Hey, what's that smell?
No one wants to know that they're walking around, making other people surreptitiously turn up their noses at the whiff of an unpleasant smell. But that's the unfortunate reality for people who suffer from body odour issues. However, don't despair. In most cases, you can do something about unpleasant body odour.
Causes of B.O.
Perspiration in and of itself is not a bad thing. In fact, it's a natural function of the body. Perspiring is our body's way of cooling us down, particularly on hot days or during strenuous physical exertion. “Sweating is the body's way of dealing with temperature regulation,” says Dr. Nowell Solish, a Toronto-based dermatologist who also heads the Sweat Clinics of Canada.
“If we are hot from exercise or outside temperature, then the body cools itself by releasing sweat,” he explains. Sweating enables our bodies to maintain a normal body temperature (approximately 37 C) and function at its maximum capacity. Our bodies contain about two million sweat glands. Since our bodies are made up of two-thirds water, and we lose a great deal of this every day through perspiration, it's important to stay well hydrated at all times, to replenish the fluids lost through sweating.
Sweating too much?
However, there is sweating and then there is excessive sweating, Dr. Solish points out. “Excessive sweating is a medical condition called hyperhidrosis,” he explains. “It is described as sweating beyond what is necessary to cool the body. The most common areas affected are the hands, feet, groin, face and underarms. There are nearly one million Canadians suffering from excessive sweating or hyperhidrosis.”
How can you tell you smell?
If you're really not sure, ask a close friend, or a family member for an honest opinion. And don't be offended if they tell you there's a problem. The good news is that there are solutions. While hyperhidrosis can have a serious impact on self-confidence and personal relationships, Dr. Solish says that it is a treatable disease. “From topical treatments to oral medications to Botox injections to surgery, there are various ways to allow you to specifically treat the affected area painlessly and easily,” he says. If you suspect you suffer from this condition, visit your doctor for help.
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Does sweat itself smell?
Perspiration is naturally odourless. “Sweat doesn't smell,” says Dr. Solish. “But if the skin is moist from sweat, it will create an environment that will allow bacteria to grow â€“- that creates the odour.” While sweating is a totally natural process, there are some areas of the body that are more prone to smelly sweat than others. Under the armpits and around the genital areas, for example, are sweat hot-zones because the sweat glands in these areas differ from those on other parts of our bodies. These glands produce protein and oily substances, whereas the sweat formed elsewhere is mostly a combination of water and sodium, which bacteria cannot feed off as easily.
What you can do about it
If you suffer from body odour and don't know what to do, here are 6 tips to help you overcome the problem:
• Body odour disappears after a bath or shower. Be sure to bathe regularly to remove sweat from the surface of the skin. Dr. Solish suggests using an antibacterial soap to minimize the ability of bacteria to sit on the skin, which is what causes the odour.
• Exercise regularly. By sweating often (in a controlled situation), you can rid your body of toxins, bacteria and fungi that may be contributing to an overpowering odour.
• Use antiperspirant.
• Wash clothing well and often.
• Be careful what you eat, cautions Dr. Solish. “Some people will perspire the smell of the food they have eaten,” he says. “Body odour can be caused by food intake like garlic and curry.”
• Some people sweat from their feet,” says Dr. Solish, “so make sure shoes are not the result of the odour.” Wear your socks only once and then put them to wash. If the problem persists, try placing odour-fighting insoles into your shoes.
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Natalie Bahadur is the editor of Styleathome.com