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Body Odour and Smelly Armpits

Here is everything you need to know about body odour and smelly armpits. Including the most common causes and a body care routine you can adopt to reduce its appearance

What is a smelly armpit odour?

Armpit odour, often referred to as body odour, is the natural scent produced by the human body as a result of sweat and bacteria interacting on the skin's surface. This odour can vary from person to person due to factors such as genetics, diet and overall health. While sweat itself is odourless, the bacteria on our skin break it down, leading to the release of volatile compounds that can create an unpleasant smell. 

Maintaining good personal hygiene through regular bathing, wearing breathable clothing and using antiperspirants or deodorants can help minimise and manage bad armpit odour effectively.

Common areas for body odour

6 Common areas for body odour

Body odour can occur in various areas of the body, but it is most commonly associated with the following areas due to their higher concentration of sweat glands:

  1. Armpits: The underarms are one of the primary locations for body odour because they contain a high density of sweat glands. When sweat mixes with bacteria on the skin's surface, it can result in a noticeable odour.

  2. Groin Area: The genital and perianal areas also have a significant number of sweat glands. Sweat and bacteria can combine in these regions, leading to a distinct odour.

  3. Feet: Feet are prone to body odour because they have many sweat glands, especially on the soles. When feet sweat and come into contact with moisture-absorbing shoes or socks, it creates an environment where bacteria thrive, causing foot odour.

  4. Chest and Back: The chest and back have sweat glands, and in some individuals, particularly those who engage in physical activities, body odour can develop in these areas.

  5. Hair and Scalp: Scalp odour can occur when sweat mixes with oils and hair products. It's less common than underarm or foot odour but can be noticeable in some cases.

  6. Face: Although not as common as other areas, facial sweat combined with bacteria can lead to facial body odour, especially in hot and humid conditions.
5 causes of body odour

The common causes of armpit odour

Body odour, including smelly armpits, is primarily caused by the interaction between sweat and bacteria on the skin. Here are 6 common causes:

woman using Nivea deodorant
  1. Sweat and Bacteria Interaction: The most common cause of a smelly armpit odour is the interaction between sweat and bacteria on the skin's surface. Sweat is mostly composed of water and salt, but when bacteria break down sweat, it can produce unpleasant odours.

  2. Apocrine Sweat Glands: Apocrine sweat glands, found primarily in areas like the armpits, groin, and scalp, produce a thicker type of sweat that contains proteins and lipids. When this sweat interacts with bacteria, it can create a stronger and more noticeable odour.

  3. Hormonal Changes: Hormonal fluctuations, such as those during puberty, menopause or pregnancy, can lead to increased sweat production and changes in armpit odour. Hormones can influence the activity of sweat glands which can contribute to a changing body odour.

  4. Dietary Choices: The foods you consume can influence your body odour. Strong-smelling foods like garlic, onions, and spices contain sulphur compounds that can be excreted through sweat and breath which can contribute to an unpleasant odour such as onion smelling sweat.

  5. Stress and Anxiety: Emotional stress and anxiety can stimulate the body's sweat glands, leading to increased perspiration. Stress sweat often contains more proteins and fatty acids, providing a favourable environment for odour-producing bacteria.

    To combat smelly armpits and unpleasant body odour, maintaining good personal hygiene, using antiperspirants or deodorants, wearing breathable clothing and addressing any underlying medical conditions are effective strategies.

9 ways to prevent body odour and smelly underarms

How to prevent body odour and smelly armpits?

Preventing unpleasant body odour and smelly armpits involves maintaining good hygiene practices and making certain lifestyle choices to minimise sweating and bacterial growth. Here are 10 tips on how to prevent body odour:

  1. Frequent Showering: Take daily showers using a mild, antibacterial soap. Cleanse all areas prone to sweating, including armpits, groin and feet. Showering helps remove smelly sweat and bacteria from your skin's surface.

  2. Use Antibacterial Soap: Choose a soap that has antibacterial properties to further reduce the bacteria on your skin.

  3. Shave or Trim: Consider shaving or trimming areas with dense hair growth, such as your underarms. Hair can trap sweat and bacteria, creating an environment for odour to develop.

  4. Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water to maintain proper hydration. Staying hydrated can help regulate your body temperature and reduce excessive sweating. It's recommended to drink 1.5 - 2 litres of water a day.

