This condition can be extremely embarrassing, but in most cases doctors pay little attention to body odor because it isn’t really a medical problem. Antiperspirants containing aluminum may help, but some people react badly to them, and many would prefer to avoid aluminum. Body odor may be caused by skin bacteria that break sweat down into volatile (smelly) compounds. Some people have found intriguing approaches to this problem.
I am 70. When I was 13, my mother told me to use rubbing alcohol as a deodorant. It works. I have tried over-the-counter products but find Mom’s advice works like a charm. All my six children use this cheap remedy, and now their families do, too!
Thanks for sharing your approach. We have also heard from readers who use white vinegar or Listerine under their arms to fight odor. Other readers are enthusiastic about applying topical milk of magnesia to take care of underarm odor.
VINEGAR OR VODKA
I used to work backstage for the wardrobe department in a theater. Actors sweat, and clothes that are not machine washable are dry-cleaned only once a week. Clothes get sweaty and smelly. The solution I was taught is to spray undiluted white vinegar or vodka (the cheaper and higher proof the better) on the armpits and other sweaty areas of the clothing. Once dry, the clothes didn’t smell. This worked for the 15 years that I did it.
Thanks for this fascinating tip. During summer clothes get sweaty quickly. This seems like an affordable solution to a common problem. Before spraying large parts of the garment, though, it might be a good idea to test the vinegar or vodka in an unobtrusive place to make sure it won’t stain the clothing.
Years ago I was suffering from sensitivity to all underarm deodorants on the market. I found an alternative product at the health food store and bought it, though it was expensive ($12). The directions said to apply a small amount of this white paste to each clean, dry armpit only once a week. I tried it, and it worked. The ingredients were zinc oxide, rosewater, and some kind of powder. The tin was so small that I used it up in no time. Then I bought a tube of cheap zinc oxide ointment (75 cents) and used it instead. I’ve been using it ever since. It’s not an antiperspirant, but it is a marvelous deodorant. Also, it’s safe: Diaper rash cream is made of zinc oxide.
Thanks for telling us about your experience. According to our cosmetic consultant, zinc oxide has antimicrobial properties. We agree that it is a safe and inexpensive approach to underarm odor.
Joe Graedon & Terry Graedon, The People’s Pharmacy: Quick & Handy Home Remedies, published by National Geographic