[By Tania Hui]
I’m not too sure if they are still using it but in the 80s, Famous Amos used to have the tagline “Free Smells” on the wall of their stores; referring to the enticing aroma from their freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. Alas, around that time, “Free Smells” also happened to be the nickname of one of my high school classmate. Well you guess it right; the poor girl had a really bad case of body odour.
Strange as it may seem, many people with bad body odour are unaware that they smell. Scientific research done has shown that some people are unable to detect certain molecules. Although their nostrils may be able to register the smell of garlic or curry, they are just unable to pick up the rancid smell emanating from their own armpits. So if there’s a ‘Stinking Sally’ in your circle of friends, please do her a huge favour by TELLING the truth; plainly and simply— in private of course. She is not likely to pick up the hint even if she’s getting ten bottles of perfume during last Christmas’ gift exchange. The moment of awkwardness will save her a lifetime of embarrassment and you, the ordeal of having to put up with her “free smells”.
Body odour, also known largely as BO is never pleasant. On the contrary to popular belief, BO is not caused by sweat alone. Everybody sweats. We have to. Perspiration is the body’s biological way of cooling down. Sweat alone is not smelly but when the bacteria living on the skin works on it, sweat is broken down into aromatic fatty acids which are anything but ‘aromatic’; giving rise to the noxious smell of BO. Read on to find out more about what can be done to minimize, and hopefully, eliminate such bad scent.
Make sure you wash yourself daily, paying attention to your underarms and other areas such as the genitals and feet where bacteria love to hang out too. Use pH-balanced soaps and skincare products to maintain the protective acid mantle of your skin. Bathing products that contain tea tree oil which acts as a mild natural astringent can shrink pores and cut back on sweat production. Try bathing in an apple vinegar wash twice a week by adding two cups of apple vinegar cider to your bath as this will help restore the pH of your skin to an optimum level.
Wear clothes make out of natural fibers such as cotton which allows the skin to breathe, providing better absorption and ventilation compared to synthetic material such as polyester. Keep an extra change of clothes handy especially if you are expecting profuse sweating by mid-day. Never wear yesterday’s clothes. However clean your body is, the clothes will retain the smell of yesterday’s sweat.
Always maintain a healthy, balanced diet. Overloading or cutting back in vital areas can throw your system off and aggravate glandular secretions. Say no to fad diets that advise you to only consume produce from 1 or 2 food groups. Cut down on dairy products and simple sugar. Detoxify your system regularly as this is one good way to keep your liver and gastrointestinal tract functioning at optimal levels; and potential body odour at bay. A simple way will be to consume 10-12 glasses of water a day to flush out toxins from your body and keep metabolic processes humming along at peak levels. Ensure you meet a zinc requirement of 25 to 50mg per day either with a supplement or from natural zinc rich sources such as eggs, pumpkin seeds and lean meat. Lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacteria can re-establish the proper pH balance in your digestive system and adding a fiber supplement will ensure good bowel movement.
It is worth trying different antiperspirants and deodorants because they have different active ingredients, and you’ll find some work better than others. Deodorants don’t stop the sweat, they work simply by partially masking the smell while antiperspirants help stop the sweat before it starts with a chemical called aluminum chlorohydrate. Avoid alcohol based products as they can cause skin irritation. Choose one that contains potassium or ammonium alum to reduce bacteria, and essential oils made from anti-microbial herbs, such as rosemary, goldenseal or oregano, to mask odour. It is a known fact that armpit hair tend to trap sweat and thus worsen any existing body odour. Besides shaving and waxing, an option that produces better and longer lasting results will be Laser Hair Removal.
Do you know that the use of Botox (Botulinum Toxin) is not only limited to frown lines and crow’s feet? In fact, Botox is also approved and licensed as a treatment for excessive sweating from the armpit; otherwise known medically as axillary hyperhidrosis. It is by far the most successful and easiest way to get you from “free smells” to “smells- free”.
Sweat glands require a nerve impulse to activate. Without this stimulation, they won’t secrete. By injecting small amount of Botox into multiple sites in the skin at the apex of the armpit, the related nerve impulse is temporarily relaxed and prevented from reaching the sweat gland. This, in turn, stops sweat production in the treated area.
“All patients report a substantial decrease in sweating within two to five days of treatment,” says Dr. Kenneth Lee from The Sloane Clinic. “Many patients have also reported not perspiring at all following that and repeated treatment is usually recommended at six monthly- interval for maintenance.”
Another possible way to reduce underarm sweating is via a keyhole surgery known as trans-thoracic sympathectomy. This has to be done under general anaesthetic whereby nerves that control sweating are killed off by an electric current. But because the body still has to sweat, some post op patients experience increased perspiration from their back, chest and abdomen. It is also important to take note of such possible side effects because once it’s done, the procedure is irreversible.