  5. Choose Breathable Fabrics: Wear clothing made from breathable materials like cotton or moisture-wicking fabrics. These fabrics allow air to circulate and help prevent sweat build up. Additionally, wearing these fabrics while sleeping can help mitigate strong body odour at night. 

  6. Maintain a Healthy Diet: Avoid strong-smelling foods like garlic, onions, and spicy dishes, as they can contribute to body odour. Opt for a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

  7. Limit Caffeine and Alcohol: Caffeine and alcohol can increase sweating, so try to limit your consumption, especially in hot weather.

  8. Manage Stress: High-stress levels can trigger sweat glands. Practice stress-reduction techniques like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises.

  9. Regular Exercise: Engage in regular physical activity to promote overall health and reduce stress. Shower and change clothes promptly after exercise to remove sweat and bacteria.

Remember that armpit odour is a natural occurrence, and some level of odour is normal. However, by following these preventive measures, you can significantly manage and improve body odour to stay fresh and confident. 

If you have persistent or severe body odour despite good hygiene practices, consult a healthcare professional.

Facts Overview

Smelly armpit odour facts:

Characteristics: An unpleasant smell that arises from the underarms due to the breakdown of sweat by bacteria on the skin.

Causes: By sweat mixing with bacteria on the skin's surface. Sweat itself is generally odourless, but when it interacts with bacteria, it produces a distinct smell.

Prevention: Maintaining good hygiene practices such as regular bathing and using antiperspirants or deodorants.

young woman using Nivea LOVE shower gel
How to reduce of body odour

NIVEA Body care routine to manage smelly armpits and body odour

Armpit odour can be unpleasant and cause self-consciousness. Whether it's triggered by dietary choices, hormonal changes or stress, NIVEA is here with solutions. Here is a comprehensive body care routine on how to smell good and reduce unpleasant  body odour and smelly armpits

Shower and Cleanse: 
Begin your body care routine by taking a shower. Showering helps remove sweat odour, bacteria and impurities from your skin's surface. Bacteria thrives in warm, damp conditions, so this step is crucial to eliminate odour-causing microbes. 


Exfoliate (1-2 times a week):
Exfoliation, done once or twice a week, helps remove dead skin cells that can trap bacteria and contribute to odour. Use a gentle exfoliating scrub to keep your skin fresh and smooth.

Shave or Trim:
If you have body hair, consider shaving or trimming it as needed. Hair can trap sweat and bacteria, providing an environment for odour to develop. Removing or trimming body hair could help reduce bacterial growth and improve the effectiveness of deodorant or antiperspirant. 

Apply Antiperspirant or Deodorant:
Apply an antiperspirant or deodorant to help control your sweat and odour. Whilst antiperspirants help reduce sweat production, deodorants help to mask and neutralise odour. NIVEA offers a range of antiperspirants and deodorants that provide long-lasting protection and a pleasant fragrance. Suitable for all skin types, The NIVEA Black & White Clear Original Anti-Perspirant Deodorant Spray is formulated to help provide 48 hour protection from sweat and body odour, whilst caring for your skin.

Remember that everyone's body is different, so you may need to adjust your routine to fit your specific needs and preferences. NIVEAs range of body care products is designed to help you stay fresh and confident throughout the day.

The different types of odour smells

What does your odour scent say about your health?

  • Garlic or Onion Odour: Persistent garlic or onion scented sweat may be linked to your diet. These foods contain sulphur compounds that can be released through your sweat and breath. To combat this smell, consider reducing your consumption of these foods or improving your oral hygiene routine.

  • Sour or Vinegary Odour: If you notice a sour or vinegary odour coming from your body, it could be a sign of stress and anxiety. Stress can lead to an excess of sweat and changes in your body's pH levels, resulting in this distinct smell. Incorporating stress-reduction techniques like meditation or yoga into your routine can help combat this odour.

  • Sweet or Fruity Odour: A sweet or fruity scent coming from your body might indicate high blood sugar levels, which is a common symptom of diabetes. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and monitoring your blood sugar levels can be essential steps in managing this odour and maintaining your overall health.

  • Ammonia-Like Odour: An ammonia-like smell might be a sign of kidney issues, as it can indicate a buildup of waste products in your body. Staying hydrated and consuming a diet rich in kidney-friendly foods, like leafy greens and berries, can help reduce this odour and support kidney function.

