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Underarm Odor: How to Manage It

3 men drinking beer in a bar

By Dennis Madden

You may already know that underarm odor is not caused by sweat itself, but the combination of sweat and bacteria found naturally on your skin, the National Institutes of Health(NIH) explains. At first, that little fact can make your skin crawl, but before you run for the showers, know that underm odor is perfectly normal. This bacteria is a big component to your own personal biology and can even help attract a partner by contributing to your unique musk. Even so, there are times when you'd prefer not to sweat and smell, so here's what you need to know about the why of sweat and armpit odor, and how to treat

You Are Not Alone (Even When You're By Yourself)

The bacteria on your skin is part of an entire host of microorganisms that live in and on your body called the microbiome. The microbiome is made up of all sorts of bacteria and other microscopic organisms that live in harmony with your body. Gross, right? Not quite. These "bugs" play a significant role in a healthy immune system and live throughout your body, according to the journal Nature Reviews Microbiology. Microbiome bacteria are important enough that the NIH is currently on a mission to identify, catalog and study these microscopic organisms to help better understand their function.

Sweat Is Sexy?

Underarm odor may also contain a message to potential mates: "choose me," it says. Testosterone is responsible for a host of male characteristics that can identify the individual as a fertile and capable companion. Chemical compounds found in testosterone, like androstenol, are excreted with your sweat and contribute to that musky man-scent. Although the research is limited, one study published in Russia's Journal of General Biology showed that women rated the scent of men (after a few days without showering) with high testosterone as more attractive. Who knew that body odor could be a good thing?

Great, Now What?

Sure, it's great that bacteria is normal and our body odor may send out that "come hither" vibe, but that's little consolation for those who want to make their best scent impression. It's time to base your underarm product decision on more than just walking down the aisle, pulling off the cap and giving it a quick whiff. If odor is your main problem you can start with the deodorants. If odor is a problem and you need some help tackling sweat, too, you need to tackle the source so bacteria on your skin won't have a source to feed. You can explore antiperspirants until you find one that works best for you.

While the biology of bacteri and hormones are certainly fascinating, that doesn't mean that you want to share your unique bouquet with the entire world. If you're having trouble controlling your underarm odor, take a look at the product you're using. If it's not effective, work your way up to stronger products. Getting it right may take time, but once you get your routine down you'll spend less time thinking about body odor and more on the task at hand.

This article was brought to you by Colgate-Palmolive Company, the makers of Speed Stick products. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of the Colgate-Palmolive Company.