What Actually Causes Body Odor? A New Study Has the Answer

Posted on September 17, 2020 | by

woman smiles as she smells dry armpits after miradry for sweat reduction

Researchers at the University of York in England have had a eureka moment—they’ve identified the small species of bacteria that have a unique enzyme responsible for body odor (or what we refer to as B.O.).

What Causes Body Odor?

“The skin of our underarms provides a unique niche for bacteria…this environment is nutrient-rich and hosts its own microbial community,” says Dr. Gavin Thomas from the Department of Biology at the University.

Researchers found that only a small number of the staphylococcus bacteria in our armpits are the odor-causing culprits.

Until now, scientists didn’t fully understand how bacteria in that biome were taking odor-free compounds in armpit sweat and converting them into pungent ones. This study, coupled with previous research by the same team, found that only a small number of the bacteria (staphylococcus bacteria) in our armpits are the odor-causing culprits.

It turns out that we humans come from a long line of smelly ancestors! Researchers also found that the “B.O. enzyme” was present in Homo sapiens’ predecessor, S. hominis, suggesting that body odor has existed for eons and may have been central to societal communication among ancestral primates.

How Do Deodorants Work?

All of this matters in the world of B.O. elimination. Because deodorants work by indiscriminately killing or inhibiting many of the bacteria that live under our arms, identifying the specific bacteria responsible will help companies develop products that target only the malodorous ones.

“This is a key advancement in understanding how body odor works,” says study co-first author Dr. Michelle Rudden, “and will enable the development of targeted inhibitors that stop B.O. production at the source without disrupting the armpit microbiome.”

Can I Stop B.O. Before It Starts?

Yes, there is a technology called miraDry® which is designed to stop body odor before it starts, by eliminating underarm sweat in the first place. It’s especially relevant if visible, excessive underarm sweating is also a concern for you.

MiraDry® targets underarm sweat glands with controlled, heat-based energy, which permanently eliminates them. The procedure lasts about 40 minutes to one hour and comes with little-to-no discomfort; you’ll walk out with immediate results.

After miraDry® treatment, our hyperhidrosis patients no longer feel so anxious about important meetings and first dates.

While B.O. is one motivator for seeking out miraDry® treatment, people who don’t want to worry about sweat stains ruining their clothing—or don’t like wearing chemically-based antiperspirants—also choose this treatment.

Here at Boston Plastic Surgery, we’ve seen that miraDry® is so effective it can even offer help for people experiencing hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating). Our hyperhidrosis patients report that, after miraDry® treatment, they no longer feel so anxious about important meetings, first dates, and other occasions where excessive sweating can feel especially embarrassing.

Looking for sweat treatments in Boston?

Whether you are concerned with battling underarm sweat or are looking for quality skin care treatments and products in the Boston-area, Boston Plastic Surgery is your answer. Under Dr. Samaha’s guidance, our team of licensed medical aestheticians is dedicated to helping you achieve and maintain younger, healthy-looking skin.

We welcome you to come in for a complimentary skin evaluation and personal consultation at our Skin Wellness Center. Call (617) 786-6700 or contact us online for an appointment. Prefer a virtual consult? We’ll be happy to set one up for you.

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