The science of body odor control

How deodorants and antiperspirants work to control body odor.

What causes body odor?

Sweat is a primary cause of body odor. The body sweats in order to provide temperature control. Sweat helps the skin cool down when it evaporates from the skin's surface. Sweat does not actually have a scent. However, once it is mixes with bacteria on the skin's surface an unpleasant scent develops.

Certain glands in the body produce a type of sweat that is unrelated to the temperature control of the body. These apocrine and eccrine glands are found in the armpits, feet and groin area and they emit sweat in response to stress, fear and excitement. The sweat from the apocrine and eccrine glands has a much stronger odor when it decomposes on the skin, causing the body odor most people are concerned about. Since these areas are protected, it makes it hard for the wetness to evaporate on its own. Body hair in these areas holds the moisture and exacerbates the problem.

Preventing and covering body odor:

So, what are the best ways to deal with body odor? The most important thing to do is to bathe frequently with soap and water, making sure to get thoroughly dry afterward. Cotton clothing can be helpful in absorbing perspiration and allowing the skin to breathe, as well.

The following types of products can be used for odor control:

Deodorant: Deodorant does not prevent body odor. Instead, it uses fragrance to mask it. Generally, deodorant works on mild odors.

Some deodorants contain antibacterial products; these help reduce odor by removing the bacteria that consumes the sweat and causes the odor with its byproducts.

Antiperspirant: Antiperspirants work by preventing perspiration. They do this by using astringents to blocking the release of perspiration. Most of the mass market antiperspirants use a form of aluminum for their chemical perspiration blocking. When perspiration starts, the pH value of the deodorant changes. This change releases aluminium hydroxide which in turn blocks the pores, preventing additional perspiration. Other metal salts such as zirconium may also be used for antiperspirant and work in a similar manner.

While some people have expressed concern over toxins that may build up in the body from the use of antiperspirant, generally this has not been scientifically substantiated. In addition, suggestions of antiperspirants use being linked to breast cancer have not been proven. Most antiperspirants are fairly mild and have a very small amount of active ingredient. People who suffer from extensive sweating can use prescription products that have much higher concentrations.

Antiperspirants are generally combined with deodorant to mask any odor that does occur.

You smell like what you eat:

Another thing that impacts the way your body smells is the food you eat. It only makes sense that what goes in affects what comes out. Consuming certain foods is more likely to cause unpleasant odors; onions and garlic are both on the short list of these foods. Generally, consumption of a lot of plant matter aids with body odor, because chlorophyll is a natural odor fighter. Parsley is a great source of chlorophyll.

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