Staying Cool and Smelling Sweet

Sue Chung Health Guide
  • I use deodorant every day, but I'm still self-conscious about how I smell in crowded places. How can I make sure that I don't have B.O. without dousing myself with perfume?


    We may associate unpleasant body odors with hot summer weather, but many people get nervous as temperatures drop and occasions for indoor gatherings turn up. Being trapped inside a heated room wearing a thick wool sweater can be a social nightmare for anyone who worries if their deodorant is strong enough to last the night. At first, perfume or cologne may seem like a good solution, but sporting too much usually backfires in crowded settings since some people are sensitive to strong fragrances.

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    If this worries you, the first thing to understand is that sweating itself is not the cause of body odor. It is, however, a prime breeding ground for bacteria. Bacteria breaks down certain acids present in our sweat, releasing a variety of odors that may smell unpleasant.


    In order to get rid of the smell, take a two-prong approach by addressing both excess perspiration and the proliferation of odor-causing bacteria. First, try an extra-strength over-the-counter anti-perspirant that contains aluminum zirconium. The directions will most likely instruct you to apply the product at night for several nights before you will notice an improvement in excess sweating.


    Another option is to try a prescription anti-perspirant with the active ingredient aluminum chloride. Since these products are very drying, those with sensitive skin may experience some skin irritation. Your doctor can also prescribe an anticholinergic medication, which stops sweating. If you participate in athletics or carry out strenuous physical activity, however, this may not be the best option for you. If you are already taking any medications, make sure their side effects don't exacerbate sweating.


    In order to keep your body as free of odor-causing bacteria as possible, make sure to shower with an antibacterial soap and scrub areas like your underarms well. Some inexpensive options at the drugstore include Dial and Safeguard bar soaps. In addition, if you perspire heavily during the day, it may be useful to take another shower before bed.


    After your shower, make sure to dry your body completely. Wipe your underarms with alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. Apply anti-perspirant after this step and allow it to dry thoroughly before putting on clothes. Keep baby wipes handy in your purse and car in case you feel the need to freshen up throughout the day.


    When working out, make sure that your clothes are loose-fitting and made of breathable fibers such as cotton. Wash your workout clothes often and don't forget to air out or wash your gym bag. Sprinkle baking soda into gym sneakers to absorb moisture and eliminate bacteria. Carry a small bottle of Febreze or another odor-eliminating spray to keep bacteria at bay.


    In terms of diet, up your intake of leafy greens. The chlorophyll in these foods can help reduce body odor and you'll look after your nutrition as well. Avoid foods with garlic and onions since they can increase the chances of body odor. You don't have to forego the perfume, but remember that a small amount goes a long way in enclosed spaces. Last but not least, relax. Falling prey to holiday stresses can lead to a surge in hormones, which often exacerbates both sweating and body odor.


Published On: December 12, 2008