All about body odour, deodorants and the natural way forward Wake up. Brush. Flush. Bathe. Eat. Dress up. Spray. - has become the new norm Wait, but what’s the ‘spray’? Deodorants, ofcourse! Deodorants have moved from being just a niche personal care product to an everyday must-use product. Pleasant body odour today extends well beyond being just an indicator of good personal hygiene and also plays a role in one’s social life, personal confidence and presentation.

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Wake up. Brush. Flush. Bathe. Eat. Dress up. Spray. – has become the new norm

Wait, but what’s the ‘spray’?  Deodorants, ofcourse! Deodorants have moved from being just a niche personal care product to an everyday must-use product. Pleasant body odour today extends well beyond being just an indicator of good personal hygiene and also plays a role in one’s social life, personal confidence and presentation.

It is interesting to note that the character Satyavati from the Mahabharata was known as Matsyagandhi (smelling like fish) and later she was given a boon of musk fragrance and she came to be known as Gadhavati.

Today, deodorants seem to be to go-to solution to deal with body odour. This is a matter of concern with regard to both the individual’s health, as well as the environment, as most deodorants come loaded with toxic chemicals. When we talk about air pollution, what comes to our mind right away is vehicles and traffic fumes, blissfully unaware that some among the most environmentally dangerous pollutants lie in our deodorant bottles, masked by flowery and enchanting fragrances.

Over the last 5 years, the 3000cr deodorant market in India has grown by 30%, making deodorants one of the fastest growing sectors within the consumer goods sector in India.Deodorants were only introduced into the market as late as 1888 by ‘Mum’. 1960s saw a host of deodorant brands which used aerosol, until it was banned. In 2018, the global antiperspirant and deodorant market is estimated to be worth about 72.7 billion USD.

Did you know that body odour is a complex phenomena that is influenced by many factors, including a person’s diet, health, age, genetics and of course, personal hygiene. In this article, let us understand about body odour, deodorants and explore some natural remedies to keep body odour under check and learn how to prepare simple and chemical free deodorants at home.

Why is body odour produced?

Sweating, as we know, is our body’s natural mechanism to regulate the temperature. Body odour, however is a more complex phenomenon. To understand body odour, let us first look at perspiration and the subsequent action of bacteria on the sweat.

The sweat glands in our body which are responsible for perspiration are of two types:

Eccrine glands: Eccrine glands cover most of our body’s skin surface and the sweat they produce is mainly made up of water and salts, both odourless. Apocrine Glands








Apocrine glands are mainly found in the armpits and they kick into action after puberty due to hormonal action. The sweat they secrete is full of proteins and fats, which are odourless. Armpits, being moist and humid, helps millions of bacteria thrive. These bacteria feed on the proteins and fats produced by apocrine sweat glands and convert them into stinky and unpleasant smelling compounds, which causes body odour. 

What influences body odour?

Hygiene: Poor personal hygiene is one of the primary causes of bad odour, since it gives more time and layers of sweat for bacteria to feed on. Armpits, being moist and without oxygen, easily become breeding grounds for anaerobic bacteria and produce a foul smell, if not cleansed and kept dry. Sweating while exercising, playing and during outdoor activities in the sun is quite common. However, not washing your sportswear, bathing irregularly and allowing the sweat in your armpits to accumulate are main contributors of body odor.

Diet: Research reveals many interesting insights on how different types of foods alter our body odour. A study was conducted to understand the effect of meat consumption on body odour. Seventeen male odor donors were on “meat” or “no-meat” diet for 2 weeks wearing axillary pads to collect body odor during the final 24 h of the diet. Fresh odor samples were assessed for their pleasantness, attractiveness, masculinity, and intensity by 30 women. Results of repeated measures analysis of variance showed that the odor of donors when on the no-meat diet was judged as significantly more attractive, more pleasant, and less intense. 

Different foods produce different byproducts upon break down by our body and get secreted. The bacteria, then interact with them and produce a smell. Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflowers, cabbages and broccoli contain sulphur compounds which produce a “rotten egg” smell. When bacteria act on them, they produce more sulphur containing compounds, causing very bad body odour.

