Body odor: Causes, prevention, and treatments

Body odor is the perceived unpleasant smell our bodies can give off when bacteria that live on the skin break down sweat into acids.

Some say it is the smell of bacteria growing on the body, but it is actually the result of bacteria breaking down protein into certain acids.

It is also known as B.O., bromhidrosis, osmidrosis, or ozochrotia.

What is body odor?

Man suffering with body odor
Apocrine glands are located in several areas, including the armpits.

When a body gives off a scent others may find unpleasant, it is known as body odor.

Body odor usually becomes evident if measures are not taken when a human reaches puberty. People who are obese, those who regularly eat spicy foods, as well as individuals with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, are more susceptible to having body odor.

People who sweat too much, such as those with hyperhidrosis, may also be susceptible to body odor. However, often the salt level of their sweat is too high for the bacteria to break down. It depends on where the excess sweating is occurring and which type of sweat glands are involved.

Sweat itself is virtually odorless to humans. It is the rapid multiplication of bacteria in the presence of sweat and their breaking down of sweat into acids that eventually causes the unpleasant smell.

Body odor is most likely to occur in the following places:

feet

groin

armpits

genitals

pubic hair and other hair

belly button

anus

behind the ears

the rest of the skin, to a lesser extent

Body odor can have a pleasant and specific smell to the individual and can be used to identify people, especially by dogs and other animals. Each person’s unique body odor can be influenced by diet, gender, health, and medication.

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Causes

Body odor is caused by bacteria breaking down sweat and is largely linked to the apocrine glands. Most body odor comes from these.

These glands are found in the breasts, genital area, eyelids, armpits, and ear. In the breasts, they secrete fat droplets into breast milk. In the ear, they help form earwax. Apocrine glands in the skin and the eyelids are sweat glands.

Most of the apocrine glands in the skin are located in the groin, armpits, and around the nipples. In the skin, they usually have an odor. They are scent glands.

The apocrine glands are mainly responsible for body odor because the sweat they produce is high in protein, which bacteria can break down easily.

What causes foot odor?

Most of us wear shoes and socks, making it much more difficult for the sweat to evaporate, giving the bacteria more sweat to break down into smelly substances. Moist feet also raise the risk of fungi developing, which can also give off unpleasant smells.

Prevention

A large concentration of apocrine glands is present in the armpits, making that area susceptible to the rapid development of body odor.

The following steps may help control armpit odor:

1) Keep the armpits clean: Wash them regularly using anti-bacterial soap, and the number of bacteria will be kept low, resulting in less body odor.

2) Hair: When armpits have hair, it slows down the evaporation of sweat, giving the bacteria more time to break it down into smelly substances. Shaving the armpits regularly has been found to help body odor control in that area. Reusable razors are available to purchase online.

3) Deodorant or antiperspirant: Deodorants make the skin more acidic, making it more difficult for bacteria to thrive. An antiperspirant blocks the sweating action of the glands, resulting in less sweating. Some studies, however, have indicated that antiperspirants may be linked to breast cancer or prostate cancer risk.

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