Underarm Smell

Question:

I take a shower two times daily but the underarm smell is still there. Should I consult a general practioner or a skin specialist?

Signed,

Embarrassed


Answer:

DearĀ Embarrassed:

We aren’t a medical site, so you should talk to a general practitioner if you think you have a medical condition that needs professional help.

However, I can tell you this without being a doctor: Sweat on the skin smells badly after it sits for only a few minutes, because of bacteria. So you can shower all you want but when you sweat, even a little, you will get a sweaty smell unless you have done something to stop or reduce the sweat or to cover-up the odor. You must use an antiperspirant to reduce the sweating under your arms or use a lot of deodorant and powder to mask the odor. My experience is that deodorant alone isn’t enough, almost everyone needs antiperspirant. Some of the worst smelling people I’ve counseled with about it are wearing some flowery deodorant that mixes with their sweaty smell! Some people claim it is unhealthy to reduce sweat under the arms. However, there is no proof of unhealthiness, especially since sweat isn’t stopped completely just reduced. Further, sweat is excreted in other ways. It’s just that under the arms and on the feet smell the worst!

As for some people saying they don’t mind the odor or think it smells sweaty: Aalmost everyone in the American culture dislikes a sweaty odor. Another thing to remember is that you can be clean and not sweaty, but if your clothes have heavy sweat odors that can’t be removed with washing, they will get worse as you wear them, because of body heat. They will smell as though you aren’t clean. Some fabrics retain the smells even after washing, especially if shirts and blouses fit tightly under the arms.

So, the key to not smelling sweaty is to shower with plenty of soap, then immediately dry off thoroughly, especially under your arms, and put on antiperspirant, then wear fresh, clean clothes. Pattiing some talcum powder on top of the antiperspirant will also help.

If you have the time after that first routine, wait a couple of hours and apply some more antiperspirant after the first layer has absorbed into the skin. If you’re going to do that, wait until then to apply the powder. Try that cleanliness-antiperspirant–powder–clean shirt routine and see if it works. If it does, you won’t have to see a doctor.

Just remember that if you get very hot or nervous later and sweat, it will overload your antiperspirant, so you should wash under your arms again, dry and apply antiperspirant and powder, and put on a clean shirt.

All of that is a bit of work, but it almost always DOES work and certainly saves you from smelling terrible to those around you.

Best wishes. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know if this is successful.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.