Sweating is a normal and healthy response to heat, exertion, stress, anxiety and nervousness. You have been sweating since you were born, but you may have noticed some changes in your sweat glands since you became a teen. Puberty causes sweat glands to become more active and secrete certain chemicals that can cause the body to have an odor. Body odor can be overpowering and embarrassing if it isn’t properly addressed, but some lifestyle changes and treatments can help keep it under control.
Your skin contains two types of sweat glands, eccrine and apocrine. Eccrine glands, which cover the majority of the body and open onto the surface of the skin, create perspiration, which is composed primarily of salt and water. Apocrine glands, in areas where many hair follicles are present (e.g. the armpits, groin and scalp), secrete a fatty sweat into the tubule of the sweat gland. When that tubule’s wall contracts, the sweat goes to the surface of the skin, and bacteria break it down. This bacterial breakdown is how most body odor originates.
How To Prevent Odor
Consistent body washing, particularly in areas under the arms, around the groin and on the feet, will help reduce body odor by washing away bacteria. Changing into clean, dry clothes on a daily basis will also help; wear primarily cotton clothes if you have a tendency to sweat a lot. Consider wearing a deodorant or an antiperspirant if daily washing and clean clothes don’t adequately control your body odor.
Deodorants vs. Antiperspirants
While deodorants eliminate body odor by masking it with a more pleasant scent, antiperspirants prevent or dry perspiration. Both deodorants and antiperspirants come in a variety of scents, some of which are marketed to men and others to women. They also come in different forms, including gels, creams, roll-ons and sprays. Because many deodorants and antiperspirants are perfumed, know that you or others around you may have an allergic reaction to them. Read the directions on the product you choose; some may be more effective when applied at night, while others are best used in the morning. Some theories suggest that the active ingredient in antiperspirants and deodorants may lead to health problems such as breast cancer, but the National Cancer Institute and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have no evidence or data that prove these theories correct.
If you find that over-the-counter deodorants and antiperspirants don’t effectively control your body odor, you may consider asking your doctor about the antiperspirant aluminum chloride. Because this strong antiperspirant can cause red, itchy and swollen skin, wash it off after using it.
If you find that you have begun to sweat more than normal, sweating disrupts your day-to-day routine, you experience night sweats for no known reason or you notice a change in your body odor, see a doctor. Such changes may be a sign of an underlying health condition.