Too Strong Body Odor: Causes And Treatment

Unpleasant body odor is often the result of excessive sweating, but other factors may also contribute. Here’s how you can treat it.
Too strong body odor: causes and treatment

Too strong body odor is called bromhidrosis. It is a condition that can greatly lower the quality of life, since it causes embarrassment, especially when it is accompanied by selective anosmia, or the inability to perceive some odors. In this case, your own.

Sweat itself is odorless. It is only when it comes into contact with skin bacteria that it takes on a particular odor. Bad body odor can be counteracted or prevented by changing some hygiene habits. In some cases, however, it is necessary to seek medical attention. Let’s see when.

Too strong body odor, what is bromhidrosis?

According to a study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science , bromhidrosis is a chemical process. It is explained by the biotransformation of natural odorless secretions into volatile odorous molecules. It is associated with excessive sweating. In other words, it is more common in people who sweat a lot.

Under the armpits, concludes the journal Microbiome , a decisive agent for this biotransformation is Corynebacterium spp . of the resident microflora. Obesity can also contribute to bromhidrosis. The underlying process concerns the alteration of the sweat molecules metabolized by some bacteria.

Causes of bad body odor

The sweat glands are divided into eccrine glands, distributed throughout the body, and apocrine glands, present in the armpits, breasts and groin region.

The apocrine glands are activated with puberty. That’s why younger children generally never smell strongly. Rather, it is typical of the growth and development phase.

In most cases this is due to the interaction between the secretions of the apocrine sweat glands in the armpits and the bacteria. In this case, unsaturated fatty acids with a characteristic odor are generated. The presence of this odor is an important symptom for the diagnosis of bromhidrosis.

It is therefore the bacterial metabolism of apocrine sweat that generally causes the bad smell. But even the eccrine sweat can play its part. In this case, the triggers are usually some foods, such as garlic or alcohol. 


Currently, drug therapy and surgery are the most widely adopted solutions to treat bromhidrosis.

Sympathectomy surgery

Surgical intervention is one of the most used methods in severe cases. Post-operative complications and resulting scarring are the main drawbacks.

This surgery is reserved for people who are refractory to medical therapy and when hyperhidrosis has a major impact on daily life. According to a study published in the Annals of Surgery , endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy is the last resort in the treatment of palmar, axillary and craniofacial hyperhidrosis. It consists in the interruption of the fibers of the sympathetic ganglia.

Botulinum toxin

The main mechanism of action of botulinum toxin is to inhibit the release of acetylcholine from the sympathetic nerves present on the eccrine sweat glands.

The treatment is very effective on the palms and soles of the feet, although the pain of the injections can be a limiting factor. The doses for intradermal injections depend on the area to be treated. Under the armpits, for example, 50 to 100 units are used.

The disadvantage of botulinum toxin therapy is that the effect wears off over time. Therefore, several applications may be required over the course of a year.

Antiperspirants with aluminum compounds to counteract too strong body odor

Although most of the antiperspirants on the market contain aluminum chloride, the strongest products are based on aluminum hydrochloride. The latter have the function of inhibiting the development of bacteria that cause bad odor.

These metallic salts also reduce the production of sweat by blocking the excretory ducts of the sweat glands; in this way, they reduce the availability of water necessary for the growth of bacteria. The product should be applied once a day, usually in the evening when the skin is at its driest.

Man applies deodorant in his armpits.
Aluminum-based antiperspirants are the best option when bromidrosis is not so severe that surgery is required.

Too strong body odor: some advice

Hyperhidrosis and bromhidrosis are common conditions and a source of anxiety as they make social and emotional relationships difficult. Careful management and good treatment can greatly reduce the impact on quality of life.

Frequent washing and shaving of the armpits are very helpful. Scented antiperspirants are a first choice treatment as they reduce sweating and fight bacteria.

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