You know you don't smell like a rose after a hard Spinning class or garlicky dinner.
But it turns out that some less-expected factors-like how quickly you get dressed in the morning or whether you snore-can also affect how sweet you smell (or don't). Here's how to fix it, fast.
1. You towel off too quickly after a shower
If you're in hurry and only do a surface job, moisture can get trapped between folds of skin, like below your breasts or between your toes. This can create a musty odor, according to dermatologist Marina Peredo, MD, because there's no access to air there, making it easier for bacteria and fungi to multiply and mix with sweat.
Fix It: After you dry off, set a blow-dryer to cool and wave it over your belly, groin, feet-anywhere that gets uncomfortably sweaty. You can also sprinkle an absorbent powder with antifungal properties onto your skin or in your shoes. Try Zeabsorb-AF, which you can buy at drugstores.
2. You Love Chicken Tikka
Foods with pungent ingredients, such as curry, garlic, and other spices, can not only cause bad breath but also a bit of a body odor. When digested, these foods produce several sulfur-containing gases. Most of these by-products are metabolized in the intestines and liver, but some, such as allyl methyl sulfide, are absorbed into the bloodstream and released through your lungs and pores, an effect that can last for a few hours or more.
Fix It: You can temporarily mask bad breath with mouthwash or by chewing a bit of fresh parsley or mint or some fennel seeds, but you'll have to wait until your body is done digesting before all the odor is completely gone. Sit down to a spicy meal in good company; it's tough to smell it on others if you all eat the same thing, says Richard Price, DMD, spokesperson for the American Dental Association. Obvious statement, but I'll say it anyway: Avoid garlic-rich chow in the hours before an important meeting or date.
3. You Brush-But Only Your Teeth
Your tongue is covered with thousands of small hairlike projections called papillae, which can trap and harbor tiny scraps of food. So even if you brush and floss regularly, small remains from your meals can hang behind, collecting bacteria and emitting hydrogen sulfide vapors-aka bad breath.
Fix It: Mouthwashes may help, but the best way to remove bacteria, dead cells, and food debris from the crevices of your tongue is with an inexpensive tongue scraper. Brushing your tongue with a soft-bristled toothbrush works well too. Gently clean as far back as you can without gagging. Also, switch to a toothpaste that contains chlorine dioxide or tea tree oil, a powerful disinfectant with a pleasant, eucalyptus-like smell.
4. You're Under Serious Stress
Our bodies are smart. The famous fight-or-flight response mechanism-yep, the same one that helped our ancestors outrun saber-toothed tigers-increases sweating so that we don't overheat while we're battling it out. Fast-forward a few thousand years, and hectic days at the office can produce those same sweaty palms and sticky underarms.
Fix It: Try sage tea. It contains the astringent tannin and several antiseptic compounds that may act to calm down the sympathetic nervous system, which is what triggers all those stress symptoms. Sage tea should reduce overall perspiration if sipped frequently in small quantities throughout the day. To make it, steep 1 to 2 teaspoons of coarsely powdered dried sage leaves in hot water and leave covered for 10 minutes to ensure all the active ingredients have been released.
5. You Snore Like a Banshee
Sleeping with your mouth open dries out your oral cavity, enabling dead cells to accumulate and decompose on your tongue, gums, and cheeks. This is what causes morning breath.
Fix It: Skip the nightcap. Alcohol before bed can make snoring worse. Placing an adhesive snoring strip across the bridge of your nose can help by enhancing breathing. In the morning, in addition to brushing your teeth and tongue and flossing, gargle with a small cup of acidic lemon juice to kill odor-causing bacteria. Then eat plain unsweetened yogurt, which contains healthy lactobacillus bacteria, a probiotic that competes with and replaces the reeking bacteria in your mouth. The lemon-yogurt combo instantly neutralizes odor and lasts 12 to 24 hours, says Mark Moyad, MD, MPH, Jenkens/Pokempner director of preventive and alternative medicine at the University of Michigan Medical Center.
6. You Only Use Deodorant
Make sure your white stick contains antiperspirant too. Deodorants only temporarily mask your BO-they don't prevent your body from releasing sweat, says Peredo. "Antiperspirants plug your sweat glands, which stops you from excreting sweat," she explains.
Fix It: You really need only an antiperspirant, but if you want that ocean breeze scent, at least pick a product that has both deodorant and antiperspirant. If you're a big-time sweater (especially in sticky summer months), apply it before you go to sleep. You perspire less at night, so more of the antiperspirant's aluminum-based active ingredient is pulled into sweat glands. The effect can last 24 hours or longer, even if you shower in the morning. If this doesn't help, ask your doctor about prescription-strength antiperspirants, such as Drysol or Xerac, which contain aluminum chloride.
7. Your Scalp Is Flaky
Dandruff isn't the problem-it's the hiatus from hair washing that makes your mane smell gamey. It's a common misperception that dandruff occurs when your hair scalp is too dry, a myth that makes people wash their hair less. This, combined with the fact that an irritated scalp may be more of a bacteria breeding ground, can make your tresses smell slightly off. In fact, dandruff happens when your hair is too oily.
Fix It: Washing your hair with shampoo regularly may help get the flakes in check. If not, try an OTC dandruff shampoo. Look for ones with zinc pyrithione, an antifungal/antibacterial agent that can de-germ your scalp (found in Head & Shoulders or Selsun Salon), or with coal tar, an ingredient that slows down your skin cell-shedding process (like Neutrogena T/Gel). If the dandruff still doesn't go away after a few weeks, see your doctor or derm. You may need a stronger prescription-strength product or steroid lotion.
8. You Take a Prescription Drug
Check your medicine cabinet-it could be the source of your not-so-fresh breath.
Hundreds of prescription and OTC drugs-for everything from allergies to high blood pressure to depression-can cause dry mouth, one of the most common triggers of bad breath. They may block the action of acetylcholine, a brain chemical that tells nerves to switch on the salivary glands.
Fix It: Ask your doctor to adjust your dosage or suggest an alternative medication that doesn't list dry mouth as a side effect. In the meantime, frequently sip water to stimulate the production of saliva, which keeps the mouth moist and clean. Limit coffee consumption and try to breathe through your nose, not your mouth, to avoid drying it out further. OTC saliva substitutes can also help keep your mouth moist, according to the Mayo Clinic. Look for ones containing carboxymethylcellulose or hydroxyethylcellulose to help thicken saliva.
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