Body odor is caused by a mix of bacteria with sweat on your skin. It can be influenced by hormones, the food you eat, infections, medications or underlying conditions like diabetes or other metabolic conditions. Sweat itself is virtually odorless, it's the rapid growth of bacteria that break down the sweat into acids causing an unpleasant smell.
What are the main areas of the body affected the most by body odor?
Most common areas affected are the armpits, feet, groin, genitals, pubic area, behind the ears.
What is glycolic acid in skincare?
Glycolic acid is a alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that works by breaking the bonds between the outer layer of skin cells, including the dead skin cells, exfoliating them off, boosting cell renewal resulting in a peeling effect that leaves the skin smoother. Glycolic acid is also antibacterial and helps reduce hyperpigmentation.
So, how is glycolic acid helpful in reducing body odor?
Sweat itself is virtually odorless, it's the rapid growth of bacteria that break down the sweat into acids causing an unpleasant smell. Since Glycolic acid is anti-bacterial it helps reduce body odor. It also exfoliates off dead skin cells that contribute to greater bacterial build up. Additionally, it does have a smoothing effect and can reduce breakouts and razor bumps. I'm hesitant in recommending it for the delicate under arm skin as it can cause slight irritation. Formulas with low concentrations or when used in a cleanser that you leave on for a few minutes and then rinse off is the safest option.
Can glycolic acid be considered a deodorant?
Glycolic acid is not a deodorant, it’s an exfoliant. It does nothing to reduce sweat or absorb sweat. Deodorants without an antiperspirant just use fragrance to mask the body odor, not without actually treating the cause of it which is due to the bacteria mixing with the sweat. Antiperspirants in deodorants contain aluminum-based compounds that temporarily block sweat pores reducing the amount of perspiration that reaches the skin.
Does glycolic acid help fight discoloration?
Dark underarms can be due to skin buildup. By removing build up of dead skin cells that contribute to dark underarms it can help brighten hyperpigmentation. The problem is applying glycolic acid to the delicate and sensitive underarm skin can cause irritation especially in higher concentrations leading to dark underarms, the problem you were hoping to treat. It can be a catch 22. The irritation then worsens hyperpigmentation especially in darker skin tones. You also have to be cautious with shaving or waxing which also exfoliates the skin. Over exfoliation damages the skin barrier leading to inflammation and post inflammatory hyperpigmentation again particularly in darker skin tones.
How To Incorporate Glycolic Acid Into Your Routine
Start low and go slow. At first apply a lower concentration 5-7% every other day and slowly increase it daily. Cream formulation may be better tolerated than gels or liquid toners. Even better, cleansing the area with it is the safest way to go. Some may tolerate twice daily applications at lower glycolic concentrations (2-5%). An alternative method for using glycolic acid is short contact therapy where the acid is applied to the skin like a mask. Apply it, leave it on for 3-5 min then rinse it off. Start low and go slow as it can cause irritation applied to the more delicate under arm skin.
Glycolic Acid Alternatives
A more gentle alternative to glycolic acid is Lactic acid as it's an exfoliant, better tolerated, and it's also antibacterial.
An alternative method for using either glycolic or lactic acid is short contact therapy where the acid is applied to the skin like a mask. Apply it, leave it on for 3-5 min then rinse it off.
Who should be cautious with Glycolic Acid?
Sensitive skin types should be really cautious as it can cause irritation in the delicate under arm skin. Be cautious in darker skin tones due to risk of irritation resulting in post inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Dr. Azi’s Glycolic Acid Recommendations: