Body Odour

An Indian Army colleague had opined that the Westerner may sound helpful when brown skin is alone in open, but they detest even one occupying a table next to them in a posh hotel and socially too. Well placed whites do not prefer a brownie at their residences; probably that is how we get the taste of Indian caste system universally. Another friend found no one occupying the vacant seat next to him in the bus and the Westerners were standing and traveling. It was not that every one in the bus was racial, may be a few were.


Many of us fail to realise that it is our body odour that drives the Westerners away – an idea many Indian friends will never accept. Many call me a half-white for this or Whitewashed. You need to call a spade a spade. In case one takes it in a positive spirit, then read on.

It will be incorrect to say that all Indians emanate a bad body odour.   In case anyone has a body odour, then the reasons could be as given below. If you are travelling abroad or meeting with foreigners, it is prudent to take some actions as given in the tips, even if you feel that you do not have any body odour.

  • Biological Reasons.   India is a very hot country. Due to its hot climate, Indian people have been biologically evolved to have more densely concentrated sweat glands. This allows them to sweat more in order to cool down their body temperature in the midst of very hot weather. In addition, many Indians also have longer body hair, which helps to retain the sweat to help cool down their body. Typically, sweats do not have any smell. They produces odour only upon reaction with bacteria growing on the body. Essentially, the body odour is the smell of the bacteria growing on a body and the bacteria multiplies rapidly in the presence of sweat. Due to more densely concentrated sweat glands as compared to other people, Indians have a higher tendency to produce more densely concentrated sweats, which in turn causes the reaction with bacteria to increase. This increase in multiplication of bacteria causes Indians to have a higher tendency to produce a particular body odour.
  • Hygiene Reasons.   Compared to developed nations, India generally has a poorer standard of hygiene and practice. This caused bacteria to populate and multiply easily around and to grow easily in the body of many Indians. Thus, the tendency for bacteria to react with sweat increases causing many Indians to produce a particular body odour.
  • Diet Reasons.   Many Indians eat curry, many other spices, onions, salted fish etc as part of their diet . These diet practice can influence the sweat samples and its reaction with bacteria, causing the body to radiate the odour.

Home Cures and Suggestions

  • Maintain high levels of personal hygiene, to have baths more frequently using a scrubber and anti-bacterial soap to clean the skin.
  • Dry yourself well after baths and use antibacterial and anti-fungal powder.
  • Wearing clean clothes and making sure they are washed well to get rid of the odour. Never repeat unwashed clothes.
  • Use deodorants and antiperspirants but they may cause skin irritation

A blind spot for smells.   Strange as it may seem, many people with bad body odour are unaware that they smell. Scientific research has shown that some people cannot detect certain molecules. Their nostrils may be able to register the smell of garlic or curry, but not the smell emanating from their armpits.

How to reduce body odour?

  • Wash with soap daily, particularly your armpits, groin and feet where there are many sweat producing glands. Washing removes sweat and reduces the numbers of bacteria that act upon it.
  • Some people have more sweat and oil producing glands than others. If you sweat a lot, you may need to shower two or three times a day.
  • The use of antiperspirants and deodorants should be routine. It’s worth trying a few because they have different active ingredients, and you’ll find some work better than others.
  • Deodorants work by masking the smell of sweat with fragrance, while antiperspirants reduce the amount of sweat your body produces. Roll-ons tend to be more effective for heavy sweating.
  • Another useful trick is to shave your armpits. Armpit hair provides a greater surface area for sweat to adhere to and gives the bacteria a fertile breeding ground.
  • It is also essential to wash clothes thoroughly, particularly clothing that comes into contact with sweaty areas such as socks, underwear and shirts.
  • Never wear previous day’s clothes. However clean your body is, the clothes will retain the smell of yesterday’s sweat.
  • Ensure that your clothes are stored well in a closet and will not adsorb the smell of masala from the kitchen.
  • Ensure that you have a separate set of clothing to be worn while cooking. Never wear these clothes outside.

How to deal with an employee or friend with body odour.   An employee of Indian origin, who recently migrated, joined my wife’s work place and he had a severe body odour and the other staff embers (many of Indian origin) could not stand the smell. The tips I gave her to deal with the situation are:

  • The best approach is to think about how you’d want it handled it if it were you and have a short, to-the-point conversation with each of them (separately,) likely at the end of the day so they don’t need to sit there feeling self-conscious for hours afterward.
  • Be honest, direct, and as kind as possible. You can even admit that you’re nervous about bringing it up. Start by mentioning that their work has been good and then say something like, “I want to discuss something that’s awkward, and I hope I don’t offend you. You’ve had a noticeable body odour lately. It might be a need to use a deodorant or an antiperspirant or a perfume . This is the kind of thing that people often don’t realize about themselves, so I wanted to bring it to your attention.”
  • Likely, the employee will be embarrassed. But he is combative, explain that he needs to come to work clean because of the impact on the pharmacy. You might also suggest a visit to a doctor to find out if there might be a medical reason.
  • Be direct, be straight, be as concise as you can without sounding like a bastard. Most people try to add as much verbal padding as possible when they are trying to tell someone something that’s bad news, embarrassing, etc. Just cut to the chase and get to the point, make the moment only as long as it needs to be.

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