By Jeannette Moninger
Whether it’s the nose-scrunching stench from a kick-butt workout, the whiff of last night’s kung pao chicken lingering on your every word, or that less-than-fresh aroma that makes you say, “Not tonight, honey,” your body gives off myriad scents that, while totally normal, can sometimes stink. Not to worry - these expert tips will help you battle B.O. for good.
Sweat is normal and odorless - until it comes in contact with the bacteria on your skin. And bacteria thrive in warm, dark, moist places like your armpits. If you find your shirt is constantly drenched, you may have hyperhidrosis, a condition that sends sweat glands into unnecessary overdrive. Excessive sweat accompanied by nausea, dizziness, or weight loss could indicate low blood sugar or a thyroid problem.
What to do: Underarm products containing both a deodorant and an antiperspirant help mask the odor while stopping wetness, but most of us apply them at the wrong time, says David E. Bank, M.D., director of the Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic & Laser Surgery in Mount Kisco, NY. “Moisture prevents the key ingredient in antiperspirants - aluminum-based salts - from plugging sweat ducts, so applying them after showering isn’t the most effective way to treat the problem,” says Bank. For optimum dryness, roll on a sweat stopper such as Secret Clinical Strength at bedtime, when your skin’s dry and the product has more time to penetrate your pores. (You may need a stronger, prescription antiperspirant like Drysol if you have hyperhidrosis.) Then reapply in the morning, if you like, when you’ve sufficiently dried your armpits after showering.
With 250,000 sweat glands each, your feet produce up to 1/2 cup of sweat every day. And as temperatures rise, so does the moisture, creating the perfect breeding ground for odor-producing bacteria.
What to do: Wash and dry your feet thoroughly when you shower. Wear shoes made from natural materials - like leather or canvas - that allow feet to breathe. If your feet still get damp, sprinkle on a foot powder like Certain Dri Feet or stick an absorbent insole in your shoes. That same antiperspirant you’re applying to your underarms every night will also keep your feet dry, says Bank.
That not-so-fresh feeling
Every woman has a distinctive, natural vaginal scent that can become stronger or milder throughout her monthly cycle. But a really foul smell may indicate a change in the vagina’s delicate bacterial balance - a top reason women visit their gynecologist. Odor accompanied by discharge that’s yellowish, green, grayish, or thick like cottage cheese may indicate a yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis (BV), or trichomoniasis.
What to do: Wash around your vagina with a mild soap like Dove when you shower. And try to keep excess moisture away from your genitals: Change out of wet swimsuits and sweaty workout clothes immediately and wear cotton-lined panties that wick moisture away and allow air to circulate. Avoid scented hygiene products that, if you’re sensitive, can up your risk for vaginal irritations. If you do have an infection, antibiotics (for BV and trichomoniasis) or antifungals (for yeast) will generally clear it right up.
More than 80 million Americans suffer from chronic bad breath (halitosis), which occurs when bacteria that live in the mouth feast on decaying food particles, then produce smelly sulfur compounds. What you eat can cause dragon breath too. “Pungent foods like garlic and onions are absorbed by the stomach and then released from the lungs for up to 72 hours after you’ve eaten them,” says Paul Bussman, D.M.D., spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry. If your gums bleed or are red or swollen, and your breath reeks, you may have a treatable gum disease like gingivitis.
What to do: Use a scraper or brush on your tongue every time you brush your teeth (at least twice a day or after every meal) to get rid of bacteria. Daily flossing and twice-annual dentist visits are equally important. Low concentrations of carbamide peroxide, a tooth-bleaching agent, can destroy odor-generating bacteria and sulfur compounds for up to a year. The approximately $600 treatment is first administered by your dentist, then completed at home over 10 days. Though most insurance companies won’t pay for this procedure, if you suffer from truly toxic breath, you may find it’s more than worth the cash.