How to Control Sweaty Smelly Underarms

Two Methods:Controlling Underarm SweatingControlling Underarm Odor

Sweating is your body’s natural process to control your internal heat mechanism during exercise or exposure to a hot environment. Although excess sweating can be embarrassing, the majority of people do not suffer from axillary hyperhidrosis (the medical term for excessive sweating under the arms, which only affects 2.9% of Americans).[1] For those without hyperhidrosis, you can easily take steps at home to reduce problems with sweating and associated body odor.

Method 1
Controlling Underarm Sweating

  1. Image titled Control Sweaty Smelly Underarms Step 1
    Apply an antiperspirant. Perspiring is your body’s natural way of cooling itself in a number of situations. While sweat alone is normal and indeed healthy, there may still be situations where you would prefer not to sweat, such as during a date or during an important presentation. The aluminum-based compounds in antiperspirants actually block the pores to prevent sweating.[2]
    • If you feel as though you produce more sweat than your over-the-counter antiperspirant can handle, you can speak with your doctor about prescription-strength antiperspirants.[3] Use this nightly; it may take up to a week to notice a difference.
    • If you would prefer a natural alternative to chemical-laden antiperspirants, then try rubbing a raw potato under your arms. The starch contained in a potato can similarly block pores to reduce the amount that you sweat.[4] Dusting your armpits with cornstarch can also help.[5]
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    Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet to maintain a normal weight. Individuals who are obese will often sweat more because it requires more energy to move. Skin folds will also trap moisture and increase body odor with an increase in bacterial growth.[6]
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    Wear breathable fabrics. Synthetic fabrics that do not allow your armpits to breathe will increase your sweat response. Natural fabrics — cotton, wool, and silk — are better at letting your skin breathe.[7]
    • As an exception, certain synthetic fabrics, especially those meant for exercise wear, have been developed to absorb or wick moisture from your skin.[8] Purchase active wear made from these materials to help reduce sweat.
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    Reduce stress. Emotionally and physically stressful situations will increase the sweat response in your body. Learn stress-reduction techniques such as yoga, meditation, affirmations, listening to music, getting enough sleep, and eating a balanced diet.
    • This also includes trying to disarm emotionally stressful situations in your life, such as those surrounding work or relationships.
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    Avoid foods and drinks that can increase sweating. Caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods, garlic, curries, and onions can all increase the amount that you sweat.[9] Try cutting back on dishes and beverages that contain these ingredients.
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    Minimize foods or situations that trigger hot flashes. Women going through menopause often have particular hot flash triggers—such as caffeine and lack of sleep—that lead to increased sweating.[10] Avoid these triggers to help reduce your sweat response.
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    See your doctor about underlying conditions that can cause excess sweating. Increased sweating can be a symptom of a larger medical condition. See your physician to rule out:[11]
    • Diabetes (or general blood sugar imbalances)
    • Endocarditis
    • Generalized anxiety disorder
    • HIV
    • Hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating)
    • Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
    • Tuberculosis
    • Leukemia
    • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
    • Some medications can also be responsible for your increased sweat response. If you developed the symptoms in association with a new medication, then ask your doctor about similar medications that may not induce sweating.
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    Consult a dermatologist for medical treatments. If none of these steps seem to have helped with your sweating, then you can consult a dermatologist for medical options. Your doctor and dermatologist will likely only consider medical options if you have actually been diagnosed with hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating). Options available include:[12]
    • Botox injections, which use botulinum toxin to help reduce the amount of sweating produced by the body under the arms. This works by blocking the release of acetylcholine, thereby temporarily reducing sweat production. This can be an effective, but expensive, treatment.
    • Surgical removal of the sweat glands, which is an outpatient procedure performed using local anesthesia.
    • Microwave thermolysis, which is used to destroy the sweat glands with microwave energy. It is usually administered in two 20–30 minute sessions, separated by three months.
    • Iontophoresis, which uses electrical currents to decrease sweating.
    • Oral prescription medications that systematically limit sweating. These include anticholinergics such as glycopyrrolate, oxybutynin, benztropine, propantheline, and others.
    • Sympathectomy, which is where your surgeon attempts to stop the nerve signals that your body sends to sweat glands. It is a major surgery, requiring hospitalization. Possible side effects include loss of feeling under the arm, low blood pressure, inability to tolerate heat, and even an irregular heartbeat.

Method 2
Controlling Underarm Odor

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    Learn what causes underarm odor. Your body has two distinct types of sweat glands — eccrine and apocrine.[13] Apocrine glands are located in areas with dense hair follicles, making them the types of glands associated with your underarms.[14] However, neither type of sweat gland produces odor. Sweat is primarily a combination of water and salt, and the odor associated with sweat actually comes from the combination of the sweat and the naturally occurring bacteria that lives on your skin.[15]
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    Identify times and situations that cause sweat-related odors. Since the sweat itself does not actually contain a bad odor, you may notice specific situations where you sweat without any associated smell. Try to isolate the specific situations where you become painfully aware of the odor caused by sweating.
    • Some of these situations commonly include after exercise, if you haven’t bathed, if you haven’t changed your clothes, or if you’ve eaten pungent foods or consumed alcohol.[16]
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    Shower daily. Showering every day helps to reduce the bacterial growth on your body and therefore the potential for body odor.[17] You should also shower after intense physical exercise such as playing a sport or a trip to the gym because the excess sweat during the activity produces a breeding ground for more bacteria.
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    Change your clothes daily. In addition to showering daily, you should also change your clothing daily. Contact with your underarms spreads the bacteria on your skin to the armpit crease on shirts as well, which will produce smelly results if you wear the same shirt for several days.
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    Use a deodorant. Deodorants are over-the-counter products that eliminate odor while still allowing your body to cool itself through perspiration.[18] They’re typically alcohol based, making the applied area acidic and uninviting for bacteria.[19]
    • If you prefer a natural alternative to a deodorant, you can use white or apple cider vinegar or even a fresh lemon under your arms since these will also affect the pH of your underarms in ways that reduce the growth of bacteria.[20][21] You may want to mix these (especially any vinegar) with a few drops of an essential oil of your choice since they can also leave you with a particularly strong smell.
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    Shave your armpits. Most men will likely scoff at the idea, but hairy armpits provide a much larger area for odor-causing bacteria to spread. By reducing the overall amount of bacteria, you can reduce odor.
    • Even if you’re opposed to shaving your armpits entirely, you can still trim down the hair significantly, which will work better than not at all.
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    Avoid specific foods and drinks that can increase body odor. The foods you eat can have an effect on your natural aroma, which is then exacerbated when sweating. Common foods and drinks associated with pungent body odors include garlic, onions, curry, alcohol, and caffeinated beverages.[22] Try temporarily cutting these out of your diet or at least minimizing them to test for a difference in odor.
    • Even dietary imbalances in vitamins and minerals such as magnesium and zinc can also lead to strong body odor.[23]
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    Eat green vegetables. In addition to avoiding certain foods, eating more of certain foods can also decrease pungent body odors. Food high in chlorophyll (green vegetables) have been shown to have the potential to decrease body odor.[24]
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    Stay hydrated. Foods that can affect your body odor will have more pungency if you’re dehydrated. By drinking plenty of water, you will give your body the optimal ability to remove waste products without increasing body odor.[25]


  • Try to isolate the specific factors causing your excess sweating and/or odor to eliminate them.


  • Do not stop taking any medication you suspect may be affecting your body odor without first consulting your physician.

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Categories: Sweating and Body Odor Hygiene