While the slight scent of perspiration can be more socially acceptable in the stronger sex, underarm odor in women may tell people in close proximity that you’ve skipped a step in your daily personal hygiene. Underarm odor — otherwise known as body odor or the dreaded “BO” — is easily explained. Key to getting rid of it is using the right personal grooming products, as well as using them correctly.
What Causes It
Your underarms are densely populated with eccrine and apocrine sweat glands, the latter being that primary cause of underarm odor. Apocrine sweat is thicker than eccrine sweat, which is primarily made up of water and salt. When apocrine sweat is secreted, it’s initially odorless, explains the American Academy of Dermatology. However, when it makes contact with the bacteria that reside on your skin, underarm odor becomes a problem. Daily showers keep bacteria under control. But to reduce or eliminate BO, your best bet is to hit the drugstore and select a deodorant or antiperspirant.
Although the words “deodorant” and “antiperspirant” are often used interchangeably, there’s a big difference between the two. MayoClinic.com explains that deodorants contain alcohol, which makes your skin less hospitable to bacteria. Deodorant may also contain fragrance to mask underarm odor, but it doesn’t control how much you sweat. Antiperspirants, which have an aluminum base, reduce sweating, making them a better bet if you want to get rid of underarm odor. Antiperspirants seep into the cells in your skin and create temporary plug so perspiration doesn’t escape through your pores.
There’s a trick to applying antiperspirants to make them more effective. According to the International Hyperhidrosis Society, it’s best to choose underarm antiperspirants in a soft solid form, rather than a liquid or spray. Apply your antiperspirant twice a day, once in the morning and again before bedtime for maximum benefit. To prevent irritated skin, make sure your underarms are completely dry before using an antiperspirant. The IHS suggests putting your blow-dryer on the coolest setting and directing it at your underarms. Most over-the-counter antiperspirants are strong enough to get the job done, but if you have more troublesome underarm odor, the IHS suggests choosing a product with a “clinical strength” label.
Simple lifestyle adjustments may also help you get perspiration and underarm odor under control. MayoClinic.Com points out that wearing clothing made of breathable natural fibers — such as cotton and silk — may be beneficial. Cutting highly odiferous foods laden with garlic and onions and caffeinated beverages can also reduce perspiration or make your sweat smell less offensive. Your emotions trigger excessive perspiration as well. Manage stress using yoga, meditation and other relaxing techniques.
When Odor’s a Problem
For some women, underarm odor and sweating may be a more troublesome problem. A condition called hyperhidrosis causes excess perspiration, typically under the armpits, palms of the hands and soles of the feet. If you’re one of the 3 percent of people who suffer from hyperhidrosis, your doctor may recommend using a prescription antiperspirant with 20 percent aluminum chloride or offer another treatment to reduce sweating.