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Medically Reviewed by Dr. Eva Simmons-O’Brien

Dr. Eva Simmons O’Brien received her MD from Yale University and is a board-certified dermatologist. With over 30 years of experience, she has worked for hospitals, established her own private practice, and consulted for organizations such as the FDA. Today, Dr. Eva runs her own practice in addition to serving as our Chief Science Officer.

What Causes Body Odor

What Causes Body Odor

What Causes Body Odor

 

by

We could crack a joke about body odor, but that would just stink. Sorry.

If you’re here, it means you’re probably dealing with some serious funk and wondering how to get rid of it. The science of body odor (and trust us, it is definitely a science) is easy enough to understand but hard to “fix” in terms of eliminating odor while still allowing your body to do the things it is naturally meant to do (like sweat). 

Body odor isn’t usually an issue of bad hygiene. Most guys who struggle with B.O. usually shower more than once a day. The real issue has to do with bacteria that live on your skin. 

Sounds like a simple problem with an easy solution: eliminate the bacteria, destroy the body odor. The problem is, much of the bacteria living on our skin is healthy bacteria that protect our skin and help it function properly. 

Let’s look at how our skin (and sweating) works, what causes body odor, and how to get rid of it without using harsh chemicals on your skin or interfering with your body’s natural processes. 

What The Funk

The foul odor you keep smelling on your morning commute isn’t from a fellow commuter because you drive to work alone. When you realize you’re getting a little ripe, it’s a massive blow to your ego, but don’t worry. Literally, every guy deals with body odor at some point. 

Body odor is caused by a chemical reaction that happens when you sweat. Your body has two different types of sweat glands:

  • Eccrine glands. These sweat glands are most responsible for keeping you cool when your body temperature rises. Eccrine sweat glands are located all over your body but are especially concentrated on the palms of your hands, soles of your feet, and forehead. 

    The sweat produced by these glands is thin and odorless, and normally salt-based. Because there is very little protein content in these glands, they aren’t usually responsible for causing your signature stench. 
  • Apocrine glands. Apocrine sweat glands will do you dirty. Located in areas with high concentrations of hair follicles in the underarms and groin, these glands produce thicker sweat that contains salt and proteins. Although this sweat comes out odorless, it doesn’t stay that way for very long. 

    The sweat that comes from these glands (which are concentrated in your pits and groin) mixes with bacteria living on your skin to produce a really pungent scent we all know as body odor. 

While body odor is natural, it’s not desirable, and we’ll do just about anything to get rid of it, including drowning in cologne or showering excessively. Thankfully, you’ve got other options. 

Am I Sweating More Than Normal?

It’s the million-dollar question we get asked a lot. Do I sweat more than normal? The problem is, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. The amount of sweating you do is largely personal and based on your height, weight, and level of physical activity. 

Hormones and stress levels also play a role, but generally speaking, it can be normal for a person to sweat off between 1-3 liters of fluid per day. 

People who sweat excessively sweat when they are participating in normal, non-exercise-related activities. They may sweat profusely from areas like their palms or feet. People who sweat this way may have a condition called hyperhidrosis. If you suspect you have it, check with your doctor to see what treatment options are available. 

If you aren’t soaking through multiple t-shirts per day (and we mean literally soaking them so badly you have to change them), you probably don’t sweat more than the average bloke. 

What Causes Sweat to Stink?

We already covered the reason why sweat begins to stink. Bacteria living on your skin interact with it and, through a process of very scientific (read: why bother explaining it) chemical reactions, it releases an unpleasant odor. 

However, the bacteria reaction isn’t the only source of the problem. You could be sabotaging yourself by the clothes you wear or the foods you eat. 

Non-Breathable Clothing

Clothing that doesn’t allow your skin to breathe properly can cause you to sweat more. Polyester blends, like the shirts and shorts you probably wear to the gym, can be harbors for bacteria, collecting excess sweat, and sitting in dark, dank gym bags. 

