What a Pong! All About BO

What is BO? Known scientifically as bromhidrosis, offensive body odour has likely afflicted all of us at some point, if not regularly, and we know the distress of catching a whiff of ourselves not to mention the trauma of having to be stuck on a crowded train with someone with bad BO. ***Shudder***. I personally know the cost of having to replace woofy gym clothes. BO sucks but it can be managed. Here I am really mainly talking about pit pong. What causes BO? Body odour is caused by the action of our normal skin bacteria on our sweat, breaking down the odourless secretions into smelly molecules. If you sweat a lot, like I do, then you are more likely to smell. Odour can also come from when we sweat the smelly molecules from what we ingest such as garlic and alcohol. Some people have a rare genetic disorder called triethylaminuria which causes a fishy body odour. Why do my clothes stink even if I don’t? Isn’t that the worst? You go to the gym in fresh clothes and within a few minutes you totally pong and its not your actual armpit but the clothes. I’ve had major issues with this in the past, I just stank out all my gym gear. When we sweat the fabrics we wear soak up sweat, bacteria and smelly molecules. Synthetic fabrics, in comparison with natural fibres like cotton, ‘favour’ the more pong causing bacteria as well as soaking up the more pungent odorous compounds hence develop the worst stench. Unfortunately, a standard cold cycle does not remove the bacteria or the stinky compounds, rather just mixes them up. How can I fix my BO? The simplest way to fix body odour is to use an antiperspirant (anti-sweat) deodorant (anti-smell). Most antiperspirants are deodorants but not all deodorants are antiperspirants. Antiperspirants use metallic salts, usually aluminium, which both temporarily block the sweat glands and are antibacterial. By reducing the amount of sweating and the number of bacteria they reduce smell. Deodorants work by masking smells. Personally, I find deodorants without antiperspirant ingredients do not work. What turned the corner for me was being introduced to TRIsolid™ technology. Drilling down into it, it just appears to be a high concentration aluminium salt (20%) hence it was simply more effective because it was a more effective anti-perspirant. Some may be concerned about the potential harms of antiperspirants but there is no evidence for harm beyond a small risk of mild skin irritation, specifically there is no evidence a link between breast cancer and Alzheimer’s disease and use of antiperspirants/ deodorants. I am yet to find a ‘natural’ or plastic-free deodorant that also is an anti-perspirant so I stick to the supermarket brands. For detailed information on ‘natural’ deodorants see reference 2 as it has a long scientific description of herbs to treat body odour (need to scroll down a bit to find it). It is known that using antiperspirants changes the microbiome in the armpit and may favour a smellier population. An option is to not use deodorants and allow the natural microbiome to re-establish. As I exercise, thus sweat, at high levels, this is not something I am game to try but all power to you. Other tips for managing BO, include washing regularly, hair removal and weight loss, if appropriate. There are more invasive options for those who are super sweaters. I’ll try to write another post on this. But what about my clothes? While the new antiperspirant deodorant fixed my sweating in regular life, I still had stinky gym gear. I am a cold wash cycle where possible to reduce energy consumption and make my clothes last longer. However, for my gym gear I now blast it with a heat wash and use an antibacterial rinse - goodbye pong. Other options include sports detergents (read this in an article, have not checked at the supermarket if these exist here), soaking in vinegar or alcohol (not feasible with the volume of gym clothes I go through) or drying your clothes in the sun. I have also found certain companies make garments with anti-bacterial properties. These you cannot heat blast but I have been amazed how they just do not stink. In summary, our skin bacteria eat our sweat and the byproduct is pong. Using a good antiperspirant deodorant will reduce sweat and smell. Washing your stinky clothes on a hot wash (if feasible, remember some garments will shrink on hot) and adding a dash of an antibacterial wash will help remove the odour. If you have ongoing concerns regarding excessive sweating or smell, see your GP. References: 1. Sinclair. Australian Family Physician. 2013. 42(5) p. 266 https://www.racgp.org.au/afp/2013/may/hyperhidrosis-and-bromhidrosis/

2. Kanlayavattanakul & Lourith. International Journal of Cosmetic Science. 2001. 33(4)


3. https://www.cancerwa.asn.au/resources/cancermyths/deodorants-breast-myth/

4. https://www.popsci.com/smelly-gym-clothes/