Table of Contents
Understanding the functioning of the Body Glands
There are two types of sweat glands: the apocrine sweat glands and the eccrine sweat glands. The eccrine sweat glands are dispersed all over the body, but more numerous on the palms and soles, the forehead and the armpits. They are activated when the hypothalamus (temperature and metabolism regulator) senses a change in body temperature. The eccrine glands are responsible of excreting sweat only. The apocrine glands in turn release waste materials, proteins and lipids. The apocrine glands get activated at puberty with the hormonal fluctuations that are typical of that stage of development. They are present in the groin, armpits and around the nipples.
A priori, even the sweat and excretory products released by the apocrine glands are not odorous in nature. It is the contact of the sweat with skin that sets the tone for everything. Normal microbial flora present at the surface of the skin feed off the sweat that is released. When they enter into contact with that sweat, oxidation and reduction reactions occur, and as a byproduct of those, body odor is formed. However, because we are all genetically unique, we are definitely going to smell different.
What about Genital Odor?
Just like other mucosa in the body (oral, gastrointestinal, ocular, etc.) the vagina has its own specific mucosa and henceforth needs to remain moist all times to prevent infections or other complications. Henceforth, to maintain moisture in that special organ, women have the so-called bartholin glands and Skene glands that release mucus to lubricate the vagina. Normally, with the interaction of normal vaginal flora, the secretions become slightly odorous but barely noticeable. The odor here is also characteristic for every female. Genital infections however would produce more offensive odors.
Body Odor cannot be prevented, but can be managed.
The conception that body odor can be prevented is absolutely false, as this is a genetic factor that cannot be changed! However, it can be diminished and attenuated. By far, hygiene is the most important factor that affects body odor. When you take showers and baths, ensure that you scrub your armpits for about 5 minutes for each axilla to eliminate the odors. Body odors are very long-lasting, which makes them tenacious to remove. Similarly, the groin region (which is another area where body odors commonly develop) should be scrubbed thoroughly, for about 3-4 minutes per side of your thighs.
Deodorants and antiperspirants are also commonly used to deal with unwanted body smells. However, they have two different functions: deodorants eliminate the smell or mask it when it has already formed, whereas antiperspirants prevent sweat from forming. Antiperspirants generally have a dual action though, where they not only prevent the smell from forming, but also mask it when it has already been formed. This is the most appropriate option for people with strong body odor. Deodorants and antiperspirants come in the form of sprays, sticks or roll-ons. The choice is truly yours, and their variation in shape and form will in no way affect their efficacy. While some people tend to prefer roll-ons and sticks because of their smooth applications, others would rather opt for sprays to avoid the whitish marks left by roll-ons and sticks under the armpits after application; but also to benefit from the feeling of freshness that they experience with directly spraying their deodorant under their axilla.