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What is body odor?

Body odor is the perceived bad smell that our bodies can give off as bacteria that live on the skin break sweat into acids.

Some claim it’s the scent of rising bacteria on the body, but it’s actually the product of breaking down proteins into other acids.

It is also known as B.O., bromhidrosis, osmidrosis, or ozochrotia.

What is body odor?

A man having body odor

When a body gives off a smell that certain people would find offensive, it’s known as body odor.

When a person hits puberty, body odor typically is visible if steps are not taken. People who are obese, those who frequently eat spicy foods, as well as people with other medical conditions, such as diabetes, are more likely to have a body odor.

People who sweat too much can also be prone to body odour, such as those with hyperhidrosis. But sometimes their sweat’s salt level is too high to break down the bacteria. It depends on where there is excess sweating and what sort of sweat glands are involved.

Sweat itself is nearly odorless to humans. It is the rapid multiplication of bacteria in the presence of sweat and their breaking down of sweat into acids which ultimately causes the unpleasant odor.

The most probable body odour would occur in the following places:

  • feet
  • groin
  • armpits
  • genitals
  • pubic hair and other hair
  • belly button
  • anus
  • behind the ears
  • the rest of the skin, to a lesser extent

Body odor can have an individual’s own pleasant and unique scent, and can be used to identify people, especially dogs and other animals. The distinctive body odor of each person can be affected by diet, gender, fitness, and drugs.


Body odor is caused by sweat-breaking bacteria, and is primarily associated with the apocrine glands. It is from these that most body odor comes.

Within the breasts, genital region, eyelids, armpits, and ears, these glands are located. The fat droplets are secreted in the breasts into breast milk. They assist in shaping earwax in the ear. Sweat glands are apocrine glands in the head, and eyelids.

Most of the apocrine skin glands are situated in the groin, armpits, and around the nipples. They generally have an odour in the skin. They’re flavoring glands.

The apocrine glands are mainly responsible for body odor, as the sweat they create is rich in protein that can easily broken down by bacteria.

What causes foot odor?

Most of us wear shoes and socks, making evaporation of the sweat even more difficult, giving the bacteria more sweat to break down into smelly substances. Moist feet also increase the risk of contracting fungi, which can also give off unpleasant odours.


There is a large concentration of apocrine glands in the axes, which makes that area susceptible to rapid body odor production.

The following measures can help to manage odor at the armpit:

1) Keep the armpit clean: Wash them daily with antibacterial soap and keep the amount of bacteria small, resulting in less body odor.

2) Hair: When the axes have fur, the evaporation of sweat slows down, allowing the bacteria more time to break it down into smelly substances. Daily shaving of the armpits has been found to help control the body odor in that area.

3) Deodorant or antiperspirant: The skin is made more acidic by deodorants, making it more difficult for bacteria to spread. An antiperspirant prevents the glands sweating, leading to less sweating. Nonetheless, several studies have shown that antiperspirants may be associated with a risk of breast cancer or prostate cancer.

This report shows recent literature on the effects of antiperspirant sprays is inconclusive.

Tips on preventing foot odor

In social words, smelly feet are less of a concern than underarm B.O. Since shoes and socks typically contain an unpleasant odour.

However, the scent can become evident if the smelly-footed person enters a home where shoes are taken off before they enter, as is the norm in various countries and homes.

The following steps will help regulate the odor of your foot:

1) Clean your feet at least once a day: warm water is better than cold water when killing bacteria. Afterwards, make sure you dry your feet completely, even between your toes.

2) Socks: They must encourage evaporation of the sweat. The best socks are the ones made of man-made fabrics and fur. Wear a pair of clean socks every day.

3) Shoes: if you wear plastic lined trainers or shoes, make sure it’s not long. A leather lining is ideal for evaporating sweat. If you are having a sweaty feet issue, do not wear the same pair of shoes in a row for two days. Shoes aren’t dried absolutely overnight.

4) Pumice stone: Bacteria live on dead flesh. If your feet sole has dead skin patches scrape with a pumice hammer.

5) Deodorants and antiperspirants: Ask for special foot deodorants and antiperspirants from the pharmacist. When you have athlete’s foot, you can not use antiperspirants or deodorants. Treat with medicine suitable for the fungal infection.

6) Walk around barefoot: walk around barefoot, whenever you can, or at least take your shoes out frequently.


The following steps may help control body odor:

Wash everyday with warm water: Have at least once a day a shower or bath. Remember warm water helps to kill bacteria on your skin. Allow bathing more frequently than once a day when the weather is unusually dry.

Clothing: Natural fibers allow your skin to breathe, which results in better sweat evaporation. Fibers made naturally include wool, silk, or cotton.

Avoid spicy foods: Curry, garlic and other spicy foods have the ability to make sweat more pungent for some men. Some researchers think a diet high in red meat can also raise the risk of developing greater body odor.

Aluminum chloride: Typically this element is the principal active ingredient in antiperspirants. If your body does not respond to the above home remedies, speak to a pharmacist or doctor about an acceptable aluminum chloride drug. Follow the orders carefully.

Botulinum toxin: Clostridium botulinum produces this toxin; it is the most poisonous biologic material known. Today, however, very small and regulated doses are used in various medicinal fields. For individuals who sweat excessively under the arms there is a fairly new procedure.

Approximately 12 injections of botulinum toxin are given to the patient in the armpit – a procedure that should not last longer than 45 minutes. The toxin blocks brain signals to the sweat glands, resulting in less sweating in the target area. One treatment will last 2-8 months.

Surgery: If self-care and therapeutic measures are not successful in treating severe body odor, a doctor can perform an endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy (ETS) surgical procedure that eliminates the sweating-controlling nerves below the skin of the axes.

This treatment is a last resort and runs the risk of damage to other nearby nerves and arteries. For other areas of the body it can also increase sweating, known as compensatory sweating.

When to see your doctor

Some medical conditions can change how sweaty a person is. Others will change the way we sweat, and change the way we smell. For recognize certain problems, it is necessary to see a doctor.

For example, an overactive thyroid gland or menopause can make people sweat a lot more, while liver disease, kidney disease, or diabetes can alter the sweat quality so the individual smells differently.

You should see your doctor if:

  • You start sweating at night.
  • You start sweating much more than you normally do, without any logical reason.
  • You have cold sweats.
  • Sweating disrupts your daily routine.

If your body smells differently than normal, you should see your doctor too. Due to high levels of ketones in the bloodstream a fruity smell may suggest diabetes. Liver or kidney disease due to a build-up of toxins in the body will also make the patient have a bleach-like odour.

Chukwuebuka Martins

Chukwuebuka MartinsĀ is a writer, researcher, and health enthusiast who specializes in human physiology. He takes great pleasure in penning informative articles on many aspects of physical wellness, which he then thoroughly enjoys sharing to the general public.