When sweat comes in contact with bacteria on your skin, it can lead to unpleasant smells commonly referred to as body odor (or B.O.). As if sweating and sweat stains didn’t wreak enough havoc! Don’t worry; dealing with sweat and figuring out how to get rid of body odor isn’t a problem for only you – it’s no wonder that the deodorant/antiperspirant sections in grocery stores and pharmacies seem as long as city blocks.

Why do we sweat anyway? Sweating (also known as “perspiration”) is when your body releases salty fluids from your sweat glands. Warm temperatures, exercise, eating spicy foods, certain illnesses, and feeling nervous or stressed can all lead to sweating. Sweating has a very important function of keeping us cool when we are overheating.

Here’s some helpful information though that will help you tame the B.O.:

The difference between deodorant and antiperspirant:

  • Deodorant: Deodorants are used to eliminate or mask underarm body odor. They often contain scents and may also contain alcohol which creates an unfavorable environment for stench-causing bacteria when applied to your skin. You may smell a little better, but because deodorant doesn’t stop perspiration, you’ll still sweat.
  • Antiperspirant: Antiperspirants contain aluminum-based compounds that limit the amount of liquid released through sweat glands by temporarily clogging pores.

Which one is right for you? Some things to consider when you’re shopping:

  • Scents may change. The scents in some deodorants and antiperspirants may change when they meet your skin. You may bring one home thinking it’s the one for you, but when you try it on, it could end up smelling awful.
  • Consider ingredients. Deodorants and antiperspirants, like many cosmetics, have a variety of ingredients. Some are known to be unhealthy, and some are even outlawed in certain parts of the world. You can check out Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database or the new app, ThinkDirty, to see what’s in your products and if you feel comfortable buying and applying them.

Natural ways to prevent and get rid of body odor:

  • Bathe every day. This helps keep odor-causing bacteria in check.
  • Wear more cotton. This light fabric allows your skin to breathe and will trap less heat than other fabrics like polyester or nylon. Wear it on hot days, and you’ll sweat less.
  • Drink less caffeine and eat fewer spicy meals. These dietary favorites can actually make you sweat more and strengthen the smell of your body odor.
  • Make your own deodorant. Common household ingredients like cornstarch and baking soda can fight off odors.

How to prevent sweat stains on your clothes:

  • Wear darker clothes. Depending on the fabric, darker colors can hide sweat marks.
  • Wear layers. This will help prevent sweat marks on the outer layer.
  • Wear underarm shields. Many retailers carry underarm pads that will shield clothing from moisture. For a quick do-it-yourself remedy you can stick shoulder pads or thin panty liners to the underarms of your clothes.

Also good to know:

You may sweat more than your friends.

Everyone is born with 2 million to 4 million sweat glands, and the number of sweat glands determines how much you sweat. During puberty, sweat glands start becoming fully active. How active they are is genetic. If your parents sweat a lot, you probably will too. A small number of people have a condition called hyperhidrosis which just means excessive sweating.

Docs can help if you’re sweating excessively.

If you think you are sweating more than is normal or you are heavily sweating on an ongoing basis, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about potential causes and what treatments may be available. More intense treatments for significant sweating conditions (that deodorants and antiperspirants aren’t helping) include strong over-the-counter antiperspirants like Certain Dri, prescription strength deodorants, and even shots. A dermatologist can discuss these with you if excessive sweating is a problem.