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Why Do My Pits Stink Even With Deodorant?

That stench is serious enough that it probably requires a dermatologist

What happens when your BO is no match for whatever you throw at it? Like this poor, pungent redditor: “I have tried 70 percent isopropyl alcohol before and after each shower twice a day, and after a small sweat, I smell. I have tried baking soda with cornstarch, and still very little improvement. If I am late to class and I jog a little bit, I would stink up the whole classroom. If I get nervous, I stink. I use deodorant, but after an hour, it comes back.”

If isopropyl alcohol, extra showering, baking soda, cornstarch and deodorant don’t do the trick, are you to just resign yourself to your foul-smelling fate? Or is there a special kind of cologne, antiperspirant or DIY elixir (not of isopropyl alcohol, baking soda and cornstarch) that will remove the stank for good?

Open up a window and take in a fresh breath of air with these pleasingly fragrant answers…

Why Your Sweat Smells to Begin With

The body possesses two types of sweat glands — eccrine glands and apocrine glands. The eccrine glands aren’t an issue in terms of scent as they release a clear liquid that doesn’t smell until it dries. The apocrine glands, on the other hand, release a thick fluid that smells when it comes in contact with bacteria on your skin. “Bacteria breaks down various sweat components, which creates the smell we perceive as body odor,” Fayne Frey, a dermatologist told us in 2019.

Why Your Body Odor is Overwhelming Your Deodorant

For starters, it isn’t because your body’s sweat glands have grown immune to your brand of deodorant. Though there are some antibacterial properties in the metal salts contained in deodorants, per Frey, “the effects of antiperspirants are due to a mechanical blockage of sweat from the gland itself onto the skin.” In other words, the bacteria is still there — the deodorant hasn’t killed it off — it just doesn’t have any sweat to mingle (and become all stanky) with.

Instead, it’s more likely your new potent stench is due to a change in your hormones. And considering that hormonal changes can happen for numerous reasons — and at any given time — they could be causing your body to sweat more as well as produce more bacteria. 

What You Can Do to Solve Your Stank

Again, stop blaming your deodorant. “If you change it, you’re just exposing your skin to different chemicals, increasing the chance of an allergic reaction,” dermatologist Viseslav Tonkovic-Capin previously told us

If you just can’t leave your deodorant alone, though, dermatologist Anthony Rossi tells me that one way to make it more effective is to put it on before going to sleep, giving the aluminum-chloride crystals that plug your sweat glands more time to work. Another potential solution is shaving your armpits, so that the smell doesn’t get all tangled up in the hair there and have another reason to linger and waft. The same goes for scrubbing a bit more diligently and frequently underneath your armpits.

All of which can help, of course — if just incrementally. But the reality is, it’s probably something that you can’t remedy or ameliorate on your own (see: the hormonal changes mentioned above). In particular, you could be dealing with a condition called bromhidrosis. “As a dermatologist, when you smell it, you know it,” Rossi says. “It’s very unpleasant. It’s caused by an overgrowth of bacteria due to poor hygiene, an infection, diet, medications or genetics.”

Diagnosing it requires a skin culture, and Rossi says that there are topical antibiotics and antifungals he can prescribe to treat (and banish) it.   

So, you know, maybe hold off on the cornstarch and baking soda until you can get in to see your doctor.