How to deal with body odour

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Most people first notice body odour when they enter puberty. Learn what causes body odour and how you can prevent it.

Key points

  • Some sweat glands produce sweat as the body's way of cooling down when we become too hot. Other sweat glands, which usually become active at puberty, contribute to body odour. Body odour occurs when sweat from these glands comes into contact with bacteria on the skin.
  • Body odour can be prevented or reduced by washing regularly, using an antiperspirant or deodorant and wearing clean clothing as odour may linger on fabrics.
  • Always use antiperspirant and deodorant as directed.

Why do people sweat?

Sweating is a natural process that helps to cool your body temperature when you get too hot. So, you may find you sweat more on hot days, when you exercise or move around or wear a lot of layers of clothing. You may also find that you sweat more when you are nervous or stressed. Sweat is produced from sweat glands, called eccrine sweat glands, that are found in many parts of the body. The body has a second type of sweat gland that is mostly found in the under arms, genital area and breasts, known as apocrine sweat glands. The sweat from these glands doesn't help to cool the body. These glands are controlled by hormones and become active during puberty.

What causes body odour?

Body odour happens when perspiration (sweat) from the apocrine sweat glands comes into contact with the bacteria on your skin. Everyone has bacteria on their skin; it does not mean you are dirty.

During puberty, you begin to sweat more as the apocrine sweat glands become active. This is the source of the body odour.

How can I prevent body odour?

You can help prevent or reduce body odour by washing regularly with soap and water. Wearing clean clothes may also help as clothes that were previously worn may have odours left on them. Using an antiperspirant and/or a deodorant can also help. Many products for body odour contain both an antiperspirant and a deodorant.

Use a deodorant or an antiperspirant every day for best control.

  • Deodorant eliminates or covers up odour but does not prevent you from sweating.
  • Antiperspirant temporarily blocks sweat glands, which prevents you from sweating.
  • Many products contain both an antiperspirant and deodorant.
  • Antiperspirants and deodorants come in different forms, including gels, solids, roll-ons and sprays. Some of these products have scents, while others are unscented. If you have sensitive skin, you may want to look for a product made for sensitive skin. However, if a product is irritating, regardless of the label, you should stop using it. Find an antiperspirant or deodorant that you like and that works for you. Your health-care provider may also be able to recommend one for you. Always follow the instructions on the antiperspirant or deodorant container to make sure you are using it correctly.
  • There are many "natural" and alternative topical products available for sweating and odour. You may or may not find that these products offer the same control as traditional antiperspirants or deodorants. These products may also irritate some people. If this occurs, you should stop using that product.

Do not use deodorants or antiperspirants in your genital areas. They can cause redness and irritation. You also have sweat glands between your legs that become active at puberty and may cause you to sweat more there as well, which can also cause different odours. Washing and changing your underwear regularly should help to control any odour.

If you've tried all these things but find you still sweat a lot of have strong body odour, talk to your health-care provider.

Last updated: March 17th 2024