Question from: 9/15/97 by Gregory J. Wilmoth, M.D.
Dermatologist, North Florida Dermatology Associates, P.A.

Answer: Excess body odor and hair growth is a concerning and fairly common problem suffered by many people. Body odor is produced when bacteria that live on the skin and in the sweat glands utilize sweat in their growth. The by-products from bacterial growth cause the body odor. Bacteria like to grow on certain type of sweat secretions from apocrine sweat glands. These glands are more predominant in the underarms and in the genitals. This explains the higher proportion of body odor in these areas.

Many times the increase in body odor can occur despite continued attempts at antiperspirants and bathing. This usually is due to an increase in apocrine sweat gland activity. The apocrine sweat gland activity is often stimulated by hormones within the body. These hormone changes can occur during certain times in life, such as puberty or childbirth.

Uncommonly, hormone changes can occur as a result of diseases within the body. These hormone changes may also cause increased hair growth for women in such areas as the upper lip, the chin, the underarms, the legs and the abdomen. In someone experiencing problems with increased body odor and hair growth I would recommend an initial visit to a physician to ensure that there are no hormone imbalances. If the hormone balance is normal then interventions can be undertaken to control such odor and body hair. These include use of more powerful antiperspirants, which decrease the output of the sweat glands, or medications that prevent hormone function in the skin. Often antibacterial soaps, such as Dial or Lever 2000, can decrease the bacteria on the skin and thus improve the body odor.

With a simple interview and examination by a physician, the causes behind body odor and hair growth can often be identified and interventions implemented.

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