conscious about your body odour then read on for some top tips to minimise it.
What causes body odour?
So, we know why body odour happens, but what causes it to be worse sometimes?
Alcohol, caffeine and spicy foods can all make sweat smell worse. But did you know that green veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage can also increase body odour? Vegetables in the cruciferous family contain sulphur which, if broken down by bacteria on the skin, can cause your sweat to smell.1
This doesn’t mean you should avoid eating yummy green vegetables of course, but it does help to explain the cause of any strange odours!
You can find out more about how certain food and drink, including alcohol and spices, make sweat smell stronger with our guide Sweating: why you do it and how to prevent it.
Stress is one of the key culprits of body odour. Being stressed activates the apocrine glands—the glands that produce the sweat that bacteria love to feed on. Stress can also lead to increased sweating, which can make the issue of body odour a whole lot worse!
Being kind to yourself by taking a moment to de-stress and relax, or learning to deal with stress in a healthy manner, is one way to help reduce body odour.
At Soft & Gentle, we believe in strength through kindness, both to yourself and other people—you can find out more about how being kind to yourself can help relieve stress here.
Not washing correctly
Showering or bathing daily and making sure you pay particular attention to your underarm area can help to reduce the risk of body odour.
Thoroughly cleaning your armpits and drying the area properly means that not only will you help to eliminate bacteria but your armpits will also be fully prepped for you to apply anti-perspirant or deodorant.
If you notice odours lingering on your clothes, even after washing them, then try these handy tips for eliminating smells.
Synthetic fabrics hold on to smells more than natural materials, so you may notice that smells linger for longer in a stretchy polyester top when compared to a cotton top.
How does deodorant combat underarm odour?
Applying deodorant daily, and topping up whenever you feel you need to, is one of the best ways to help prevent body odour.
Most deodorants contain ingredients that help tackle the bacteria that love to feast on the sweat under your arms. These bacteria-fighting ingredients, when combined with masking scents, help to prevent unpleasant armpit smells.
If scent is important to you then check out Soft & Gentle’s Skin Protect range. This range of anti-perspirant deodorants features beautiful scents in a product that’s kind to skin and helps prevent sweat and unpleasant smells.
Want to know what else you can do to get rid of body odour under armpits?
Try the following!
- Wash your armpits thoroughly and ensure they’re totally dry before applying deodorant.
- Change and wash clothes regularly—ideally wash clothes as soon as you take them off, although this may not always be possible when you’re super busy!
- Try washing your armpits with antibacterial soap—this will help to kill the bacteria that causes body odour. If you have sensitive skin, look for a soap that’s suitable for your skin and won’t cause any irritation.
For more tips on reducing underarm sweat and odour read our advice on How to reduce armpit sweat.
For more advice and to know when to speak to your GP about your body odour, read advice from the NHS. It’s worth speaking to your doctor if you notice you sweat excessively as this could be a sign of hyperhidrosis.
Body odour in children and teenagers
Most children won’t experience body odour until they reach puberty, as this is the time of life when the apocrine glands are activated. 2 Apocrine glands are responsible for producing the sweat that odour-causing bacteria love.
If you’ve noticed your child has body odour and is very young to be going through puberty, this could be due to them not washing thoroughly enough, especially after physical activity.
You can help your child control sweating by encouraging them to maintain good personal hygiene and apply a gentle deodorant to keep unpleasant smells at bay. You can find out more about the best deodorants and anti-perspirants for children and young people here.
What do I do if my young child has body odour?
Body odour in young children (eight years old and younger) that isn’t related to personal hygiene could be a cause for concern. Signs of puberty in six- or seven-year-olds such as pubic hair, breast development or body odour should be checked out by your child’s GP. These are an indicator of precocious puberty, a condition where a child’s body begins puberty too early. 3
Top tips for preventing body odour if you’re a teen
Body odour can make teenagers (and adults!) feel self-conscious but hormonal changes during puberty means that body odour is pretty much inevitable, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it. 4
Washing thoroughly and often will help reduce the amount of sweat-loving bacteria under your arms which is responsible for causing an unpleasant smell.
After washing and drying, apply a couple of swipes or a quick spray of deodorant under each armpit to ensure you’ll smell good. Deodorant helps fight bacteria and cover up unpleasant smells so it’s your first defence against body odour. You can apply anti-perspirant to clean, dry armpits and top up with deodorant to be fully protected from sweat and odour.
You can find out everything you need to know about sweat and body odour in young people with our guide How to choose the best deodorant and anti-perspirant for children and teenagers.
FAQs on body odour
Why has my body odour changed?
Body odour is totally normal so if washing correctly and apply deodorant and/or anti-perspirant is working for you, that’s great!
But, if you notice a sudden change in what your body odour smells like and this doesn’t go away, then this could be worth checking out with your GP. Conditions such as an overactive thyroid or diabetes can cause specific body odours. Speaking to your doctor will help put your mind to rest as to the cause of a sudden change in body odour. 5
Remember, if you’ve noticed your odour suddenly smells different and you’ve recently drunk a lot of alcohol or had spicy food then this could be the problem.
Why do I still smell of body odour after washing?
The main culprit of lingering body odour is not washing thoroughly enough. Be kind to yourself and instead of dashing into the shower for a 30-second scrub, take the time to wash and dry thoroughly and enjoy some ‘me time’.
Another cause of persistent body odour could be not changing your bra often enough—this could cause a build-up in bacteria and make your underarms smell. Wear clean clothes every day to give yourself the best chance of smelling great! 6
Certain medications, such as penicillin can cause body odour so check in with your GP to see if your medicine could be the cause of persistent body odour.7
Do natural remedies work to get rid of body odour?
Substances such as witch hazel, baking soda, apple cider vinegar and corn starch have all been cited as natural ways to get rid of body odour. It’s certainly fine to try natural alternatives, just make sure you do a patch test before trying anything new on your skin.
If you want to avoid aluminium chlorohydrate (the active ingredient in most anti-perspirants), then most deodorants don’t include aluminium anyway, and instead, contain ingredients and fragrances that work on getting rid of odour-causing bacteria and masking smells.
To find out more about how deodorant works and how it helps to prevent body odour read our guide How is deodorant different from anti-perspirant and what type of deodorant is right for you?
- 1. https://www.allure.com/story/diet-body-odor-causes
- 2. https://www.momjunction.com/articles/causes-of-body-odor-in-children_00355682/
- 3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/precocious-puberty/symptoms-causes/syc-20351811
- 4. https://teens.webmd.com/girls/features/embarrassing-body-changes-teen-girls#1
- 5. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sweating-and-body-odor/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20353898
- 6. https://hellogiggles.com/lifestyle/reasons-stubborn-bo-wont-go-away-how-to-fix-it/
- 7. https://hellogiggles.com/lifestyle/reasons-stubborn-bo-wont-go-away-how-to-fix-it/