Nobody likes to talk about body odor, but we care about it to the extent that we purchase products to reduce it. One troublesome aspect of body odor is that we don’t smell it ourselves. It’s when others tell us that we understand the problem.
Body odor is often associated with sweat, and antiperspirants and deodorants are similarly associated. The apocrine glands, which are highly concentrated in the armpits and the genital region, produce sweat that results in body odor. The sweat itself is odorless, but bacteria that live on the skin can break down the sweat into acids that emit body odor. Each person has their unique smell, and there is growing evidence that, like other animals, smell plays a role in human communication.1 There are a few lifestyle interventions that can help reduce body odor.
- Shower or bathe at least once a day to reduce bacterial build-up on the skin.
- Choose materials like silk or cotton to allow your skin to breathe.
- Wash your clothes often.
- Reduce spices such as curry and garlic, which can influence body odor.2
- Minimize stressful situations, as they can trigger sweat from the apocrine glands.
Various factors play into body odor, such as gender, diet, obesity, medical conditions, and even ethnicity. For practical purposes, however, most people who are self-conscious about their body odor are hygienic and already take these precautions. For most people, the most practical way to fight body odor is to use one or more body-odor fighting products:
The three strategies to combat odor are: stop the sweat, stop or reduce the bacteria’s ability to break down sweat into odorous acids, and counter body odor with other more pleasant odors. Antiperspirants stop sweat, while deodorants stop the bacteria from interacting with sweat, usually by having a mild antibacterial effect. Some products such as antiperspirants with deodorant or fragrances contain more than one element to combat body odor.
Odor fighting products are often marketed differently to men and women. While marketing that separates genders is common in skincare and self-care, odor-fighting products take it to another level. Men evidently prefer their fragrances to be “Fierce” and remind them that they are “Le Male,” and their deodorant to be “Intense.”
Is there a biological justification for this? Not really. Women have more sweat glands, but men sweat more. In terms of products, they’re the same. The only difference is in the scent (sometimes) and branding.3 There is nothing wrong with choosing a male or female branded product, but you shouldn’t feel the need to pay more for one or the other. Can you use or share your odor-fighting products with your partner? Absolutely. Antiperspirants and deodorants for men work the same as products for women.
What about Aluminum and Breast Cancer?
There is a rumor that the aluminum used in antiperspirants may be absorbed by the body and lead to breast cancer in some people. The National Cancer Institute concludes that there is no evidence that deodorants cause breast cancer.
The trouble with concerns about long-term and low-impact or low probability health concerns with a particular compound is that it is difficult to rule out entirely. Even as long-term studies show little or no data demonstrating harm, it is still technically possible that it may be harmful to some people. Cellphones, 5G networks, wind turbines, and many other modern artifacts have come under scrutiny for similar, mostly unsubstantiated, but pervasive concerns about public health.
If the idea of aluminum concerns you still, natural deodorants and antiperspirants may be an option. Many of these products eschew aluminum in favor of baking soda.4 You can also opt for using deodorants (without antiperspirants) or rely on fragrances instead. For people who have hyperhidrosis (sweat a lot more than normal), treating this condition may reduce odor.
2what’s to know about body odor?