Take “fish odor syndrome”: As Freuman explains, this rare genetic condition, which doctors call trimethylaminuria, leaves the body incapable of breaking down a pungent-smelling chemical compound found in fish, cruciferous veggies, and soy. This in turn “causes an all-over fish smell” in people who have the condition.
A person with phenylketonuria, another rare inherited disorder, can develop a particular scent when triggered by a type of artificial sweetener; the condition actually causes you to smell a bit like a mouse, says Dr. Gambling.
Other medical conditions like liver disease, diabetes, and kidney failure can also cause strange-smelling breath or sweat, Dr. Gambling says. Again, though, this is rare. “It’s likely that all of these diseases would be found due to other signs or symptoms first,” he explains. “But in rare cases, the odor may be noticed first.”
How do you stop body odor?
“If bad body odor is a concern, the trick is to tackle the main underlying issues that cause body odor,” board-certified dermatologist of Advanced Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery Afton Cobb, MD says. This may mean visiting a dermatologist.
“A dermatologist can make sure there are no other underlying conditions causing excessive sweating that need to be treated, such as thyroid or adrenal problems, obesity, diabetes, or amino acid metabolism disturbances,” Dr. Cobb continues.
If there is no underlying medical condition that needs to be treated, prevention is the most effective way to address stink. “The most important aspect of preventing body odor is keeping skin and hair clean by washing regularly to prevent buildup of dead skin cells, sebum, dirt, and bacteria, which can all contribute,” Dr. Marcus said. “Keeping the skin clean and dry will go a long way in terms of preventing body odor.”
What are the best products for fighting body odor?
There are many routes to take in the human body’s battle against unpleasant smells, ranging from low-cost and low-commitment to full-on dermatology treatments.
Antibacterial Body Washes & Antiseptics
Dr. Mack and Dr. Cobb recommend using antiseptics or antibacterial washes, such Hibiclens or body washes containing chlorhexidine, which are available over the counter. For those with sensitive skin, Dr. Mack favors Monat’s Moisture and Replenish Body Washwhich “will allow body odor sufferers to bath daily without stripping the skin of its natural oils.”
For those who sweat a lot but aren’t interested in picking up new odor-fighting products at the moment, Dr. Marcus also recommends avoiding synthetic fabrics that trap sweat and instead opting for a more breathable fabric like cotton. The same goes if you tend to have sweaty, smelly feet: Opt for socks that dry quickly, and be sure to wash your feet using soap (and a washcloth, if you’re so inclined) in the shower. Cleansing and exfoliating the skin’s surface is an essential step in staving off unwanted odors.
Deodorant & Antiperspirant
Then, there’s your standard deodorant and antiperspirants to treat bad body odor via your underarms. We know, we know — you’ve tried every scent on the market, right? But here’s the thing: A major aspect of proper skin care is knowing what note to use, even as it pertains to your armpits. “I recommend choosing fragrance-free antiperspirants and deodorants as fragrance is a common cause of irritant dermatitis in the axillae,” Dr. Marcus said. Farewell, floral-and-fruity drugstore deodorant scents.