Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated June 26, 2020)
An entire industry has grown up around making us smell good and telling us that our body odor is "bad." It is important to realize that every person has a distinctive smell; this is normal. The smell is caused primarily by our sweat—as we perspire, our perspiration gives off an odor. This odor only becomes a problem when the smell is offensive to others.
If you sweat and the perspiration cannot evaporate freely, it is possible for bacteria to grow in the moisture. This accumulation of sweat—and associated bacteria—in areas such as the armpits, groin, and feet can cause a particularly pungent or offensive odor. The best remedy is to bathe or shower frequently and change into clean clothes regularly.
If you feel self-conscious about your smell, you could try a deodorant. This doesn't stop you from sweating, but it can disguise the smell. Some people also try other masking agents, such as perfume or cologne.
If you perspire heavily you could use an antiperspirant, which actually blocks the production of perspiration. Antiperspirants work by drying out the sweat glands and reduceing the amount of sweat they produce. You should never use a deodorant or antiperspirant on broken or inflamed skin, as this could cause problems with healing or make rashes worse.
There is no need for women to use a vaginal deodorant, and indeed these can cause irritations. Daily washing with soap and water should be sufficient. However, if you find the smell offensive, or if there is a heavy discharge, see your doctor you may have a yeast infection or some other type of infection.
If your feet smell, this is probably because the shoes you are wearing are not allowing the sweat to evaporate. Avoid shoes made of synthetic materials and those with synthetic linings. Wear socks made from pure cotton, as they can help "wick" the water away from your body where it can naturally evaporate. Women should look for hosiery that allows your skin to "breathe" and air to circulate properly. Wash your feet several times during the day and dry them thoroughly. You could also sprinkle foot powder or talc on your feet before putting on your socks and shoes.
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