Do Your Armpits Smell After A Shower?

Body odor, everyone experiences it. No judgment. But if you want to eliminate armpit smell and feel fresh and odor free but showering is not helping, you may have a medical condition or it could just be time to change your daily routine. Good hygiene by itself is not the answer to preventing body odor. You can think you’re clean but still smell. The reason? Being clean and showering daily is part but not all of the answer and you may not be getting the most from your shower. Cleansing more while using the wrong cleanser can actually worsen a body odor problem.  Stop trying to scrub away body odor and read this. 

Do You Suffer From Hyperhidrosis?

You sweat after a vigorous workout or from getting overheated on a very hot and humid day. Normally, the sweat glands known as eccrine glands, release sweat to the skin surface that then evaporates. As this happens it cools the body and protects you from overheating. This is a critical function. Those who sweat too little or none at all, are at risk of fainting or may even risk organ damage if they cannot maintain a normal body temperature. Sweating is a protective physiologic function for humans. Also, a “good sweat” can be like a badge, showing you worked hard. Don’t be ashamed of it.

Hyperhidrosis occurs when the body’s sweat glands overproduce sweat and the skin stays damp above and beyond a “normal” amount. Hyperhidrosis is a medical condition in which patients have excessive sweating. Their skin is uncontrollably wet all day long and they may have sweaty underarms as well as other overly damp body parts. Some people suffer so badly from too much sweat that their palms are wet all day and they have trouble holding on to a steering wheel or shaking hands. If this sounds like you, you must be evaluated by a dermatologist. There are prescription medications to treat hyperhidrosis and there are procedures such as Miradry, Botox injections and even surgery for extreme life altering cases that can help treat this difficult problem. Seek medical advice if you have severe sweating. Too much sweat or too much odor, which is your concern?  Keep reading.

Do You Suffer From Bromhidrosis?

Bromhidrosis is the medical term for body odor. This can occur even without excessive sweating. In fact, those who have hyperhidrosis often complain about being overly wet but their concerns are not of armpit odor. Interestingly, sweat is not the cause of body odor. Bacteria is. So, smelly armpits can occur with and without sweat. The odor occurs due to the action of specific bacteria that are optimized in damp skin folds and from perturbations in the skin barrier function often linked to skin pH imbalance.

Underarm odor is caused by bacteria which undergo breakdown. The bacteria are normally found in skin folds like the underarms and are known as the axillary microbiome. But things like moisture and apocrine gland (a second type of sweat gland found in the underarm) secretions being acted upon by the bacteria, cause the body odor. There are medical conditions that can also cause a change in body odor. See your doctor if the odor problem continues or worsens. 

What makes underarms a breeding ground for this bacteria? Armpits are the perfect place for bacteria to flourish due to being a skin fold that retains moisture, lacks airflow, and is home to odor causing bacteria. These bacteria get set into motion when the skin surface’s security is jeopardized.

Most soaps and body washes are neutral or alkaline pH and can disrupt the lower pH balance that ensures the skin’s integrity. The acid mantle of the skin is an invisible barrier that protects the skin; it is a pH set point (about 5.4)  that, while slightly acidic, maintains the skin’s main function of providing us with our protective shield. It does so by keeping noxious elements out and maintaining the moisture of the cells within. A typical soap and also shampoos etc are often alkaline, not acidic, and can tip the delicate acid mantle balance of the skin and render it “open” to irritation and other problems such as bacteria and yeast overgrowth. The normal microbial inhabitants of the skin (the 'good bacteria’)  can be thrown off and cause a disturbance that leads to odor as other non protective bacteria (the ‘bad bacteria’) gain the upper hand and proliferate . What can you do? Keep skin in balance by using gentle cleansers that are pH balancing with acidic components like glycolic acid or lactic acid that protect the acid mantle.


