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Understanding Body Odor: What's That Smell?

Medically reviewed by John Paul Abrina, MD · Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

Written by Kip Soliva · Updated May 26, 2021

Understanding Body Odor: What's That Smell?

Self-confidence is key to achieving things that you want to do. If you do not believe in yourself and your abilities, you may find yourself feeling self-doubt and shame. Feeling good about yourself involves looking good and, of course, smelling good, too. If you suffer from excessive sweating and body odor, there is hope! Because there are numerous commercially available body odor treatments. 

Nothing ruins a good outfit or hair day like the presence of body odor. When you sweat too much, you may worry about what others may smell and think. On top of that, sweat marks can also form dark, wet patches on your clothes. Not a good fashion statement for any occasion.

Excessive sweating causes body odor, and everyone sweats regardless of age, sex, and gender. Learn more about the causes of body odor, and body odor treatments so you can say goodbye to stinky armpits for good.

The Science Behind Body Odor

Sweating and body odor often come hand-in-hand. If you are prone to sweating too much, then you may be more prone to having body odor. Before learning about body odor treatments, it helps to find out why body odor occurs. And to understand body odor, it’s important to know the importance of sweating.

Sweating, or perspiration, happens when the body releases fluid through the sweat glands located on the surface of the skin. There are two major types of sweat glands in the body, namely:

  • Eccrine Glands. The eccrine glands are sweat glands that are located directly on the surface of the skin.
  • Apocrine Glands. Apocrine glands are sweat glands found in areas of the body with the most hair follicles like the armpits, groin, and scalp.

Why Do We Sweat?

Sweat keeps the body from overheating. When your body sweats, the moisture found in certain areas of the body evaporates due to exposure to air, which creates a cooling effect. 

Sweat, however, has a major downside: odor. It is important to take note that sweat itself does not have a smell. However, when bacteria on the skin interact with sweat, it causes body odor.

Also, around puberty, a sudden increase in body odor in females and males is normal. This is because hormones stimulate the apocrine glands that cause a person to sweat more. Aside from hormones, many factors also contribute to body odor. 

But sweating is a normal and healthy body function. 

body odor treatment

What Causes Body Odor?

Understanding why you sweat helps doctors determine what appropriate body odor treatments are right for you. 

Factors that can trigger or worsen body odor include:


If you find yourself sweating too much, even if you have no reason to be sweating, then you may have a condition called hyperhidrosis. Hyperhidrosis is the excessive sweating in areas such as the armpits, soles of the feet, and even the palms. 

Hyperhidrosis is not fatal, but it can make a person extremely self-conscious or embarrassed, especially when accompanied by body odor. This condition has two types, namely:

Primary Focal Hyperhidrosis

Primary focal hyperhidrosis can occur to any healthy person, and there is excessive sweating in some areas of the body like the feet, palms, underarms, or face. 

This type of hyperhidrosis has no medical explanation. Doctors believe that overactive sweat glands cause this.

Secondary Hyperhidrosis

Secondary hyperhidrosis is the excessive sweating linked to medical conditions like gout, diabetes, thyroid problems, nervous system disorders, etc. 

For those whose excessive sweating has interfered with their lives, body odor treatments mostly involve addressing the sweating. Treatments for hyperhidrosis are available. Consult your doctor to know more.

How Do I Prevent Body Odor?

Aside from seeking out body odor treatments, addressing mild body odor can be a matter of incorporating simple hygiene practices into your daily routine. If you would like to avoid body odor, make sure to:

  • Take a bath daily and make sure to wash all parts of your body with soap. If you live in a place where the weather is particularly humid, try to wash whenever you feel particularly sweaty.
  • Wear clean clothing, and, if possible, wear clothing appropriate to the weather. Also, try to buy clothes made from a breathable material like cotton.
  • Avoid spicy or pungent food.
  • If you are wondering how to get rid of armpit odor without deodorant, shave your armpits. If the underarm area has less hair, there are fewer chances of bacteria interacting with sweat.

What is Healthy, Normal Vaginal Odor?

How is Body Odor Treated?

Doctors can treat hyperhidrosis through medical interventions. However, body odor cannot technically be treated. Below are the possible treatments for excessive sweating that cause body odor:

  • Antiperspirants. The first course of action that a dermatologist may recommend for excessive sweating is an antiperspirant, which also doubles as a deodorant. 
  • Botulinum Toxin Injections. Botulinum toxin injections, also known as botox, can be used for those suffering from excessive sweating in the armpits. Doctors inject tiny amounts of botox into different areas of the armpits, and these prevent chemicals in the body from stimulating the sweat glands.
  • Medication. Your doctor may prescribe medication that can help prevent the sweat glands from perspiring. This type of treatment is not advisable for those who exercise or live in hot climates.
  • Surgery. If all else fails, your doctor may suggest surgery that involves removing some sweat glands or a sympathectomy. 

Sympathectomy is a surgical procedure that involves destroying nerves that send signals to the sweat glands. It is important to note that these surgeries have associated risks like infection or scarring. 

Key Takeaways

In conclusion, body odor can rob anyone of their confidence and make social situations awkward. Excessive sweating is usually the leading cause of body odor, which can be treated through medical interventions or hygiene practices. Though there is no exact remedy or procedure to rid a person of body odor, there are lifestyle changes they can adopt as well as procedures to treat excessive sweating.

Learn more about Healthy Habits here. 


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

John Paul Abrina, MD

Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

Written by Kip Soliva · Updated May 26, 2021

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