Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Eliminate Under Arm Smell - Naturally

Magnificent morning, not a cloud in the sky.

A little ironic that I am going to talk about getting rid of body odor (we'll focus on the arm pits) naturally after the previous blog. But bare with me, its pretty simple.

What prompted me was a discussion with some people who, in their efforts to use safe deodorants, were lamenting that they had not found anything that works as well as the toxic guns. And to add insult to injury, they smelled so bad that even a good scrub in the shower did not eliminate the under arm stinks completely. And sure enough, they were right. After a particularly warm, active day, followed by a thorough shower, I too had lingering B.O. (body odor).

I was impressed. And I wanted to find a solution. But first I wanted to know, just what is causing this stubborn smell.

Yes we have sweat glands - eccrine glands (all over the body regulating temperatures) and apocrine glands (mostly under arms, groin and around breasts) which secret a fatty substance that bacteria feast on. It really isn't the sweat that smells, it's the by-product of the happy bacteria. Some say its the acid from the bacteria that smells, some say it's the actual .... poop from the bacteria. (double ick) Maybe they are one in the same.

This is not when you reach for the anti-bacterial soap. No, no, no. Remember those anti-bacterial chemicals not only partially kill the under arm bacteria (and the ones that survive become super bacteria - we don't want that) but your body absorbs those chemicals, some of them cancer causing, and the rest goes into our water system, onward to kill good bacteria. (remember we need bacteria to bio-degrade things!) So 3 very good reasons to not use anti-bacterial soaps.

Before we talk about eliminating under arm smell (and we will), let's talk about prevention. Bacteria love heat, so try to reduce the heat under your arms by dressing lighter, in natural fiber clothing, and/or trimming/shaving the under arm hair. And wash on a regular basis. That does not mean you have to waste water and shower twice a day. Try the old wash cloth at the sink (with low chemical profile soap) instead. This is all pretty simple, natural and very environmentally friendly so far.

Now for the magic solution. One word. Vinegar. The mother of all cleaning agents, including for under arm, body odor pit smell. So in the shower, or not, even after washing with soap, if there is that lingering slight smell - pour a little, like a cap full, onto the corner of your wash cloth and rub the entire under arm area. (if you are shaving, I would shave after) Let it sit and do something else (brush teeth? wash another body part?) then wash again with soap to clear the vinegar off. Voila. B.O. gone.

Apparently the low PH of vinegar wipes out the bacteria/smell. What ever it is - it works. And the bonus is, it seems to have lasting power too, before your familiar smell returns.

Unfortunately we do not live in a society that values wreaking under arm odor. There's a nomad tribe in Africa that bathes once a month but the men prefer their women to not bathe at all. Hard to believe really but it would solve a whole lot of problems if we didn't find arm pit smell so offensive. And it would collapse the personal care industry. Hmm.

So here we are, trying to eliminate naturally smelling body odor and then, for many, adding other smells (like perfumes). Interesting how humans have evolved. Some say that's progress.

Anyway, give it a try. Have a bottle of vinegar handy in the shower or bathroom (transfer to unbreakable container if you are a klutz) and make it part of your new bathing routine. I would love your feedback!