Completely natural but sometimes unpleasant, body odor (BO) plagues even the sweetest-smelling among us at some point. But there's a new and perhaps eyebrow-raising way to treat body odor in town: Apparently using someone else's armpit bacteria on yourself could help quell the stench of your own personal pungent aroma. And yep, I'm being totally serious here, folks.
Although sweating is totally normal, you'd be hard pushed to find anyone that enjoys the process, right? Sweating occurs when your body needs to naturally cool down and reduce the excess heat that's caused from working muscles and as sports and recreation community ACTIVE notes, it's also used to "detoxify dissolved solids, and send sodium back into the blood to maintain salinity in the body." Apparently the human body has over 4 million sweat glands; they're located pretty much everywhere on your body, too, with the one exception being your lips. Who knew?
And here's where it starts to get really wild: According to new research out of the University of California, San Diego, rubbing the sweat of a balmier friend or family member onto your own stinky pits really can reduce the effect of BO. Maybe it's time to get up close and personal with your sweatiest nearest and dearest.
The actual term for this whole sweat-swapping thing is "bacteria transplant." The research was led by Chris Callewaert, a postdoctoral research fellow at UCSD, who discovered that by replacing strong-smelling armpit bacteria with alternative bacteria which doesn’t smell as bad, the human armpit could essentially be biologically programmed into producing sweeter- smelling bacteria in the future. As Science of Us notes, the idea is like the equally icky-sounding but also highly effective fecal transplant, which is where one person’s feces is placed inside the colon of someone else to re-balance the variety of bacteria that may have gotten out of sorts in the recipient's body.
It sounds grim, but if your body odor is caused by a specific and very unique cocktail of bacteria living under your skin, then mixing things up with a few new strains from another person in possession of a nicer smell could very well help.
As The Independent reports, Callewaert showed the possibilities of this treatment by experimenting on identical twin brothers, one of whom suffered from terrible BO, the other of whom had little to no smell. The nicer-smelling brother was told not to wash for four days as so a large quantity of the better bacteria could be collected. Meanwhile, the other brother was told to wash more frequently using antibacterial soap so his armpits were super clean and susceptible to new bacteria. Callewaert then rubbed the sweat of the twin without BO into the armpits of the other, and found that the smellier twin's BO problem pretty much disappeared after the fact. What's more, the effects appear to have staying power: Callewaert told New Scientist recently, “The effects have persisted for over a year now. ... We’re very happy with that."
If the idea of all this gets your "Ew!" detector working overdrive, Science Of Us notes that Callewaert listed a few other natural ways to improve your scent, too: Shave your pits, consume plenty of veggies, avoid synthetic clothes, and simply just use a good deodorant. Of course, other research challenges some of what he's saying; for example, Dr. Mona Gohara, associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale University, told Good Housekeeping that having longer armpit hair doesn't necessarily equate to worse BO. "Provided you keep your underarms clean and treat the hair similarly to the hair on your head, washing it every day, bacteria will not accumulate and therefore won't cause any bad odors," she said. And there's a growing body of research which suggests that injecting your pits with Botox is the most fail-safe way to stop sweating and therefore the smell that comes with it.
If that all sounds slightly extreme, you could try some simpler sweat hacks, such as wearing specially-designed sports performance wear or reducing your intake of spicy foods. Remember though — everyone sweats. It's totally natural and nothing to be ashamed of.