Why Do I Have Strong Underarm Odor?

Question:

Why do I have strong under arm odor? I bathe all the time and it is still there, even after I put underarm stuff on. What can I do, since this is very embarassing?

Signed,

Embarassed


Answer:

Dear Embarassed:

You will probably find it very helpful to check with a medical doctor to see if there is a medical reason for your situation. Also a doctor can give you a prescription for a stronger antiperspirant than you can buy in a store.

If you are young, especially if you are a young woman, you may be having more problems than normal because of hormonal issues. There may be something a doctor can give you to help you with the problem. There are also other medications than can be taken that may help with sweating. I really encourage you to do that, if nothing else is helping.

Sweat odor is caused by bacteria that is produced by perspiration. The best way to get rid of sweat odor is to stop the sweat or to reduce it to such an extent that the odor does not build up before you change clothes and shower.

The following list seems complicated, but it is not. It is simply a way to reduce the sources of odor and to keep you fresh longer.

1. Make sure your shirts and sweaters are clean every time you wear them. Dry cleaning will not take out sweat odors, usually only washing will do that. But, if you dry clean some items, tell the cleaner to treat the underarm areas for odor.

Wash your washable clothes, putting a prewash, extra detergent or an antibacterial soap under the arms and letting that set for ten minutes or more.

Then use a toothbrush or similar brush to brush the soap into the seams of the underarm area on your clothes. Wash and rinse thoroughly. The idea is to kill the bacteria that is in the seams of the clothing.

2. Never try to wear a shirt or sweater more than one day–it may not smell badly when you check it, but once it becomes warm from your body it will smell sweaty no matter how clean you are. Some people can get by with doing that, but if you have a problem with sweat, you cannot!

3. Avoid wearing polyster blouses and shirts since they hold the sweat and bacteria. Some of the worst smelling people I have talked to about their problem, wore polyster knit shirts that hold sweaty smells even after they are washed. Women who wear polyster blouses and dresses and often can have an offensive odor because of it.

4. Shower all over and use antibacterial soap or a lot of suds under each arm and all around the arm area. Underarm hair collects the bacteria, which is why men usually smell more sweaty than women. Many men have found that shaving part or all of their underarm hair helps them stop the sweat smell.

Shower at night, dry the underarms well, then put antiperspirant all over and around the underarm area and apply a light dusting of antibacterial powder.

Many people find that using a light dusting of foot powder helps stop the sweaty bacteria under their arms, because most foot powder is designed to help the odor of feet and to kill bacteria that grows there.

5. Deodorant does not stop perspiration, only an antiperspirant will help reduce sweat. Even an antiperspirant will not stop sweat completely, especially if you do hard work or work in hot condition.

You MUST use the strongest antiperspirant you can get. That is another reason to talk to a doctor, since he or she may have something of medical strength to recommend. Otherwise, ask a druggist if he or she knows which is the strongest of the antiperspirants sold in the store. Usually antiperspirants for men are a bit stronger.

Get an unfragranced kind, because someone who sweats a lot may find the mix of fragrance and sweat is even worse than just the sweat. And many people are allergic to the fragrance and are bothered by it when others are wearing it. Do not wear cologne to cover up odor.

6. When you get up in the morning, shower again if you need to and repeat the process of antiperspirant and powder. If you do not need to shower again, apply more antiperspirant and more powder before you put on your clothes.

If you have sweat during the night you will need to at least suds under your arms and dry them thoroughly before putting on antiperspirant and powder.

7. Avoid clothes that make you hot and sweaty, if you can. Do not wear layers of clothes unless the weather really requires it. Keep the armpit area loose if you can, so sweat can evaporate away.

8. If you work in a situation where you can do it, go into a bathroom when you feel that you have been sweating, to freshen up. Buy some anti-bacterial handwipes and wipe under your arms and apply more antiperspirant and powder. Or suds under your arms with a cloth and dry thoroughly before apply antiperspirant and powder, just as you would do at home.

9. Some men wear t-shirts under their regular shirts and change that during the day, since it is the t-shirt that often collects the sweaty smell. Some women wear dress shields they pin into their blouses or sweaters, and change those during the day.

Both men and women with very difficult sweaty problems sometimes keep an extra shirt or blouse at work and change completely mid-day.

10. Avoid food that tends to create sweat and especially that create more odor than usual. Among those are any spicy foods, garlic and onions.

Recently I talked to a man who did most of these things and he said he had been free from odor for months and it was a great feeling to not worry about it.

He said it was a lot of work at first, but then he got into a routine and now he is in the habit of showering and putting on antiperspirant and foot powder at least twice a day.

He said he also found out that his closet smelled badly from having sweaty shirts in there for years, so he completely cleaned his closet after taking all the clothes out of it and airing them out and washing them.

Then, he made a point of never putting a dirty shirt in the closet again. His dirty clothes are kept next to the washing machine so the smell doesn’t get into his clean clothes.

I hope those ideas will help you and that you will talk to a doctor if you have a problem that is more severe than these things can help.

Best wishes to you!

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.