Confessions of a Stinky Girl: 4 Tips to Naturally Control Body Odor.

Via Kimberly Lo
on Sep 24, 2013
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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












About Kimberly Lo

Kimberly Lo is a yoga instructor and freelance editor & writer based in Charlottesville, VA. In her spare time, she enjoys needlework, travel, and photography. Connect with her on Facebook.


28 Responses to “Confessions of a Stinky Girl: 4 Tips to Naturally Control Body Odor.”

  1. Mariela says:

    Hi Kimberly. I had a cousin who had the same problem during teen age period. Mu moother "cure" her using a mixture of baking soda and lemon both to wash her armpits and to wash her shirts. It worked very good. The grandmother of a friend used a more extreme method for extreme cases: she had the person having the odor problem to keep a piece of steak under the arms until it looses the red color. Never tried that one, but the reports were good. All the best.

  2. Jay says:

    I dunno, raw onions and gasoline (although less so now that I am an adult and know the health/environmental/etc dangers of it – but still a guilty pleasure sometimes) are both delicious smells to me. I enjoy the smell of a woman's perspiration, if it is of the "I just worked my ass off in yoga class/the gym/etc" variety and not the widely feared "I've just spent 8 hours on the couch eating twinkies in the middle of summer with no AC."

    Anyone else with me?

  3. kimberlylowriter says:

    Thanks for the tips! Think I'll skip the one with the meat, but the other one cannot hurt.

    Thanks again for reading.

  4. leslie says:

    great to know i'm not alone in this lifelong struggle!
    I echo all the aforementioned, and if I may add…
    one word: charm.

  5. debradeangelo says:

    I knew someone with an astounding body odor problem. It turned out to be a hormone imbalance. Also had a massage client with horrendous foot odor. One day, I soaked her feet with a couple washcloths soaked with kombucha tea that I brew at home. The odor went away. Maybe a kombucha after-shower splash would help you!

  6. Bridget says:

    Thanks for writing this; this is something I have dealt with since my early 20's and it has got progressively worse over the years. I had to throw out countless shirts and athletic bras b/c nothing got the smell out. Doing an internet search you can find virtually nothing on this problem. Everyone wants to curb the sweat. I am not an excessive sweater, I DO like to sweat and believe it is healthy for you, and I hate using an anti-perspirant. I have worried about this constantly and haven't had much luck. I will tell you what has helped me this last year or so when talking to my husband and trying different methods. I try to remember to scrub my armpits with a washcloth or loofah when I'm in the shower to exfoliate that area and help wash away the bacteria. Just using my hands and soap wasn't doing the trick. When I can, I use a deodorant, anti-bacterial soap like Lever or Dial just on my armpit area and let it sit while I wash my hair, etc. A couple times a week in the shower I splash Sea Breeze or plain Listerine on my underarm area and let it sit for a bit. If I need to "freshen" that area between showers or if I sweat doing housework but not working out, I take a cotton ball and either clean the area with Sea Breeze or regular rubbing alcohol. I have found that these methods keep the bacteria at bay for a while and help with the odor, but I can never really go a day without using a deodorant unfortunately. I eat fairly healthy, but am wondering if I need to rid my body of candida, as I hear that could contribute to odor issues. And lastly, I want to start meditation in conjunction with my yoga to see if that helps with stress. I have had a really stressful last 10 years and wonder if that hasn't also contributed to the problem. Best of luck to you!

  7. Tracy says:

    I know this exact smell you are talking about. Sometimes I would even get a bit of a musty smell. As it turns out, I have a food sensitivity to sulfites. That onion smell was my body desperately trying to rid itself of the sulfur compounds being released into my bloodstream because my body lacks the enzyme sulfur oxidase, which converts sulfites into sulfates. Elimination of high sulfite and sulfur foods cleared it up (along with the excessive sweat that my body was producing in order to try to detoxify. It is virtually impossible to avoid sulfites, so this still happens to me a few times a week. What I have discovered is a natural deodorant consisting of baking soda, coconut oil, bentonite clay, arrowroot powder and essential oils. I can go two days without a shower in full blown reaction to sulfites and my pits smell like lavender and faint coconut. It is such a relief!

  8. Jesse says:

    I have noticed that synthetic (and even silk) fabrics aggravate my issue, and emoting onions/sugar and caffeine help emmensly (garlic doesn't seem to). I smelled the worst as a vegan – probably being stressed from some level of malnutrition (and was a chef and nutritionist doing it 'right' – by the book). Finally stress also makes it all worse. Thanks for the tips – I will agree with coconut oil – and for the shower a diluted vinegar rinse for body and hair.

  9. Markus says:

    I agree with Jay. I personally find the natural female smell very sexy. A woman with a strong body odour is what I always dream about.

  10. John says:

    Try chlorophyll … is an excellence internal deodorant, take both kinds: liquids and capsules for a stronger dose.

  11. Whaz says:

    I rub lime or lemon juice (fresh) with a piece of cotton under my arms and it basically kills the bacteria that creates the odor. Try it. Much better than store-bought deo.

  12. Jeremy says:

    As John said, Chlorophyll works – at least it did for me. there are many "internal deodorant" products available. I've had great results using Nature's Way – Chlorofresh. It's a combination of copper and chlorophyll. Turns your poop green, but it's far less smelly.

  13. Ele reader says:

    I rub coconut oil under my arms and then sprinkle a mix of cornstarch & baking soda. Works really well. Drinking coffee makes me smell more so I've cut it out.

