Skip to main content

Sweating after a rigorous workout, or when it’s brutally hot and humid outside, may be a perfectly natural biological process, but one of its by products is something many of us would rather live without: BODY ODOR! And, we’re not just talking about underarm BO. We’re talking about BO from the top of our heads to the bottom of our feet, and all the territory in between, including our groins. So, we went to one of our favorite medical experts, Dr. Alyssa Dweck, to find out why some body odors are worse than others, and what we can do to alleviate them.


Dr. Dweck, an OB/GYN practicing in Mount Kisco, New York, is the author of a new, must-have book, The Complete A to Z for Your V: A Women’s Guide to Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Your Vagina–Health, Pleasure, Hormones, and More.


FABOVERFIFTY: Why does sweating cause us to smell?     

DWECK: “We have two million sweat glands, causing us all to perspire, although some more than others. Eccrine glands are located all over the body, and they produce watery sweat, which cools down the body when it evaporates. Apocrine glands, on the other hand, are located where we have hair, on places including the scalp, armpits and groin. This sweat is less watery and more fatty, and bacteria on our skin love to feed on it when it’s secreted on the skin’s surface. Fatty acids and ammonia, the waste products formed, create a noticeable odor, that’s unique to each woman.”

Why do some of us smell more than others when we perspire?

“Many factors can influence body odor, including common diet and lifestyle habits. “Garlic, onions and curry are the classic foods that result in pungent body odor. Caffeine can provoke perspiration associated with increased odor. Of course, some people who eat lots of garlic will emit more odor than others.

“Since stench causing bacteria are attracted to apocrine sweat glands (near hair follicles), women with more hair will have more surface area on which bacteria can cling, and the smell can be more pungent. That doesn’t mean you have to eliminate all your pubic hair, but keeping it groomed might help.

“Excess weight means more skin creases, folds and redundancies for bacteria to fester.”

Many women in menopause complain about more noticeable body odor. Is that a major cause?

“Yes, since estrogen levels drop precipitously in menopause, the brain’s ability to regulate body temperature is altered, which can lead to hot flashes and night sweats. The accompanying perspiration promotes bacteria growth on the body, which leads to smells. Depression, anxiety, and stress during menopause also contribute to increased sweating and thus enhanced body odor.

“The ‘muffin top’ that often forms during menopause means excess fat around the waist, more perspiration and potentially more body odor.”

Do any other health conditions affect body odor?

“Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), which is associated with an increased body mass index and hair growth, results in more apocrine gland activity. Weight gain from diabetes, linked to poorly controlled glucose levels, also can bring on more perspiration, bacteria and odors.”

What can we do to minimize body odor?

  1. “The easiest thing to do is to wear clothes in natural materials that breathe. Synthetic fabrics, such as polyester, collect sweat and cause more odor. Cotton breathes.
  2. “Watch your diet, and reduce eating the odor-causing foods I mentioned. Mint, citrus, cucumber, and parsley can be beneficial. Drinks lots of water, too!
  3. “Scrub away under arms, on feet and in the groin with antibacterial soap if you must, but never use soap inside the vagina. Lubrigyn Cleansing Lotion is a must for the vulva.
  4. “Avoid rubbing alcohol, which only dries out the skin. Use powder (without talc) or cornstarch on your skin folds to absorb moisture.
  5. “Remove as much hair as makes you comfortable. You don’t have to eliminate all your pubic hair, for example, but keep it well groomed.
  6. “Use antiperspirants! The active ingredient, aluminum salts, reduces the amount of sweat that’s released. Deodorants mask the smell, even if you’ve already been sweating. Often these ingredients are combined into one product.

“Drysol is a prescription-strength antiperspirant that treats excess sweating, and can be used on the

underarms, scalp, hands and feet. Ask your healthcare provider if this might be appropriate for you.

  1. “The FDA has approved Botox injections in the underarms to decrease and almost eliminate sweat production. Typically a dermatologist can provide these injections every three to four months.”

Leave a Reply