Cotton and large-weave fabrics are more breathable and allow your body to stay cooler by allowing for airflow. More airflow means your body will stay cooler, which will help you sweat less, even when you’re blasting through leg day. 

Food

There’s a reason why your pits are extra spicy the day after you eat curry. Certain foods you eat have an impact on your body odor. The chemical compounds in certain spices are extremely pungent and can pass into your sweat. Think of it as your body burping, but continually and in a manner that affects those around you. 

If you’re going to eat spicy food, cruciferous vegetables, or a lot of garlic, chase it with adequate water to keep yourself hydrated and help it move out of your system faster. 

Always be on the lookout for gas-induced foods like: 

  • Onions
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Asparagus
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine 

Bad Laundry Habits

Seriously. Laundry that sits in a dark bin or gym bag has the chance to develop bacteria. If you wear that clothing before you wash with soap, you can transfer the bacteria to your skin and create a smelly situation. 

Your gym clothes may also need extra care every few months. They can get odors and bacteria trapped deep in their fibers. Washing them in hot water with baking soda and vinegar can help eliminate bacteria and get them back into sports mode. 

Combating Body Odor

The war on stench starts at home, with better grooming habits and solid deodorant choices. Here are # tips to combating body odor that can help you slay your scent. 

Good Personal Hygiene

You’re probably already showering plenty, but making a product switch can help you combat odors before they start. Disco’s Invigorating Body Wash works to clean your body and tackle odors around the clock. 

Formulated with eucalyptus to neutralize odors, our body wash helps reduce bacteria levels on the skin without stripping skin of good, essential bacteria or moisture. Aloe helps repair and nourish skin, while chamomile soothes irritation and keeps skin calm and happy. It's the perfect way to stay so fresh and so clean both morning and night. 

Skip the Antiperspirant

We know, you’re addicted to your anti-sweat stick. But we promise, once you break up with it, you’ll never go back. 

Aluminum-based antiperspirant works by plugging your pores with heavy metal. The sweat in your pores pulls the aluminum inside your skin, forming a plug. This plug doesn’t allow sweat to be released from your skin, but it also tells your brain that you don’t need to sweat. 

This is completely unnatural and not anywhere in the vicinity of healthy for your body. Not to mention, aluminum can enter your bloodstream and build up toxins in the body. The worst part is that aluminum-based antiperspirants don’t really do anything to combat bacteria on your skin, so the odor problem still arises as soon as you start to sweat again.  

It’s a better option to forgo prescription antiperspirants and choose a natural, plant-based deodorant instead. 

Choose Natural Deodorant

Natural deodorants are safe for your body, won’t expose you to harsh chemicals, and work to keep you odor-free by lowering the levels of bacteria on your skin. Disco’s Natural Deodorant contains natural, plant-based eucalyptus to neutralize odors on contact, leaving behind a refreshing (but never overpowering) scent. 

We also use tea tree oil in our deodorant. Tea tree oil has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, which allow it to fight bacteria, keeping your pits primed for unscented excessive sweating. 

Because we care, you’ll also find aloe in our deodorant, designed to moisturize, heal, and protect the skin on your armpits. Let’s face it; no one is giving that skin much attention. 

Using our deodorant is an easy way to protect your pits against body odour and keeps it under control without exposing yourself to heavy metals or harsh chemicals that could seriously mess up your mojo. 

Let’s Disco

Got B.O.? Our D.O. really works, and it won’t leave your pores clogged with aluminum that doesn’t work to combat odors anyhow. You can trust Disco to deliver the products that work perfectly for your skin’s pH balance, even the skin in your armpits. Our formulas are natural, plant-based, and safe for even the most sensitive skin types. 

Stop stinking and get serious about your pit care. Seriously, what are you waiting for? You need some deodorant, stat. 

 

Sources:

Sweat glands|Mayo Clinic 

The Science of Sweat: Why Some People Perspire More|Henry Ford.com 

How 7 Different Foods Affect Your Body Odor|Cleveland Clinic.org
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