Body Odor

Esta guía en Español Young men's version of this guide
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someonePrint this page

smelling armpitBody odor is natural and is usually caused by sweating. When you are hot, feel nervous, or start exercising, you are likely to sweat more. This is your body’s way of regulating your inner temperature. Yes, it’s annoying, but sweating and body odor is not something to be afraid of. Sweating is actually good for you, and body odor can easily be prevented.

Why is sweating good?

As you go through puberty, it’s natural for you to perspire (sweat) more than before. Sweating is actually very important because it prevents you from overheating by working as your natural air conditioner. As you get hot, your body sweats so that when the air touches your sweaty skin and dries up the moisture, your body cools down.

Where does body odor come from?

When sweat mixes with the natural bacteria on your skin, it causes body odor. Sweat comes from the areas of your body with the most sweat glands such as under your arms, the palms of your hands, the bottom of your feet, and between your legs. During puberty, your sweat glands become more active and your body chemistry begins to change. When this happens you will start to sweat more, which can lead to body odor.

What can I do to prevent body odor?

The best way to prevent body odor is by taking showers regularly and making sure to wash every part of your body. Plain soap and water is fine. There are no health benefits to using expensive soaps or body washes.

Other ways to prevent body odor include:

  • Wearing clean clothes
  • Using deodorant or antiperspirants
  • Wearing cotton underwear and other natural fabrics. Man-made materials such as polyester, rayon and silk are not as breathable and can cause you to sweat more.
  • Using a medicated foot powder or antifungal spray to prevent foot odor. It’s also important to air out sweaty athletic shoes/sneakers.
Don’t rely on perfumes and sprays to cover up body odor. Because body odor is caused by a mix of bacteria and sweat, it’s important to use soap and water to kill the bacteria.

What’s the difference between deodorants and antiperspirants?

  • Deodorants control and cover up odor.
  • Antiperspirants reduce wetness by drying up sweat.

Both deodorants and antiperspirants can come in many forms (sprays, sticks, powders, roll-ons, gels etc.) and can be scented or unscented. There are many different products to choose from. It’s up to you to use the product that you like best.

Are antiperspirants safe?

Yes. Aluminum chlorohydrate is a substance that is used in most antiperspirants to reduce wetness. Some people might worry that it’s dangerous, but no research studies have shown that antiperspirants are unsafe.

When should I put on deodorant?

Read the instructions on the product. Some products may say that they work best if applied in the morning, at bedtime, or right after taking a shower. It may also be a good idea to apply deodorant before working out or a doing physical activity that you know will make you sweat a lot. It’s a good idea to avoid using deodorant right after shaving your underarms as this may cause stinging and/or a rash.

I sweat a lot when I work out. Should I drink more water?

Yes! When you sweat, your body loses water. Sweating is normal and it helps to regulate your body’s temperature however, if you lose too much water, you can become dehydrated. Dehydration can make you feel weak and tired, and affect your performance. Water is the best fluid to drink to stay hydrated however if you are very active for 60 minutes or longer, your body is likely also losing electrolytes (such as calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and sodium). You’ll need to drink something in addition to water such as a sports drink that contains sodium and potassium.

  • Before exercise: Drinkabout 8-20 oz. of water about an hour before your work out so you will be well hydrated before you begin to use up energy. This amount will vary depending on your size/weight. One gulp = about 1 ounce of fluid.
  • During exercise: Drink about 4-6 oz. of water every 15 minutes. If you are exercising for less than an hour, drink water based on your thirst and the weather (if it’s hot or humid, you need more water).
  • After exercise: Drink 2 cups of water (16 oz).

If you think you sweat more than your friends when they are doing a similar activity or if you sweat when you are not active, talk to your health care provider.

What about vaginal odor?

You also have oil and sweat glands between your legs and on your vulva. They also become more active during puberty. This causes the area to feel moist and have a different smell than before.

What about vaginal deodorants, douches, and feminine sprays?

Vaginal deodorants, douches and feminine sprays can cause redness, irritation and even yeast infections. Also, vaginal odor can be a sign of an infection, so using scented products may cause you to miss an important sign that there is something wrong. The good news is that your vagina naturally cleanses itself so you don’t need to buy special products to clean it. Washing your vulva and around your vaginal area with mild soap and water and changing your underwear regularly is usually all it takes in most cases to stop any odor.

If you have strong-smelling vaginal discharge or bad vaginal odor, it could mean that you have a vaginal infection. See your health care provider.