Six solutions for battling body odor, head to toe
Our bodies’ distinctive scent, produced by the action of bacteria on perspiration, has many causes—from age to genetics to daily diet. But while body odors are normal and natural, most of us would prefer to do without stinky armpits and smelly feet. If you’re battling BO, no sweat: these six simple solutions will keep you odor-free, naturally.
1. Keep pits clean.
Sweat itself is virtually odorless. The unpleasant odor is caused by bacteria, which use sweat as a breeding ground. The bacterial breakdown of proteins on the skin’s surface is what causes the characteristic odor. Banish BO: Shower daily—possibly more, in hot weather or if you exercise vigorously—to wash odor-causing bacteria from skin. Use a good soap: African black soap made from the ashes of plantain skin, cocoa pod, palm leaves, and palm oil is a natural antibacterial. Or choose one that contains tea tree oil, rosemary, sage, or lemongrass for antibacterial and odor-fighting capabilities.
Try: AlaffiaAuthentic African Black Soap Tangerine Citrus
2. Fight fungus.
Stinky feet, like stinky armpits, are caused by bacteria, which thrive in the moist, warm environment of socks and shoes. The most common of these is Brevibacterium, a bacterium that feeds off dead skin, producing gases that have a sulfur-like aroma. Because they’re frequently enclosed, feet are also more susceptible to developing fungi, which can also contribute to stinky feet. Banish BO: Keep feet clean and dry. Using a cornstarch-based powder can mop up moisture. If you suspect you have a fungal infection, look for an antifungal lotion that contains Tolnaftate, black walnut, tea tree oil, or other antifungal agents. Applying essential oils of cedar wood, thyme, or oregano directly to clean feet can also help fight bacteria, fungi, and odor.
Try: Home HealthAntifungal Lotion
3. Lose the hair.
Apocrine glands, found on areas of the body where hair grows (like the armpits), produce sweat that’s high in protein, which bacteria can break down easily. When hair traps sweat produced by these glands, it creates a more fertile breeding ground for bacteria. Banish BO: Use a gentle hair- removal product, or shave regularly. Use a gentle shaving lotion or gel with ingredients like lavender, shea butter, coconut oil, or aloe vera to soothe skin and prevent bumps and ingrown hairs.
Try: SheaMoisture shaveTea Tree After Shave & Bump Preventer
4. Alter your pH.
Lowering the skin’s pH level by applying an acid-containing ingredient, like lemon or vinegar, helps fight odor. The reason: bacteria thrive in a more alkaline environment, so making the surface of your skin more acidic discourages bacterial growth. Banish BO: After showering, apply apple cider vinegar to a clean cloth and rub onto feet or armpits; let dry before dressing. Or just use half a cut lemon. You can also apply essential oils of orange, lemon, grapefruit, or lemongrass, for extra odor protection.
Try: Aura CaciaOrganic Grapefruit Essential Oil
5. Check your diet.
Besides affecting breath, certain foods can impact body odor. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage are rich in strong-smelling sulfur compounds, which are secreted in sweat. Amino acids in red meat and choline in fish can also increase body odor. Likewise, certain foods help diminish stinky pits and feet. Chlorophyll, the pigment that gives leafy greens their rich color, is a natural antibacterial; it appears to interfere with bacterial metabolism and may also absorb odiferous compounds. Banish BO: Eat plenty of spinach, chard, kale, parsley, and other dark, leafy greens, and be aware of your consumption of crucifers, red meat, and fish for 6–12 hours before important events. Wheat grass juice or powder is extremely high in chlorophyll. Or take concentrated chlorophyll tablets or liquid; most experts recommend 100–300 mg per day.
Try: Nature’s WayChlorofresh
6. Choose natural deodorants.
Most mainstream antiperspirants contain aluminum chlorohydrate or aluminum zirconium, ingredients that plug the sweat glands to prevent perspiration. Because both are aluminum-based, there have been concerns over possible links with Alzheimer’s and breast cancer risk. Mainstream deodorants may also contain parabens, endocrine disruptors that have been linked with cancer. Banish BO: Use natural deodorants made with essential oils and other compounds to fight bacteria, reduce perspiration, and mask odors. Look for those that contain lavender, pine, peppermint, sage, or other essential oils. Some contain zinc ricinoleic, an effective natural compound that eliminates odors. Crystal deodorants are made from mineral salts like potassium alum, a larger molecule that’s not thought to be absorbed by the body. Look for those marked “free from aluminum chlorohydrate.”
Try: Nubian HeritageCoconut & Papaya 24 Hour All Natural Deodorant
- Stinky feet are caused by bacteria that thrive in the moist, warm environment of socks and shoes.
- Chlorophyll, the pigment that gives leafy greens their color, is a natural antibacterial.