Excessive underarm sweating often leads to body odor, particularly underarm odor. Get strategies that can put a stop to embarrassing smells.
By Wyatt Myers
“Don’t sweat it” is a phrase that’s easier said than done if you’re one of the millions of Americans living with hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating, which tends to affect the underarms as well as the hands and feet. And along with sweating too much, hyperhidrosis can result in something that’s even tougher to hide — body odor.
Surprisingly, sweat itself is not considered a cause of body odor. Rather, it’s the activity of bacteria within the sweat that ultimately leads to an underarm odor. “Sweat is essentially odorless,” says William W. Huang, MD, an assistant professor of dermatology at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C.
“Body odor becomes a problem due to bacteria decomposing on the skin’s surface. This changes some of the substances secreted in sweat.” In hyperhidrosis, sometimes underarm odor is an issue and sometimes it isn’t. “Bromhidrosis, or body odor, and hyperhidrosis often travel together, but not always,” says Craig A. Kraffert, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in private practice in California. “In some cases, excessive sweat actually helps flush away the odor associated with bromhidrosis.”
Strategies for Stopping Underarm Odor
If you do have a body odor that is related to excessive sweating, the good news is that some of the same strategies that treat excessive sweat will also help fight underarm odor.
Change your deodorant routine
For self-care strategies, one of the first things that you can try is to change your deodorant routine. Dr. Huang suggests looking for an antiperspirant or antiperspirant/deodorant combination rather than a simple deodorant.
“An antiperspirant is fundamentally different from a deodorant,” he explains. “Many products have both. Higher concentrations of aluminum chloride signify a ‘stronger’ antiperspirant.” You may need to experiment with different brands to find the most effective solution for you.
Choosing the right soap
Soap is another important strategy for underarm odor. The best at-home option for bromhidrosis may consist of a very thorough cleaning with an antibacterial soap such as sulfur soap or, more commonly, triclosan-containing bath soaps. And don’t neglect to frequently launder your clothes too.
Wash after every wear
In fact, Huang says it’s best to wash your clothes, particularly your shirts, after every wear.
Buy clothes with breathable fabrics
Also be sure to wear breathable fabrics, such as cotton or wicking materials, which are less likely to absorb odor.
Use a bodyspray
Bodysprays or wipes can help mask an odor problem when you’re in a pinch, but antibacterial soap, antiperspirant, and regular clothes-washing are the best ways to truly address the problem.