The fuss about B.O.

By Tom Fortner • Published: February 1st, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

When it comes to body odor, Americans don’t like to take chances.

The more than two-billion dollars we spend each year on deodorant and antiperspirant products attests to that.

But one could reasonably ask, are we practicing B.O. overkill?

Some dermatologists believe that all the fuss about personal fragrance has more to do with product marketing than truly malodorous underarms. After all, residents of other countries don’t seem quite so obsessive about the way they smell. They’re much more likely to go au naturale than Americans.

Perspiration has almost no inherent odor. Instead, bacteria that live and multiply in an unwashed armpit are mostly to blame. They break down sweat molecules, producing an unpleasant smell distinguishable from one person to the next. Washing thoroughly once or twice a day would go a long way to keeping these odor-producing bacteria under control.

Deodorants mask the smell with fragrance. Some also include a chemical that kills bacteria. Antiperspirants limit the amount of sweat produced by constricting the pores.

Physicians say only a small percentage of people suffer from truly serious perspiration or body odor. What you eat, certain medications and hormonal activity can also play a role.

Some scientists believe an individual’s distinctive smell is involved in stimulating sexual interest. One theory holds that members of the opposite sex are attracted to mates with immune systems that differ from their own, and a person’s body odor is what signals the difference.

So perhaps it’s worth asking: Would you dare to go bare?