Armpits don’t smell like roses, but everyone has them and I think it’s time we made peace with them and quit embracing the notion that all odor not chemically synthesized in a lab is bad. In fact, in any number of cultures over the course of history, body odor was known as an aphrodisiac, or at the very least a normal part of life. Perhaps one of the most famous body odor references was a note from Napoleon to Josephine – “I will return to Paris tomorrow evening. Don't wash.”
When it comes to figuring out what factors influence body odor, think inside before you think outside. Your diet directly influences your body odor, and a healthy, well balanced diet generally means you will be smell less gamey. Highly processed foods don’t just make you sick, they make you stink. Medication can also influence body odor. Turn to diet and healthy lifestyle choices first before turning to pharmaceuticals.
While I’m not advocating that you give up bathing entirely, I do recommend more environmentally friendly cleanliness options. Skip antibacterial products. You don’t need them, and they can contribute to antibiotic resistant strains of nasty bacteria and attack the helpful bacteria on your body. Look for plain soap. Not deodorant, not antibacterial – the simpler, the better. Read the label. If you can’t pronounce the ingredients, that’s generally a bad sign. I’ve included a link below to some of the top offenders.
As for deodorant products, consider skipping or reducing your use of those that also contain antiperspirants. Most antiperspirants contain aluminum, which has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Applying antiperspirant to your armpits basically mainlines the aluminum into your lymph nodes and through them your immune system. I have found that Naturally Fresh Deodorant Crystal Roll-On with chamomile works well and does not irritate the skin after shaving.
UPDATE: I no longer use the Crystal Roll-on deodorant. I didn't realize this earlier, because the label boldly states “No aluminum chlorohydrate”, but the crystal deodorants do contain aluminum, just in a different (supposedly less absorbable) form. In spite of the crystal deodorants claims that they are not harmful, at least one study has shown that they may cause more damage than standard deodorants. Instead, I've switched to Herbalix deodorants, which heal and detoxify. I have also used homemade deodorant (recipe here).
The ‘Dirt on Clean’ in an Oversanitized World – Excerpt from a fascinating book on human hygiene.
In Defense of Dirt and Grime – Why I don't keep my house super clean.
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