We’ve all been there. A quick whiff of body odor (B.O.) makes your nose wrinkle before you get hit with the sinking realization that the offending smell is coming from you.
These hacks will keep you from desperately trying to clean your pits with paper towels in the bathroom at work.
1. The right deodorant for you
Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a deodorant epically fail on you. On second thought, let’s leave those pits closed.
Finding the right deodorant can be frustrating, but if your current pick isn’t working for you, it’s time to kick it to the curb. You’re better than a deodorant that can barely make it through lunch.
It may take a few tries to find a deodorant that works well with your biochemistry and daily demands. You don’t have to try every deodorant on the shelf to find the right one. Pay attention to active ingredients: If deodorants that use baking soda or tea tree oil as the active ingredient to beat odor are irritating or don’t work for you, you can skip every deodorant that lists them as an active ingredient (or that lists them high in the ingredients list).
Don’t forget to keep an eye out for any irritation while you are experimenting. Smelling like roses is not worth having itchy armpits.
2. Homemade deodorant
Struggling to find a deodorant that works for you? Skip the drugstore and formulate your own that’s perfectly tailored to your preferences and biochemistry. Homemade deodorant won’t stop you from sweating, but it will help you stop the source of odor, which is bacteria.
There are tons of different recipes out there, like this one for a homemade cream stick deodorant. The trick is finding the one that works for you. Some people are sensitive to baking soda and may get contact dermatitis from it. If you get any irritation, stop using it immediately and let your skin calm down before applying a different deodorant. Also, be aware that if your solution is too oily, you may end up with oil stains on your clothes.
All hope is not lost if baking soda doesn’t work for you or if you hate powdery deodorants.
“I use a mix of apple cider vinegar and water for my deodorant,” said Erin Rhoads from The Rogue Ginger. “The apple cider vinegar helps kill the bacteria that cause body odor. I can't use it post-shave, but that's OK, because shaving helps remove the bacteria anyway, so I rarely smell on those days.” Use apple cider vinegar carefully, as it can cause chemical burns and irritant contact dermatitis.
3. Smelly feet
Growing up, my mom would often make me leave my shoes outside because she couldn’t take the smell. I’ve always been quite active, and my feet sweat what feels like oceans even when I’m just sitting around. Smelly feet used to be my biggest source of self-consciousness. I hated taking my shoes off around other people.
This shoe spray has been a game changer. It turns out my feet aren’t the problem, it’s my shoes. When I frequently spray my shoes (daily until the smell dissipates and then weekly as maintenance), my feet don’t smell at all. I use straight rubbing alcohol (Isopropyl alcohol) and spray it on with a little spray bottle. I spray them when I get home in the evening and they are easily dry and ready to go by morning, no matter how much I soak them.
Note: Rubbing alcohol is incredibly drying and can cause irritation and peeling. Always make sure to only spray your shoes, not your skin. Wear socks and make sure your shoes are completely dry before wearing them again.
4. Wash regularly
Proper cleaning can go a long way. If you are prone to B.O., wash more frequently, especially in the offensive areas.
While you’re at it, think twice before putting that T-shirt back on. Not all clothes need to be washed after every wear, but if you tend to perspire heavily, you may need to wash more frequently.
Shirts and other clothes that touch the armpits should be washed after every wear if you are experiencing B.O. Wear a base layer like a short sleeve T-shirt to cover your armpits and prevent sweat and bacteria from spreading to sweaters and outer layers. If you do, you won't have to wash them as frequently. Also, you and your sweater will smell better.
5. Go au naturel
With fabrics, that is. The material you wear matters a lot. A recent study showed that your fancy gym clothes and other man-made fabrics like polyester and spandex are bacteria heaven. The unnatural fibers are breeding grounds for bacteria. You’re better off with a natural fiber like cotton, linen, or wool.
6. Spike the laundry
If your clothes smell like the bottom of your gym bag, don’t worry. Add a cup of vinegar to your laundry and they will come out smelling fresh. You can also use up to 1 cup of baking soda or washing soda to beat the stink. Just don’t mix the vinegar and the baking soda/washing soda, as they will cancel each other out.
For really smelly situations (like the clothes I forgot in my hot car, or dripping leggings post-hot yoga), I presoak my clothes in 1-2 cups of vinegar per 2 gallons of warm water before washing. You can do this in your washing machine on the “soak” setting, or in a bucket before washing.
Pro tip: Turn your clothes inside out before washing them. This makes it easier to get the oils and sweat out of the fabric, and your clothes will look new for longer.
For really stinky clothes, and all technical fabrics, skip the dryer. It will “bake in” the smell and make it harder to get rid of.
7. Ditch the fabric softener, forever
If you have ever put on a clean shirt and smelled less than fresh before even getting to the office, your fabric softener might be to blame. Fabric softeners sit on the surface of the clothing fibers and prevent air flow and evaporation.
This means that you aren’t getting the air you need to keep odor-causing bacteria at bay. It also makes it difficult for the detergent to get into the fibers and remove the sweat, bacteria, and body odors. Softeners can be irritating to the skin as well.
Take off sweaty workout clothes as soon as you are done exercising. Change your musty shirt after a hot day. Bring a change of clothes to put on after riding your bike to the office. You get the idea.
9. You sweat what you eat
Over do it on happy hour, and you might spend the whole next day smelling like salsa and margaritas. It’s not just coming from your breath. What you eat directly affects your body odor. Foods that contain sulfur, like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, can affect the way you smell. Onions and garlic are frequent offenders. Curries and other intense spices may also find their way into your B.O. Pay attention to what you eat. Skip, or cut back on, the foods that make you smelly.
10. Make your own scent
A light, fresh scent can go a long way. Make your own perfume or cologne with a light carrier oil, like sweet almond oil, and essential oils. Start with a 5-10 drops per ounce of carrier oil and increase until you like the scent. A roller works best to apply the perfume, but you can also use a bottle to put a couple of dabs on your fingertips and apply where you like.
“I make my own perfume to reduce the amount of plastic packaging, and also for my health,” said Rhoads. “Perfume manufacturers don't have to reveal the ingredients in their products and I find that a little scary. I want to know that what I'm putting on my body is safe.”
11. Don’t sweat the sweat
Sweat is good for you! It’s a completely normal function that helps regulate your temperature and remove waste from your body. And don’t forget that we weren’t born smelling like roses or Old Spice.
“We have become so accustomed to smelling like something else that we forget what our bodies smell like,” said Kellogg. “There’s a difference between how you naturally smell and reeking of B.O.”
It’s completely normal to have smell. A light scent isn’t something to freak out about. Your genetics, the bacteria your skin attracts, overall health, and personal hygiene all influence your signature smell. Let your pheromones run free.