  • Musty Odour: A musty or mildew-like smell can result from excessive moisture and inadequate drying, leading to fungal or bacterial growth on the skin. Musty body odour causes can be prevented by ensuring thorough drying after bathing, use moisture-wicking clothing, and apply antifungal or antibacterial creams if needed to prevent such odours.
  • Fishy Odour: A fishy odour, especially in women, could be associated with bacterial vaginosis, a common vaginal infection. Maintaining good genital hygiene, wearing breathable cotton underwear, and seeking medical advice if the odour persists can help address this issue.

    Individual body odours can vary, so it's important to pay attention to changes. Integrating these insights into your body care routine can help you proactively address potential concerns. If you are concerned about a sudden change in your body odour it is recommended to visit your doctor for advice.
young man using Nivea Men Fresh Sensation deodorant

Gender differences in body odour and sweating


Sweating and body odour are natural processes that affect both men and women, but there can be differences in the patterns and intensity within men and women. Men typically have a higher density of sweat glands, especially in areas like the armpits, which can lead to more pronounced sweating. This increased sweat production can create an environment where bacteria thrive, potentially resulting in stronger body odour.

NIVEA MEN deodorants prioritise personal hygiene and odour prevention, offering nourishing and long-lasting freshness for everyday activities. With options ranging from sticks to sprays, roll-ons and atomizers, there's a choice for every preference, all infused with masculine scents. 


Women, on the other hand, may experience hormonal fluctuations during their menstrual cycles, pregnancy or menopause, which can affect the timing and intensity of sweating and body odour.

Regardless of gender, maintaining good hygiene practices and using appropriate products like antiperspirants or deodorants can help individuals manage and reduce body odour effectively.


If you are looking for a long lasting antiperspirant with a fresh scent of sensual flowers and juicy berries, The NIVEA Fresh Sensation Antiperspirant provides reliable protection for up to 72h. It's made with a unique NIVEA INFINIFRESH formula: which does not only mask odour, but instead effectively eliminates bacteria before bad odour can even occur.


Smelly armpits and body odour at a glance

Unpleasant underarm smells and body odour can indeed be a common concern for many individuals. However, with proper care and knowledge, it can be effectively managed and even prevented. To tackle this issue, it's essential to understand its causes, which may include factors like hormonal changes, dietary choices, and stress. 

Developing a targeted body care routine tailored to your body's needs is vital in addressing body odour and excessive sweating. By incorporating regular hygiene practices, using suitable products like antiperspirants or deodorants, and making lifestyle adjustments such as staying hydrated and choosing breathable clothing, you can maintain freshness and confidence throughout the day.

Smelly Armpits & Body Odour - Frequently Asked Questions

What causes smelly underarm odour?

Smelly underarm odour is primarily caused by the interaction between sweat and bacteria on the skin. When sweat mixes with the bacteria present on your skin's surface, it can produce an unpleasant odour.

How can I prevent smelly underarm odour?

You can prevent smelly underarm odour by practising good hygiene, including regular washing of your underarms with soap and water, and using an antiperspirant or deodorant to reduce sweat and odour.

What's the difference between antiperspirant and deodorant?

Antiperspirants are designed to reduce sweat production, while deodorants mask or neutralise odour. Many products on the market are combination antiperspirant-deodorants, which help control both sweat and odour.

How often should I apply deodorant or antiperspirant?

You should apply deodorant or antiperspirant daily, ideally after showering or bathing. Reapplication throughout the day may be necessary for some individuals, especially during hot weather or physical activity.

What causes body odour?

Body odour is primarily caused by the bacteria on your skin breaking down sweat and producing compounds with distinct odours. Diet, genetics and overall health can also play a role.

Is body odour normal?

Yes, body odour is a normal part of being human. Everyone has their unique scent and it can vary based on factors like genetics, diet and lifestyle.

How can I prevent body odour?

You can prevent body odour by practising good hygiene, including daily showers, using antiperspirant or deodorant and wearing clean clothes made from breathable fabrics.

Can diet affect body odour?

Yes, certain foods like garlic, onions and spices can contribute to body odour. A balanced diet with plenty of water and fruits and vegetables can help minimise odour.

Does shaving armpits reduce odour smell?

Hair can trap sweat and bacteria, providing an environment for odour to develop.shaving body hair could help reduce bacterial growth and help get rid of sweaty smell under the arms.

Are there any natural home remedies for body odour?

Some people use Baking Soda, Lemon Juice or Apple Cider Vinegar as deodorants as a body odour and armpit odour home remedy. However, their effectiveness varies from person to person.