Fascinating Facts About Underarm Odor and Bacteria

Underarm OdorUnderarm odor, which occurs after we sweat from this damp, dark area which has concentrated amounts of sweat glands, is something that most of the population has to deal with.  It doesn’t take long to occur after our underarms get moist, so most of us deal with it by applying a deodorant.

Deodorants work to prevent the unpleasant odor that results from sweating by killing or inactivating the bacteria that cause the odor. Just as bacteria cause any other unpleasant odors, such as on rotting food or even decomposition or a living organism, it causes odor in our underarms as well.

Did you know that not everyone in the world smells when they sweat?

This actually came as a shock to me when I learned of it.  There are actually people in this world, though not many, who do not possess the specific bacteria types that cause underarm odor. So they can sweat profusely and never have to apply deodorant because the bacteria will not cause odor since it is not present.

The segment of the population that lack these bacteria is very small and concentrated to certain parts of the world – one is in a northern part of Asia for example.  It is purely genetic whether you have the bacteria or not.

For some reason those that do not have these bacteria on their underarm area did not develop it in the evolutionary process for reasons unknown but likely it was because they didn’t need it to survive or further their blood line.

Another interesting fact to note is that studies showed that even if these non-bacteria possessing individuals did not stink when they sweat, they still were in the habit of using deodorant because it is such a societal norm.

The specific bacteria that cause body odor are….

The two most well known bacteria that cause the odor that occurs in the armpit are called S epidermidis and Corynebacterium xerosis.  There are others, but these are the most well-understood of the bunch.

So, how do bacteria cause this odor? Well, they actually begin to metabolize your sweat, which is rich in various types of sugars. Since many bacteria love to feed on sugars, they begin instantly to collect and feed. The by-product of this is massive multiplication of the bacteria and the culmination of body odor that represents bacterial growth.

There is such a combination of reasons for this strong odor that collects in this area. Call it the perfect storm of circumstances if you will. The first and foremost cause of this odor is the fact that the largest concentration of sweat glands is near your under arms.

Once we hit puberty, our arm pit area begins to have the unpleasant smell we are used to as adults due to the sweat glands becoming more active.  Hormonal shifts can also contribute to a stronger smelling odor emitting from this area. It is not the sweat itself that smells bad.

It is the combination of the fact that the underarm is a dark area where moisture is collecting that causes bacteria to grow. This bacteria produces a strong chemical reaction that results in a unique odor that smells unpleasant to the human olfactory senses, requiring deodorant to control it.

What antiperspirants accomplish

Antiperspirants are often prescribed to help stop underarm odor, but all these do is plug the pores located in the underarm area to stop the sweat from flowing out. Antiperspirants often use aluminum particles to plug the sweat glands.  As you know, aluminum is a metal that has been linked to many health issues including alzheimers and various types of cancer.

There is no antiperspirant that stops ALL sweat from coming out – not even the prescription kind. We need to sweat a little bit at least, this is the way our body gets rid of excess salt as well as different types of toxins that come out in the sweating process.

Deodorants actually work to kill the bacteria which is caused by the moisture and darkness of the area.  In turn, it reduces of completely stops the odor that we all find so offensive.  As you know, there are natural deodorants available, and there are also deodorants that use a variety of chemicals to help reduce the growth of these odor-producing bacteria.

Men vs. women

Men often tend to gather this distinct underarm smell more severely than women. This is because men typically do not shave their underarms. Due to the abundance of hair, the bacteria collects more readily and causes the underarms to smell more pungent more quickly.

Women tend to shave their underarms, which helps reduce some of the buildup, but does not stop it entirely.  Men may choose to partially shave their underarms to reduce the smell, or they may apply a natural powder to help soak up and neutralize some of the dampness that causes bacterial growth.

Tips to stop underarm odor

It is important to wash shirts every day, especially when it is summer time.  The smell builds up in the underarm area of clothes, and can carry over to the next time the article is worn if they are not regularly cleansed.  It can also exacerbate the smell on the underarms since it lends to the bacterial growth the next time the garment is worn.

Washing with a good antibacterial soap is also a great way to reduce odor from the beginning. If you shower at night, you may want to apply your deodorant (natural is highly preferable of course) directly after your shower instead of waiting until the next morning.

You do sweat at night, so if you don’t neutralize the odor overnight, you will be applying the deodorant over bacteria that has already grown during the night, rendering your deodorant less effective.  If you don’t want to apply your deodorant at night, make sure you wash your underarms again in the morning to erase the odor-causing bacteria that grew during the night.

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