Summer’s coming, and that means we’ll soon be sweating profusely at all times for absolutely no reason. Can’t wait. Can you feel our excitement? For many of us, the arrival of summer also means the return of stubborn B.O. that just won’t go away, which is a really buzzkill when you’re trying to enjoy the warm weather.
The thing about is sweat is that, on its own, it’s pretty much odorless. But when bacteria builds up on our skin, it mingles with our sweat (especially the sweat produced by our apocrine glands, which exist primarily in areas that are naturally hairy, such as armpits and groins) and produces some funky odors.
But what causes persistent body odor, the kind that seems like it just won’t go away? And, more importantly, what can we do to get rid of it?
We spoke to a couple of experts to find out.
1You’re eating foods or drinking beverages that cause the body to produce strong odors.
You’ve probably noticed you’re a bit stinkier after a night of heavy drinking, and that’s normal. Alcohol can cause our bodies to produce malodorous sweat. Other things we consume can cause this to happen, too, even when those foods are good for us. Garlic, onions, curry, and cruciferous vegetables — such as broccoli and cauliflower — can cause B.O.
2You’re not changing your bra enough.
According to women’s health expert Dr. Jennifer Wider, wearing the same sweaty ol’ bra every day can cause persistent B.O. Bacteria builds up, transfers to your skin, and makes your sweat stink. You probably know you should be changing your bra more often, so let this be the thing that motivates you to switch ’em up and wash them more often.
3You’re staying in your gym clothes too long.
Remaining in sweaty gym clothes is akin to wearing the same bra for a week at a time, but even more intense. After you’re done exercising, get out of your sweaty clothes ASAP. ‘Nuff said.
4You’re super stressed out.
Excess stress can not only lead to sweating, it can lead to B.O. Says Dr. Wider, “When people stress or experience anxiety, the apocrine glands are triggered, which often release an odor-filled sweat.” Try meditation, going for a walk, or stepping away from your stressor if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
5You’re wearing fabrics that aren’t breathable.
Dr. James Wantuck, chief medical officer at PlushCare, an online urgent care provider, suggests wearing “cotton or other water-absorbing materials” that allow the body to dry off, instead of sitting around in puddles of moisture, to help combat persistent B.O.
6You need to change up your hygiene routine.
Washing your body regularly, especially in the summer months when you’re sweating all the time, is important if you want to prevent stinky body odor. Says Dr. Wantuck, “Wash your body with soap once (only once!) a day, and after you exercise or sweat excessively. Change your clothes daily and wash them each time you wear them.”
7You’re taking a medication that causes persistent body odor.
“Some medicines, like penicillin, can…cause malodorous body chemistry,” says Dr. Wantuck. So if you just started taking a medication and have noticed an excess of B.O., your prescription could be the cause.
8You have an illness.
Dr. Wantuck notes that illnesses, including typhoid fever, gout, kidney failure, liver failure, and heavy metal poisoning, can lead to persistent B.O. Dr. Wider adds that diabetes, obesity, and genetic disorders can also affect the body’s smell.
9You’ve had laser hair removal.
This one’s an oddity, but Dr. Wantuck says that laser hair removal can sometimes lead to stubborn B.O. “There have been case reports of people having severe body odor following whole-body laser hair removal,” he says.
Both Dr. Wantuck and Dr. Wider agree that if you’ve adjusted your diet and tried changing up your hygiene routine — bathing daily, changing your bra and workout clothes frequently, wearing more breathable fabrics, using an antiperspirant or deodorant — and your B.O just won’t go away, it may be time to see a doctor, because you could have an undiagnosed medical condition.
Says Dr. Wantuck, “Depending on the location and type of odor, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic cream to kill the odor-causing bacteria. In severe cases, we can use antibiotic pills, Botox injections into your sweat glands, or other surgical techniques to help get rid of the smell.”
Good luck out there and stay dry!