Armpits. . .we all have them and don’t pay much attention to them unless they stink. When we’ve had the misfortune to encounter (someone else’s) foul odor – especially during a gut-wrenching workout or on a hellishly hot day – it’s natural to surmise that the offending party skipped a date with a shower. After all, the daily use of soap, water and deodorant is the only means to stave off “the funk”. Right? Actually, this thought is not right.
Scientists at the University of York are researching bacteria and found that the use of body care products are not the sole means of getting rid of the sulfuric, oniony goodness that can come out of the hallow under-belly of where the arm and the shoulder meet. A post doctoral researcher who’s leading the study found that a specific bacteria is a culprit that causes B.O. (bromhidrosis, osmidrosis, ozochrotia). Of the many bacteria living in the armpit, Thioalcohol aka thiol (created when microbiota breaks down sweat) is the offender. Thiol thrives in warm, dark and moist environments. It can be especially successful when body hair is present. This happens for two reasons: 1. body hair provides additional surface area for the bacteria to cling to and grow; and, 2. body hair absorbs odor and allows it to stick around much longer than desired.
Regardless of the presence of hair, soaps and deodorants are not always effective in preventing odor for two reasons:
- They’re either not strong enough to kill all odor causing bacteria. All products are not equal. Varying strengths, ingredients and one’s health impact the effectiveness of body care products.
- They’re not designed to kill odor causing bacteria. These products block glands to prevent the secretion of sweat. Thus, thiol cannot be produced because microbiota can’t break down the sweat.
Sweat is the by-product of the body heating up to convert chemical energy to work energy. It’s a natural body function and is impossible to prevent. The same is true for microbiota. When it comes to body care it’s about the suppression of bacteria growth vs. getting rid of all bacteria (studies are underway). To minimize foul odor, focus on the following:
- Find the products that work for your body
- Maintain a friendly armpit ecosystem
- Be aware of your health
- Consider your wardrobe (synthetic material, in particular)