I was in the in sixth grade when I first became aware that I had a not-so-fresh-fragrance.
I remember it clearly: it was a hot summer day. I was riding home on the school bus and decided to open the window. As I leaned against the open window and the breeze flowed through my shirt, my seatmate, a boy who I had a major crush on at the time informed me that I stunk.
Mortified by his comments, I realized that he was right. I did smell, and it was bad.
In fact, it was really, really bad.
For most of my life, I have been plagued by strong body odor. Despite reassurances by my mother, then pediatrician and others that it would become less offensive once I got older, it did not. Despite scrupulous hygiene and the industrial strength antiperspirants/deodorants that I wore throughout my teens and early 20s, on a hot day I still smelled like a cross between raw onions and gasoline.
I even had a physician remark that my sweat was the most memorable she had ever smelled. While I guess one could argue it’s good to be remarkable in some way, this was not what I was aiming for.
Cutting meat and dairy out of my diet didn’t work nor did any of the other 20 or so dietary tips that helpful people gave me over the years.
Also, as I got older and became more product savvy and embraced an increasingly holistic lifestyle, I became horrified by some of the ingredients that lurked in conventional products and turned to more “natural” alternatives.
While some of them worked for awhile, I soon discovered that much like their chemical counterparts, most simply stopped working over a period of time.
However, years later, there are a few things that I have learned that have at least helped to keep at it bay most of the time.
Perhaps by sharing these, these will help some souls who are in the same boat I am in:
1. Try to shower or bath as soon as possible after working out or working up a sweat.
Sweat is actually odorless—it’s only when it combines with the bacteria on the skin that it starts to smell.
Often times, I have left the yoga studio or gym feeling like I smelled okay only to be reeking 30 minutes or an hour later.
If you cannot get to a shower, then at least try to wash the underarms, groin, and other areas where you sweat a lot. No need to rub and scrub. Just a quick wash will often be enough to tide you over for an hour or so.
2. Wear cotton/linen/wool and other natural fabrics whenever possible.
Natural fibers “breathe” which allows odor to dissipate more quickly than synthetics. They also tend to keep you cooler. By contrast, synthetic fibers tend to hold on to odor for dear life.
I’ve found that natural/synthetic blends vary. In most cases, the higher the natural fiber content, the more breathable.
One thing, though, to keep in mind is that following an especially heavy sweating session some natural fibers can hold on to odors for dear life even after they have been washed or dry cleaned several times. (I find this particularly true of silk and wool.) I’ve even had to throw out clothing because the odor would not come out.
A good rule of thumb: if a garment has been washed at least two times and still smells, the odor is probably going to be there for good.
3. Baking soda is preferable to talcum powder or cornstarch when it comes to absorbing odor.
As many of you already know, baking soda is one of those amazingly cheap, natural products that has thousands of uses including absorbing odor and moisture. (The latter often serves as a breeding ground for all sorts of smelling bacteria.)
I like to apply it straight out of the box, but some like to apply it with a powder puff because it does tend to clump from time to time.
Baking soda is also great to put into smelly shoes, too. Simply put a couple of teaspoons in your sneakers and let them sit for a couple hours before shaking it all out
4. In a pinch, plain vodka can work as an effective homemade deodorant.
This is an old comedian’s trick I learned about from an interview with the legendary Joan Rivers. (Per her, most comedians work up a tremendous sweat when they are on stage.)
Straight vodka applied with a cotton ball works fine or if you want something a little more a fancy, combine 2 ounces of vodka mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of glycerin and couple drops of essential oil of your choice. Keep in a dark glass container away from heat and apply like you would regular deodorant. (You can even put it in a spray bottle and apply like a conventional spray-on.)
Body odor is one of those things that few people may want to admit to, but many suffer from. I know all too well how embarrassing it can be and how it can make even the most confident person on earth feel self-conscious.
Still, it can be manageable and doesn’t require a boatload of potentially harmful chemicals to combat it.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise