Noticed that your body odour (B.O.) has gotten worse after laser hair removal on your underarms? You’re not imagining things—there’s good reason why.

But first things first: everyone has a unique scent so don’t freak out just because you smell. We all do to varying degrees, and according to Dr Kwan Yuan Dong, an aesthetic doctor at S Aesthetics Clinic, it’s the result of bacteria breaking down proteins secreted by our apocrine glands into acids.

It’s all about bacterial balance

If your B.O. has gotten worse after laser hair removal, it’s because the laser sessions disturbed the balance of the types of bacteria in the area.

“This leads to the odour-producing bacteria colonising the area, and in this instance the presence or non-presence of hair is usually secondary. Hair can both help and worsen body odour, depending on the circumstances.”

But there are other causes of increased odour, of course. For one, it could be due to the fabrics of the clothes you’ve been wearing.

“Synthetic fabrics such as polyester and nylon tend to trap odours at a greater rate than natural fabrics because of the denser nook and crannies in their fibres,” says Dr Kwan. He adds that bacteria on our skin gets transferred onto clothing that we wear, so it’ll help to change into clean clothes regularly to keep the smell away.

But it could also be the foods you’ve been eating.

“What you eat can also affect your body odour, and as a general rule of thumb, spicy foods, caffeine and alcohol can make you sweat more. The aromas of certain foods like onion and garlic can also be carried in your sweat.”

Body odour can be treated

Find that deodorant hasn’t been resolving the problem? Don’t fret: whatever the causes, B.O. can be treated.

“You can use antibacterial soaps, shower more frequently and wear clothing that has been infused with bactericidal compounds such as silver. These can reduce the bacterial load on skin and reduce the odour-causing acids produced by them. Also watch your diet by avoiding foods that can either worsen the smell or increase sweating,” advises Dr Kwan.

He adds that there are medical treatments to eliminate the odour if these measures don’t work for you, which include taking an oral anti-perspirant to reduce sweating and getting botox administered into the area to reduce or stop sweating in these areas.

“Depending on the location and type of odour, we may also prescribe an
antibiotic cream, and in severe cases, oral antibiotics to kill the odour-causing bacteria.”