Sweat and body odour

Most people sweat (or perspire) when they do lots of exercise but when you hit puberty you will probably start to sweat more generally during the day and you might notice that your armpits start to smell unpleasant. This is because hormones produced during puberty cause changes in some sweat-producing glands and the bacteria on your skin break down the sweat causing an odour.

You may be used to your smell and not notice it (but others might) or you might notice that you’re starting to smell. All this is very natural and normal but it is a good idea to get into a personal hygiene routine as soon as you start to sweat more noticeably, so you avoid the embarrassing possibility of BO (body odour).

  • If you don’t already wash every day, start doing so and give your armpits a thorough clean with soap or shower gel. Make sure you dry yourself carefully.
  • Apply antiperspirant or deodorant once a day (or more if you are very active). Most products are effective for 24 hours.
  • Shaving your armpits regularly will help sweat evaporate quickly.
  • Change your clothes daily.
  • Wear natural fabrics (such as cotton) next to your skin.
  • Wash your t-shirts, school shirts, tops, underwear, etc, regularly.

If you feel you are sweating excessively, if your body odour changes noticeably, or you suddenly start to sweat much more than normal, make an appointment to see your GP. They will check whether there is a medical reason and advise you on how to deal with it.

Antiperspirant or deodorant?
An antiperspirant will block the pores under your arms and stop you sweating (or reduce the amount produced); a deodorant masks the smell of your sweat but it doesn’t stop you sweating. You may prefer to use one or the other – try a few different types to find the one that suits you best. Most antiperspirants and deodorants are available as roll-ons or sprays. Roll-ons are generally more effective.

Antiperspirants contain chemicals like aluminium chloride which some people think may be bad for your health. There is no clear scientific evidence to support this, but you may prefer to use more gentle, natural products. Read this Cosmopolitan review of some of the different types available.