Why Pits Smell (& What You Can Do About It)
Have you ever wondered why you have underarm odor? Don’t worry, everyone has some level of underarm odor or general body odor. When the human body overheats, it sweats as a cooling mechanism, and unfortunately, when this sweat mixes with the bacteria that live on the skin, it can cause a chemical reaction that comes off as an unpleasant odor.
It can be said that humans live through smell, more so than any of the other senses. Yet, as compared to the other senses, smell is the one we have the least control of. So it is very natural for us to like pleasant-smelling things and dislike things that smell anything less. However, at the end of the day, we're humans, we don't have an inherent control over how our body naturally smells. That is why we seek other options to resolve this issue.
In order to do that effectively, we have to first understand why such smells exist. Let's dive in and learn why you or others have an odor, then move on to what can be done about it.
Why Do Armpits Smell?
Humans are covered with bacteria. This is natural and dealing with bacteria is just a part of life. In many cases, bacteria can be helpful, such as certain ones that live in your digestive system, helping you digest.
Your underarms are also home to multiple types of bacteria, having chosen this home due to the apocrine glands there. Apocrine glands are sweat glands that can be found only in certain areas of the body. They are highly concentrated in the armpits, but can also be found in the groin and around the breast tissue. These glands secrete an oily compound, more commonly known as sweat. These glands are sensitive to adrenaline, which is the cause of "emotional sweating." If you have ever broken out into a sweat in a stressful situation, whether it's tension, pain, or fear, that sweat was caused by the stimulation of your apocrine glands. When the sweat from your apocrine glands meets the bacteria in your underarms, those bacteria proceed to break down your sweat into scented fatty acids, resulting to odor as a byproduct.
Originally, the warm, moist environment in your underarms was already the perfect home for a variety of bacteria to grow, so with the added sweat (which is their favorite fuel), it's just like a busy open-air market where everything's free for grabs. Here are some of the bacteria that are known to produce odors:
- Micrococcus Bacteria. An exceedingly common type of bacteria, they can be found in water, dust, and soil. However, unfortunately for us sweaty humans, they thrive in the environment polyester clothes provide.
- Staphylococcus Bacteria. These bacteria can be quite problematic. In fact, they are a common cause of infections related to invasive medical devices, and they are hard to treat with antibiotics. More often than not, when these bacteria show up, medical professionals wind up having to remove the medical device. But they can also be found in cotton and polyester fabrics.
- Leptospirosis Bacteria. These bacteria are most typically found in both dog and rodent urine, which may already sound unpleasant on its own, but it gets worse. Because of where these can be found, this bacteria can be passed on to pet owners, potentially leading to illness.
So What Can You Do?
The odor is cause by two things: the sweat and the bacteria. You can attack it from either angle. Typical deodorants attack it from the sweat side using antiperspirant ingredients with the assumption that if they stop the sweating then the problem is done. And this does work for some people, specifically those who inherently already sweat on the lesser side. But let's think about it some more, sweating is a natural mechanism to combat heat or as a reaction to stress, even if we chemically try to alter that, there's a limit. So it's not a solution for everyone. And, maybe you or someone you know might be avoiding white clothes? Majority of the standard deodorants contain aluminum in their ingredients, known for staining clothes after reacting with sweat. Antiperspirant just isn't enough.
So it becomes necessary to attack odor from the other direction, namely: bacteria. On this side, the idea is: sweat in itself is odorless, if we stop the bacteria from breaking down the lipids in the sweat, there would be no smelly byproduct. This can be accomplished by the use of daily skin-safe antibacterial product that can inhibit the growth and reproduction of bacteria.
Natural Remedies for Body Odor
The fight against odor doesn't have to be just cover and overwhelm with chemicals. Everything has a natural enemy, whether it's a specific thing to use or just a specific way to go about the issue. Odor is no different. Consider these natural, easy ways you can reduce or eliminate body odor starting from today.
1. Shave the Underarms
Moist and warm environments are the favorite habitat and breeding grounds of odor-causing bacteria and fungi. So, unfortunately, having a lot of underarm hair just contributes to keeping the sweat contained, maintaining that "lovely" environment. Moreover, the additional hair is just another surface for more bacteria to expand, and the porous nature of hair can also trap the odor. Shaving the underarms can help you keep cool and help your sweat dry faster, reducing the nutrients that fuel odor.
2. Free the Toes
The underarms aren't the only moist and warm spot on your body. Trapped, enclosed in your shoes, your feet (and especially between your toes) can become just as bacteria and fungi ridden. If possible, consider changing your footwear to increase airflow to reduce the heat and let the moisture air out.
3. Natural Sterilizers/Antiseptics
Natural sterilizers work in different ways to make your skin inhabitable for the odor-causing bacteria and fungi. These natural antiseptics work by lowering the skin's pH (vinegar, witch hazel, tea tree) to make the skin less suitable to live on or directly preventing, decomposing and deactivating the bacteria (airDefender), making the skin a land of death instead of paradise for the microorganisms.
At the end of the day, just as each person is unique, there isn't any solution that is "one size fits all." Just do your research and explore your options if you feel like what you're doing isn't exactly enough to fit your needs or to your satisfaction.