The characteristic body odour produced post the consumption of alcohol is often unmissable and stinky. Alcohol gets broken down into acetates and acids in our body and they get secreted through the sweat, making it a breeding ground for bacteria. 

Genetic makeup: The ABCC11 gene plays a key role in the expression and secretion of the odour causing apocrine sweat glands and determines the axillary body odour. For example, people of East Asian descent have fewer apocrine sweat glands, making them less prone to body odour. Mutations in the FMO3 gene cause trimethylaminuria. Trimethylamine has been described as smelling like rotting fish, rotting eggs, garbage, or urine. As this compound builds up in the body, it causes affected people to give off a strong odor in their sweat, urine, and breath. 

HealthAccording to Ayurveda, unpleasant body odour is an indicator for Ama or the accumulation of toxins in the body. People with diabetes, obesity, hyperactive thyroid, kidney and liver dysfunctions also tend to either excessively sweat or have strong body odour.

Stress: Research shows that sweat due to stress smells more unpleasant than sweat produced due to a workout.This is because sweat due to physical workouts is caused due to the eccrine glands, while stress triggers adrenaline, which in turn causes sweat by the apocrine glands, which cause the stink. The sweat produced due to nervousness and anxiety or during stress also contains more toxins than the sweat produced by playing.

Deodorants and Antiperspirants:

How are deodorants and antiperspirants different from perfumes? Why not just use perfumes to deal with body odor?Functionally, a deodorant and an antiperspirant take on different roles.


Deodorants Antiperspirants
1 Work by inhibiting the growth of or attacking the bacteria which produce the odour Work by cutting down on the sweat by clogging and closing the pores temporarily
2 Have antibacterial and antiseptic compounds Have powerful astringents
3 Does not interfere with sweating Interferes with sweating

Deodorants are loaded with very toxic and harmful chemical compounds and their widespread use in personal care products is debatable and questionable. Strong chemicals including aluminium compounds, parabens, triclosan, Phthalates, Diethanolamine (DEA), triethanolamine (TEA), Butanes and Isobutanes are some other commonly used toxic chemicals in deodorants. These chemicals are hazardous both for the person and environment as they kill necessary microbes of the body and surrounding. 

Some good hygiene habits that helps reduce body odour :

  • Cleanse the armpits and other areas which are thriving sites for bacteria to feed on sweat
  • Yes. Take a bath everyday. If you live in a hot and humid place, which causes you to sweat profusely, bathe twice everyday.
  • Wear easy and breathable fabrics like cotton which allows the sweat to evaporate quickly
  • Wash and maintain your clothes well. Change them regularly.
  • Drink sufficient water. Water helps flush toxins out of you body and being a neutral substance, prevents the formation of bacteria.
  • Avoid garlic, onions, and excessively spicy and fatty foods, and meats.

Natural remedies to keep body odour under check:

  • Coconut oil: Apply coconut oil under your arms and let it get absorbed into your skin. It contains lauric acid, which is a mild antibacterial.
  • Neem: Neem is an excellent antibacterial and antifungal agent. Make a paste with the leaves, apply on your underarms and leave it for a few minutes before taking a bath. This will keep your arms fresh and inhibit bacterial activity.
  • Lemon: Applying freshly cut lemon juice under your arms, leaving it to dry, and them bathing also helps fight body odour due to lemon’s antibacterial properties.
  • Rose water: Adding rose water to your bathing water helps, as it is a natural coolant and fragrant.

Making a Natural Deodorant

To make a deodorant, we need ingredients to:

  • Prevent microbial activity
  • Mask bad odour and impart a pleasant fragrance
  • Absorb moisture and smoothen the skin


  • Coconut oil – 1 tbsp
  • Beeswax pellets – 1 tbsp
  • Lemongrass essential oil – 10 drops
  • Cornstarch powder – 2 tbsp


  • Melt the beeswax by placing in a container in a vessel of boiling water. (The water should not enter the container)
  • Once the beeswax melts, add the coconut oil and the cornstarch powder and mix well until it forms a smooth paste
  • Add the essential oil and again stir well
  • Store in a small and dry container

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