Smelly armpits may make you self-conscious, even though this is a problem most people have dealt with before. Commonly known as body odor (BO) and technically as bromhidrosis, malodorous armpits aren’t usually a cause for concern.
You can take steps to help minimize and prevent armpit odor, which may ease some of your anxiety.
There are two main kinds of sweat glands: eccrine and apocrine:
- Eccrine glands: These cover much of your body and open directly on the skin’s surface.
- Apocrine glands: These occur in areas that contain a lot of hair follicles, like the groin and armpit. Instead of opening up to the surface of the skin, apocrine glands empty into the hair follicle and then open up to the surface.
When your body heats up, eccrine glands release sweat that cools your body. It’s typically odorless until bacteria on your skin start breaking it down. Certain foods and drinks you’ve consumed, as well as certain kinds of medication, can also cause eccrine sweat to give off an odor.
Apocrine glands work primarily under stress, secreting an odorless fluid. This fluid begins to develop an odor when it comes into contact with bacteria on your skin. These glands don’t start working until puberty, which is why that’s usually the time people start to notice body odor.
While this is normal, some people sweat more than usual. This condition is called hyperhidrosis. People with hyperhidrosis sweat excessively, especially from their hands, feet, and armpits. If your doctor thinks you might have this condition, they can complete tests to confirm a diagnosis and provide treatment.
How to manage smelly armpits depends on the severity and underlying causes of the body odor. The odor might be present due to ineffective hygiene or not using the right products, or there may be an underlying medical condition that needs treatment.
When hygiene is behind smelly armpits
Using an over-the-counter (OTC) antiperspirant or deodorant (or a combination antiperspirant-deodorant) after your daily shower can help remedy armpit odor. Sometimes, you need to try different kinds to see which one works best for you.
Antiperspirants help to reduce the amount of sweat produced by temporarily blocking the pores that release sweat. As less sweat comes to the surface of your skin, less odor results.
Deodorants stop sweat from smelling but don’t stop sweat itself. These products are often alcohol-based, turning your skin acidic. This prevents the odor-triggering bacteria from forming.
When hyperhydrosis is causing armpit body odor
If OTC deodorants aren’t effective, talk with your doctor about prescription-strength deodorant or Botox injections.
Although many are familiar with Botox for its use in smoothing facial wrinkles, it has several other practical applications. A Botox injection into the sweat glands can decrease both sweating and odor. This is
Botox isn’t a permanent solution, though. The effects of the injections only last a few months, so you’ll need to repeat the procedure as often as necessary.
You can take some measures to prevent underarm odor from developing in the first place.
- Taking daily showers with soap. Regularly showering after strenuous activities like working out or playing sports gets rid of the bacteria and sweat that cause odors.
- Wearing loose-fitting, breathable fabrics like cotton, linen, and moisture-wicking blends. This is especially important if you sweat a lot. These will allow your body to stay cooler better than constricting clothes made from nonbreathable fabrics.
- Removing hair. A
2016 studyfound that shaving or waxing the armpits significantly reduced armpit odor. This is because cleaning is more effective on shaved or waxed skin.
- Relieving stress. Since the stress reaction can cause sweat glands to produce sweat, stress management and anxiety-reduction techniques can help you modulate your stress reaction and minimize your physiological sweat response.
Here are some additional DIY body odor life hacks that you can try at home. Find what works best for you, especially during the different seasons.
If you’ve used multiple kinds of deodorants or antiperspirants and nothing helps to reduce your underarm odor, talk with your doctor.
They can rule out underlying medical conditions and recommend stronger treatments.
Smelly armpits occur when bacteria break down the otherwise odorless sweat on your skin.
Some people sweat more than others and have a condition called hyperhidrosis. This excess sweating can lead to body odor. While it might cause people to be self-conscious, there are many solutions that can help.
Antiperspirant or deodorizing sprays can help you manage body odor in the armpits. If these don’t have an effect, your doctor might prescribe stronger sprays or recommend Botox injections.
Good hygiene, loose-fitting clothes, reducing stress, and possibly shaving or waxing the area might help prevent or reduce body odor.