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What Causes Body Odor and How to Prevent It

We all know the feeling of leaving a workout a whole lot smellier than before. But if you’re asking yourself how do you stop body odor, you need to start with reasons for bad body odor. Even people with good hygiene can’t figure out why they smell, because there are a host of reasons why. Let’s get into them.

What causes body odor


Genetic factors are key, as evidenced by studies that show that identical twins smell pretty much the same, even when they don’t live together. Men tend to have stronger body odor than women, and ethnic background can also come into play. People of East Asian descent tend to sweat less and have less body odor than those of African and European descent.
Next, let’s cover a bit of biology. There are three types of glands to know here: Sweat glands exist all over our body and begin working to keep the body cool when we exercise or feel anxious. Sebaceous glands also appear all over the body, and begin producing oily sebum during puberty. Apocrine glands are mostly located in the armpit and pubic region and can contribute to odor too.

Body odor and sweat


Well, sweat doesn’t actually smell on its own. Our sweat glands, sebaceous glands, and apocrine glands release volatile organic compounds (called VOCs), which create odors while interacting with the bacteria that naturally live on our skin and hair follicles.

Body odor and diet


Unsurpisingly body odor can be impacted by what you eat, too. If you’ve experienced a sudden change, you may have eaten some foods that cause body odor such as garlic, onions, and cumin. These foods contain sulfur-like compounds that get released while they are digested, which can react with sweat on the skin to produce a new scent. Some research has found that men who eat lots of fruits and vegetables have better-smelling sweat, even if they sweat a lot. Other research suggests that high meat consumption may have a negative effect on body odor, compared to a plant-based diet.

Body odor and clothing


Clothing is another key factor. You want it to breathe! A recent study shows that popular athleisure fabrics like polyester and spandex are the perfect breeding grounds for bacteria—so stick with natural fibers like cotton and linen to stay smelling fresh.

What causes body odor to change?


A sudden change in body odor can be caused by a myriad of factors, like hormonal fluctuations, environment, medications or your health. It’s not usually a cause for concern, but it can be a sign of an underlying health condition in more serious cases. Consult your doctor if a change in body odor is linked to other symptoms or feels unusual to you.

What is the purpose of body odor?


Keeping all this in mind, it’s easy to wonder if there is more to body odor than just being a general nuisance. As mentioned, it is linked to sweat, which is designed to regulate body heat and keep us cool. But the odor itself comes down to romantic attraction. Our sweat and skin oils contain pheromones, a.k.a. chemicals that have a hormone-like effect on other members of our species and compatibility. Interestingly, scent has even been linked to human evolution playing an important role in avoiding ancestral partners.

How do you get rid of body odor naturally


Natural remedies range from changing your diet to include more fruits and vegetables to applying things like baking soda and apple cider vinegar to sweaty areas, but we would strongly recommend further research before turning your body into an arts and crafts project with natural treatments.

Body odor treatment


To reduce body odor the International Hyperhidrosis Society suggests you wash regularly with antibacterial soap, keep the affected area of skin clean and dry and use a deodorant to mask odor (learn more about the differences between deodorant and body spray here).

OffCourt’s Performance Body Spray is another tool in your fight against body odor. It contains prebiotics that fuel the growth of good bacteria on your skin—read more on this here— which fight the odor-causing kind to regulate smells. Oh, and it’s also laced with modern scents guaranteed to spark compliments on the street. Smelling great just got a whole lot easier.