A shower alone may not be the answer to controlling body odor. If the pH balance of the skin is repeatedly altered from its slightly acidic set point by repeated exposure to alkaline skin care products, body odor can be the result, as specific bacteria flourish when the acid mantle is breached.


Things you can control
Armpit hair
Dead skin cells
Product Build up
Certain foods
pH of the skin surface
Skin barrier function
Trapped Moisture


Things you can’t control
Hormonal changes
Medical conditions
Anatomy/Skin Folds


Take These Steps To Combat Underarm Odor

  1. In the shower use an over the counter antibacterial body wash. But beware that products that are often recommended such as benzoyl peroxide, are alkaline and can be harsh on delicate underarm skin. If choosing one of these, use a tiny amount and use no more than two times per week. Dilute the body wash with water and rinse well. Stop using it if the skin becomes too dry or irritated. Remember, you do not want to completely eradicate bacteria. Some bacteria are beneficial. 
  2. Another and perhaps better choice for body wash, is one that contains acid such as glycolic acid or lactic acid. While these are different from true antibacterial cleansers, they too reduce the bacteria’s chances of breeding on your skin. The acid pH helps create an antimicrobial setting on the skin. Rinse well no matter which cleanser you choose. Less residue on the skin means less chance of odor causing bacteria to find a home.
  3. After showering, air-dry the skin of the underarms. Use a hairdryer on a cool setting, or a fan or allow the armpits to dry out fully before getting dressed. This is key to minimizing trapped dampness from inviting odor causing bacteria to flourish.
  4. Of course, antiperspirant or deodorant is the next step. You may hear advice about applying these at bedtime. Either way be aware that antiperspirant blocks sweat and deodorant masks odor with perfume. Both of these can be irritating for some, especially with deodorant that is heavily fragranced or contains baking soda which can make skin inflamed. Look for dermatologist recommended brands or those which are gentle on skin. 
  5. Instead of typical deodorants,  it is time to switch to  Surface Deep Anti-Odorant Products. You can prevent odor and maintain healthy skin barrier function. The pH balancing, dermatologist developed formula is gentle on skin and does not disrupt the microbiome like many other products can. It prevents odor all day without residue is, vegan, aluminum free and leaves the skin clean and the skin’s acid mantle intact.
  6. Consider hair removal such as shaving, waxing, or even laser hair removal, as hair traps moisture and can lead to the build up of oils and bacteria.
  7. Wear clothing that is made from moisture-wicking fibers. Wicking fabric is made from several types of fibers like nylon, spandex, merino wool. Cotton and linen are natural fibers which are breathable fabrics and may keep you cool and allow air flow (good to wear on a hot summer day for normal activities), yet if you are very active and sweat in a heightened way, they can actually act like a sponge and retain moisture. Notice your favorite socks for sports are not 100% cotton? Do not be afraid of synthetic fibers like polyester, as they are made of wicking fibers. And some of the best clothing incorporates a blend of natural and synthetic fibers.
  8. Keep a journal or mental note of when you notice body odor. It may be around the menstrual cycle or maybe it is related to specific foods. Onion, garlic, some spicy foods, red meat, see list depending on how your body metabolizes the foods, can contribute to body odor.
  9. Gently exfoliate the skin to minimize the presence of spent skin cells that can trap unpleasant odors. However be sure not scrub to the point of redness or irritation. Moderation is key. Intense rubbing is to be avoided.
  10. Some say “stress sweat” smells worse than “regular sweat”. While that may be up for debate, it is true that when we are stressed we may not take as good care of ourselves. Relaxation, deep breathing, mediation and mindfulness techniques can help you in so many ways and may even help control body odor. Take care of yourself = self care.
  11. If you suffer from changes in how you smell, or you’re experiencing persistent odor that is not helped with any of the above suggestions, be sure to see your doctor for evaluation. There are a host of medical conditions that could be at the root of hyperhidrosis or bromhidrosis which you need to get checked out. Listen to your body.

*The above is not intended to be medical advice. See your doctor.