Managingbody odour

Excessive sweating and body odour is an unpleasant problem thatcan affect a person's confidence and self-esteem.

Abody odour problem can usually be managed by getting rid ofexcess skin bacteria which are responsible for the smell and keeping the skin in the affected area (usually the armpits) clean and dry.

Self-care advice

Your armpits contain a large numberof apocrine glands, which are responsible for producing body odour.

Keeping your armpits clean and free of bacteria willhelp keep odour under control. Following the below advicecan help you achieve this:

  • take a warm bath or shower every day to kill the bacteria on your skin; on hot days, you may need to have a bath or shower twice a day
  • wash your armpits thoroughly usingan antibacterial soap
  • use a deodorant or an antiperspirant after bathing or showering
  • regularly shave your armpits this allows sweat to evaporate quicker, giving bacteria less time to break it down
  • wear natural fibres, such as wool, silk or cotton theyallow your skin to breathe, which means your sweat will evaporate quicker
  • wear clean clothes make sure you wash your clothes regularly
  • limit the amount of spicy foods you eat such as curry or garlic, because they can make your sweat smell; evidence also suggests that eating a lot of red meat tends to make body odour worse

Deodorant and antiperspirant

The active ingredients used in antiperspirants and deodorants differ, so you may find some more effective than others.

Deodorants work by using perfume to mask the smell of sweat. Antiperspirants contain aluminium chloride (see below), which reduces the amount of sweat produced by your body.

Use roll-on antiperspirants if you sweat heavily, as they tend to be more effective.

Aluminium chloride

Aluminium chloride is the active ingredientin most antiperspirants. It helps prevent the production of sweat.

If the above self-care advice doesn't improve your body odour, you may need a stronger antiperspirant that contains more aluminium chloride.

Your GP or pharmacist can recommend a suitable product and adviseabout how often you should use it.

Aluminium chloride solutions are usually applied every night before bed, and washed off in the morning. This is because you stop sweating in your sleep, so the solution can seep into your sweat glands and block them. This reduces how much you sweat the next day.

Asthe aluminium chloride solution beginsto take effect, you can use it less often (every other night, oronce or twicea week).


Surgery may be recommendedforsevere body odour that can't be treated by self-care measures and over-the-counter products.

One type of surgery involves removing a small area of skin from your armpit and the tissue just below it. This gets rid ofthe most troublesome sweat glands.

It may also be possible forthe sweat glands tobe drawn out from the deeper skinlayers using liposuction a technique that's often used to remove unwanted body fat.

Another option is a type of surgery called endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy (ETS), which uses keyhole surgery to destroy the nerves that control sweating.

During ETS, the surgeon makes two or three small incisions under eacharm.A tiny camera (endoscope) is insertedthrough one of the incisions sothe surgeoncansee the inside of your armpit on a monitor.

The surgeon will insert smallsurgical tools through the other incisions, allowingthem tocut the nerves. Alternatively, a thin electrode that emits anelectrical current will be used to destroy the nerves.

Risks associated with ETS include damage to nearby arteries or nerves, and compensatory sweating (increased sweating from other areas of the body). You should fully discuss the risks of the procedure with your surgeon beforehand.

Botulinum toxin

Botulinum toxin, often referred to as Botox, is another possible treatment for people with excessive underarm sweating.

Botulinum toxin is a powerful poison that can be used safely in minute doses.Between 12 and 20 injections of botulinum toxin are made in the affected area of the body, such as the armpits, hands, feet or face.

The toxin works by blockingsignals from your brain to the sweat glands, reducing the amount of sweat produced.

The procedure takes 30-45 minutes, and the effects of botulinum toxin usually lastfor between two and eight months. After this time, further treatment will beneeded.

The availability oftreatment with botulinum toxin on the NHScan vary widely,and it maynotbe available in your area.

You may need to visit a private cosmetic clinic for treatment. Prices can vary, depending on the area of the body being treated (treating both armpits can cost up to 500). Make sure you find out thecost before starting treatment.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 21 Dec 2018