BODY ODOR: CAUSE, PREVENTION AND REMEDIES
Aromatic appeal is, to some extent, subjective. The sense of smell is primal, mysterious, and deeply personal. In fact, body odors provide subconscious information about a potential mate’s genetic compatibility, social status, and reproductive vigor. Fluctuations in female hormones temper a woman’s olfactory sensitivity.
What creates a person’s signature aroma? A lot of things: diet, overall state of health, age, emotional state, levels of certain hormones, hygiene, and some medications. Some diseases create characteristic chemicals detectable on skin and in breath. The armpits are the usual source. Armpit sweat, which is richer in proteins and fats than secretions from the sweat glands covering most of your skin, doesn’t stink until bacteria that normally colonize your skin break down chemicals in sweat into acids. What can you do?
• Bathe regularly, paying special attention to your armpits and bottom. Use a mild soap with a natural (plant-derived) fragrance in place of harsh antibacterial soaps.
• Wear natural fabrics. These allow your sweat to evaporate freely. In winter, you can’t beat wool for warm and wicking action.
• Eat more fruits and vegetables.
• Harness the antibacterial and aromatic properties of plant essential oils.
RECIPES TO REDUCE BODY ODOR
TAKE A POWDER
Using just two pantry ingredients, this recipe is quick, easy, and effective. Essential oils add sweetness to this natural remedy.
¼ cup (55 g) baking soda
¼ cup (32 g) corn starch
Preparation and use: Mix the baking soda and corn starch together in a small glass dish. Apply to underarms with a clean makeup pad. Apply to feet and the insides of shoes to sop up foot odors. Recipe Variation: Add 10 to 12 drops of lavender or another favourite essential oil per ½ cup (87 g) of the mixture. Drop the oil into a bowl, pour the powder mixture into a sieve, and shake it into the oil, gradually mixing the two to blend. Baking soda is a natural odor eliminator. Corn starch absorbs excess moisture. Warning: Be careful not to inhale the particles.
COCONUT TEA TREE DEODORIZER
2 tablespoons (28 g) virgin coconut oil
1 tablespoon (14 g) grated beeswax
8 drops tea tree essential oil
2 tablespoons (28 g) baking soda
2 tablespoons (16 g) corn starch
Preparation and use: In a saucepan over low heat, melt the coconut oil and beeswax. Once melted, remove from the heat. Immediately add the essential oil, baking soda, and corn starch and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into a clean, dry, empty push-style deodorant container (recycle a used one). Use a spatula or butter knife to pack in the mixture and smooth over the top. Virgin coconut oil is antibacterial and an emollient. Tea tree oil is antimicrobial. Beeswax holds the mixture together, smells pleasant, and soothes irritated skin.
LAVENDER-APPLE CIDER VINEGAR WASH
A refreshing spray of this underarm elixir has post shower power.
¼ cup (60 ml) apple cider vinegar
6 drops lavender essential oil
Preparation and use: Place the ingredients in a small, clean spray bottle, cap, and shake. Spritz on underarms after a shower or bath. Apple cider vinegar lowers the pH level of the skin (that is, makes the skin more acidic), discouraging bacteria that turn body sweat into body odor. Lavender discourages bacterial growth and adds a scent-ual lift.
2 tablespoons (5 g) crushed or chopped fresh sage
¼ cup (60 ml) apple cider vinegar
Preparation and use: Combine the sage and vinegar in the small, clean jar. Cap and shake the mixture until the sage is thoroughly soaked. Place the mixture in the pantry or cabinet for about a week. (This allows the vinegar to extract the essence of the sage.) When the vinegar smells strongly of sage, the potion is ready. Strain the mixture through cheesecloth and pour it into a small, clean spray bottle. Spritz your underarms, feet, or other body parts prone to odor. Sage has a drying effect and is antimicrobial. Combined with the pH reducing apple cider vinegar, it makes a perfect elixir for reducing perspiration and body odor.
¼ cup (60 ml) white vinegar
12 drops favourite essential oil (eucalyptus, rosemary, lemon, lavender, or tea tree)
Preparation and use: Mix the vinegar and essential oil(s) of your choice. Pour the mixture into a clean spray bottle, cap it tightly, and shake. Spritz your underarms and all over your body. Vinegar is acidic, which inhibits bacterial growth. Essential oils (such as rosemary, eucalyptus, tea tree oil, lemon, and lavender) are antibacterial.
Essential oils not only fight bacteria and microbes, keeping you at your freshest, but they infuse your home with soothing scent.
¼ cup (60 ml) witch hazel
1 tablespoon (15 ml) vodka
10 drops tea tree oil
10 drops lavender essential oil
5 drops eucalyptus essential oil
5 drops sage essential oil
Preparation and use: In a clean spray bottle, mix the witch hazel and vodka. Add all the essential oils. Cap and shake the bottle until the ingredients are completely blended. Spritz away at those odiferous body parts. Witch hazel is astringent and antiseptic; vodka is antibacterial. Lavender, eucalyptus, and sage essential oils are antibacterial, while tea tree oil is antimicrobial. Sage also has drying properties.
¼ cup (115 g) Aloe vera gel
6 drops eucalyptus essential oil
6 drops lavender essential oil
Preparation and use: In a small, clean jar, mix the aloe gel with the essential oils, and then shake the jar vigorously until the ingredients are fully blended. With a clean pad or cloth, dab the mixture onto your armpits after showering for a zesty feel and deodorizing action. Aloe Vera is antiseptic and soothing. The essential oils are antibacterial.
1 cup (235 ml) water
1 teaspoon (5 ml) hydrogen peroxide (3 percent solution)
Preparation and use: Mix the water and hydrogen peroxide. Using a clean washcloth or pad, wipe the solution on your underarms, feet, or groin and feel refreshed. Hydrogen peroxide is antibacterial.
REFRESHING BATH FIZZIE
This recipe comes from one of the staff at a Denver herb store called Apothecary Tinctura. It leaves you smelling clean and feeling refreshed.
¼ to ½ cup (60 to 120 ml) witch hazel
½ cup (115 g) citric acid
1 cup (220 g) baking soda
15 drops eucalyptus essential oil
10 drops bay laurel essential oil
Preparation and use: Pour the witch hazel into a small, clean spray bottle. In a small bowl, combine the citric acid and baking soda. Add the essential oils to the powder one drop at a time, stirring constantly to distribute evenly. Pick up the mixture in your hands and spritz two times with witch hazel. Keep shaping and spritzing the material with your hands until you have a ball that’s moist but not soggy. Press into muffin tins, filling halfway. Once dry, pop out the fizzies and store in a tightly capped jar. Add one fizzie to a warm bath. The citric acid and baking soda are delivery systems for the refreshing aromatic essential oils. Eucalyptus and bay laurel essential oils are antibacterial agents that help counter odor-causing skin bacteria.
WHEN TO CALL THE DOCTOR
• If you are staying clean, practicing good hygiene, eating well, and still experiencing body odor, make an appointment with your doctor. Some medical conditions and medications alter body smells. Also, a condition called hyperhidrosis leads to excessive sweating.
• Also see your doctor if you notice unusual vaginal odors or discharge. Refrain from using commercially sold vaginal sprays and douches. These products can upset the acid-base balance and kill resident microbes that defend against infection-causing microbes. Plus, if you do have an infection, the pressure of douching can cause the “bad” microbes to ascend into your pelvic organs.