  14. Anne says:

    I vouch for Lavilin. It's an all-natural, aluminum-free deodorant. Simply the best! Safe and effective.

  15. Nancy says:

    A friend of mine was getting yeast infections in her armpits so she stopped shaving (razors injure the skin which makes it more likely for bacteria or yeast to grow and started using organic plain non-fat yogurt as a deodorant. She says it works.

    My tendency for odor was the same whether I shaved or not. Fortunately, conventional antiperspirant/deodorants work for me (yes with aluminum.) I've tried natural deodorants (crystals, etc) but they make me smell worse than if I use nothing at all. I haven't tried the yogurt, it just sounds so icky. But I might try your vodka idea.

  16. Jenn says:

    Before you throw your clothes away try freezing them overnight. I discovered this accidentally when I threw someone’s stinking shoes outside cuz I couldn’t stand it any longer. The next day the shoe owner thanked me. Now if I have a t shirt or uniform that just won’t get unfunkified I wash it, put it In a plastic bag still wet and pop it in freezer. The next day I wash it again and it most always is back to normal.

  17. Liz says:

    Apple cider vinegar or kombucha will get rid of the smell in your clothes. The natural enzymes and probiotics devour the smelly bacteria. If you have a problem with body odor, repopulating your gut with a strong probiotic supplement could work wonders.

  18. Laura says:

    Savlon – or some other antiseptic cream – instantaneously kills off any smell if you get caught out (I live in Perth, there are no deodorants that can beat the perth summer!) .. i put it over the top of my antiperspirant in summer and smell like a baby! (with a clean nappy!)

  19. jerry says:

    My 14 year old daughter sweats and smells like onions everyday she has been using a prescribed deodorant Hypercare but it is not working iam worried since she is getting called onion girl anyone have a daughter or been through this Is Lavilin a good product i have spent hundreds trying to help her she worries every morning about this before she goes to school

  20. Ette 3crows says:

    I kept watching for this "cure." I use lemon juice while in the shower and it will last at least 2 days… depending on the weather and activities

  21. Ette 3crows says:

    Has she tried using lemon juice? I use lemon juice in the shower, leave it on for a couple minutes and then rinse it off. I do that 3 times. That's all! Needs to be fairly fresh lemon and I just take the slice and rub it on my arm pit. I'll squeeze it a little. Anyway, it'll last me 2 days… but if you shower, you need to reapply it when you do. I hope that helps her…

  22. Ellie says:

    Pure alum is amazing for this! It's just a clear rock that you wet and can use it as deodorant but also works on my face for keeping the spots away! Like other natural alternatives it doesn't stop the sweat it just stops the smell. Can't recommend it enough! Apparently the Romans used to use it!

  23. Domi says:

    I solved my problem with a deodorant called Perspirex. The chemist said it’s not organic in the least but I already had tried baking soda, lemon juice, alum rock, coconut oil and ever tea tree oil and nothing worked for my evil armpits!

  24. Melina says:

    I see unpleasant body odor as a sign of less than optimal health. It is one of the early signals that the body gives to let us know something is not quite right. I like to teach people to listen to early warning signals like this instead of brushing them off as normal since preventative approaches to health are the best in my opinion. This may sound surprising since so many people struggle with this problem; I would say more mainstream first worlders deal with this than not. This is largely why they cover themselves in strong chemical body care products in order to attempt to combat their smell. Well, some odd ones like these smells too. This is not something I can fully understand, but that is another subject ;). It would take a long time to explain what needs to be addressed to resolve this entirely, but basically alkalinizing the body properly is key and cleaning up the diet in a specific way is what is necessary to get to the bottom of this. My armpits only have an unpleasant smell if I slip up on these self-care strategies. I still use baking soda under my armpits too, but this issue mostly has to do with the body's internal terrain. I find this to be true in others as well. I caution people who simply cover up these signals with chemicals or antiperspirants, this allows the issue to drive deeper and compounds the problem further by covering your body in toxins that are bad for us and the environment.

  25. nina says:

    I have the same problem but I smell like stinky sweat and people in school close there nose from me and if u find a solution to your daughters problem I would love it so much if u help me too and tell me the solution you found because I have the same problem and I would love it if you helped me thanks

  26. Nyc Nyc says:

    For the constant sweaty foot problem the cure is don’t dirty your feet on the floor wear a rubber type slipper this way you wash your rubber sandals in the shower also after you’re finished talking the shower dry well rinse your feet with water while wearing the rubber sandals that way you get rid of soap residue that makes your feet slippery in sandals. Also for armpit Oder just take a shower dry up without a towel then spray on a good perfume directly on your armpits 3 to 4 pump sprays on each armpit right after the shower only and bingo problem solved. Good luck all. Remember take vitamin C at night in the winter to avoid getting sick or having a runny nose when you want to sleep. If you don’t have vitamin C eat an orange right before going to bed that way it stays in your system longer green tea at night is also awesome for the flu.

  27. Erika Kaiser says:

    I make a deodorant that has work for me and several other smelly friends. Coconut oil arrowroot and baking soda. A few drops of lemon essential oil and poof no smell.

  28. Roni says:

    Hi, I had bad body odor in the past, I tried many deodorant or natural spray but no results.

    My girlfriend suggested me to try a Vietnam heirloom body treatment spray from happiershopper last year, and it really worked for me. Now I don’t need to use any deodorant, that’s great.

    I also suggest it with some of my friends and they also highly appropriate it.

    You can study it her e