Body odor (or BO as you might better know it) is a totally natural and normal part of growing up, but that doesn’t mean it’s not annoying. You’re showering as much as you ever did and using your favorite fruity soap. But suddenly your parents or friends are dropping subtle hints that they can smell the funk coming from under your arms.
Puberty can be daunting enough as it is, so new and not-so-welcome smells are probably the last thing you want. You’re already busy getting to know your menstrual cycle (by the way, you can track that using an app like Flo) and watching your body change in ways you might not have expected.
Here, Flo expert and general practitioner Dr. Amanda Chisholm, United Kingdom, gives us the lowdown on BO, as well as some handy tips and tricks to prevent it.
What causes body odor?
First things first, what actually causes body odor? You’ll know from gym class that you sweat when you were a kid. So, why does it smell different now?
To deal with body odor, you need to know where sweat comes from. You might have always thought that all sweat is made in the same place. But there’s actually a little more to it. Your sweat is produced in two different types of glands, and they work in different ways.
Your eccrine glands: Your eccrine glands are found all over your body — from your armpits and forehead to the soles of your feet. These are the sweat glands that work to keep your body cool when you’re working out or too warm. Sweating is a totally natural process. When your internal temperature starts to rise, it triggers your sweat glands to start to produce moisture to cool you down. And when your body produces this type of sweat, it doesn’t smell.
Your apocrine glands: Your body is also covered in apocrine glands that produce sweat (many of them are found in your groin, under your arms, and on your feet).
If you’ve ever noticed that you start to feel wet patches under your arms when you’re put on the spot in class, then you’ll know that nervousness and excitement can also trigger sweating. Your apocrine glands are triggered by strong emotions like fear or anticipation. When sweat produced in these glands comes into contact with natural bacteria found on your groin, armpits, and feet, it can start to smell.
The bacteria that sweat from your apocrine glands comes into contact with is slightly different from person to person, meaning your BO is likely to smell a little bit different from your best friend’s. Read on to learn why your BO might smell how it does.