You reek. Or you’re worried you do, anyway.
You feel a cool rivulet trickling down your back. Your upper lip tastes salty. You desperately avoid lifting your arms for fear of exposing the dark, soggy circles that lurk beneath. The anxiety is only making it worse.
Fear not, sweaty dude. You’re not alone. The human body is peppered with up to four million sweat glands, and sometimes they all seem determined to excrete in unison (usually at the least opportune moment, like during a hot date or a police interrogation). And the body’s built-in sprinkler system typically has an accompanying pungency because, presumably, God is a jerk.
But there is hope. Your noxious self-irrigation is preventable, if not curable. Follow a few simple rules and you should remain as dry as British wit.
Hit the Showers
Sorry, Pig-Pen, but the most obvious solution is usually the best one. Body odor is typically the result of bacteria munching on the microscopic nuggets of fat and other biological flotsam that naturally emerge in sweat (to be more precise, the apocrine glands — which only emerge in humans during puberty — are the real culprits, since they’re the chief waste valves).
The solution? Wash those microbial monsters away with a decent antibacterial soap, lots of water and some vigorous scrubbing. Dry off thoroughly to avoid giving microscopic critters a warm, moist environment in which to regroup. Once a week ain’t enough.
Slather on the Right Stuff
Deodorant and antiperspirant are not the same thing. The former overpowers a potential stink, the latter prevents it by stemming the seepage. Plenty of products promise to do both, with varying success. Experiment for a while and figure out which works best for you. If you’re still dripping, shell out for one of the pricier — and typically more effective — products bolstered by higher levels of aluminum, which essentially plugs the sweat ducts. Drysol has bolstered aluminum content, as do many of the “clinical strength” options from the bigger name brands.
Ignore all the fear-mongering hooey on the Internet linking aluminum-based antiperspirant to cancer and Alzheimer’s. The National Cancer Institute says there’s not a shred of compelling evidence for such claims, and the NCI is probably more trustworthy than your weird hippie friend’s Facebook post.
For extra comfort, sprinkle on some moisture-mooching talcum powder, as long as you don’t mind smelling like a freshly changed baby.
If your pits are still soggy, you could try underarm sweat guards, which affix to the inside of your shirt with straps or adhesives. They’re like Maxi Pads for your pits, but try not to think about it that way. They don’t stop you from sweating, but they nicely prevent the nasty yellowing that can happen to dress shirts of chronic drippers. Warning: do NOT try to wear these with a tank top. People will notice.
It should go without saying that lightweight, breathable clothing could help. Sweating profusely in August? Remove the parka.
Another good solution, just in case: black shirts. Damp patches aren’t as visible on those. Also, black is slimming.
Watch What You Eat
What goes in must come out in one form or another, and there’s compelling evidence that certain foods can noticeably increase your stink quotient (not just from bad breath). One study by Czech researchers – who managed to recruit 30 women to sniff used underarm pads — showed a connection between red meat consumption and unpleasant body odor. Mainstream science is otherwise relatively silent on the topic, leaving us with anecdotal and commonsense theories. Some believe onions, garlic and curries contribute to B.O., while others insist those foods affect the breath more than the body. But if you stink, isn’t the orifice of origin somewhat moot? Spicy foods can make you sweat, so avoiding those is a no-brainer if you want to keep dry.
Quit Your Vices
Stop smoking. Not only does smoking give you every disease known to science, and surely several yet-undiscovered ones, but it can make you smelly. And not just smoker-smelly, either. After the body processes the various poisons in tobacco, some emerge through the skin and intermingle with one’s bacterial soup to make for a uniquely nasty melange. Heavy drinking can lead to smelliness from the pores too (which tends not to bother anyone during the actual drinking session, but is an unpleasant reminder of the previous night’s excesses).
See a Doctor
If you’ve tried everything and you’re still gushing like a hydroelectric dam, you might want to consider a visit to the doc. Chronic excessive sweating, or hyperhidrosis, probably won’t do you much harm, but if it’s really getting in the way of your social life there are medical treatments including medicines and surgeries. But in most cases, a better solution is probably just to…
Anxiety is like catnip to the sweat glands — it gets them all riled up. Sometimes anxiety is unavoidable, like when your airtight alibi is falling apart, but usually it’s manageable. Get lots of sleep, breathe deeply and tell yourself that the damp patches under your arms aren’t nearly as noticeable as you think they are. We promise.