Does B.O actually stand for body odor or Bromhidrosis? Bromhidrosis is the medical term for foul body odor from the apocrine glands.
Turns out, our sweat isn’t actually smelly; it’s the bacteria breaking down the sweat that causes a smell. Our bodies are COVERED in bacteria, but that doesn’t mean that they are harmful to us. The ratio of microbes to our skin is 10:1 and they help us prevent cavities, Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome, and acne! Staphylococcus epidermis and Staphylococcus hominis are microbes that are abundant on the surface of our skin but help us fight infections and acne! Staphylococcus aureus on the other hand is the pathogenic version commonly known as a “staph infection”.
Our bodies have two types of glands that produce sweat: apocrine and eccrine. Eccrine glands basically cover our entire body and produce sweat made of salt and water. Apocrine glands are located where there are hair follicles and are found in armpits, genitals, and nipples. Apocrine glands produce sweat that is made up of fatty acids, proteins, and a carbohydrate called sialomucin. Sialomucin is a glycoprotein which means that it has a sugar coating around it.
The bacteria living on our body have a sweet tooth and love to break down Sialomucin for energy. When different bacteria break down this molecule, they produce different odors. But research found that when Staphylococcus hominis broke down the sugar, an odor similar to beef, onions, or sulfur was a byproduct.
In 2011 researchers found that the gene ABCC11, an apical efflux pump, was responsible for the type of earwax you have. They found that the majority of caucasians and africans had the regular ABCC11 which encoded for a sticky, yellow type of earwax. Interestingly, eastern asian populations showed a variation of the gene where some people had single nucleotide polymorphism. This gene variation resulted in a dry, white type of ear wax.
Moreover, the gene was also linked to the odor produced in the apocrine glands. People with the gene variation, the dry earwax, also were unable to produce body odor in the axillary region.
Most people don’t know…
The worst part is that 75% of people who did not need deodorant (because of their gene variant), still wore deodorant anyways! Because it is just seen as a normal daily ritual, they just assumed they need it without even ever smelling a foul smell from themselves!
It’s funny because when I was a teenager I asked my mom to buy me deodorant after seeing all my classmates put deodorant on during gym class. Eventually I got too lazy to put it on, and of course I never produced any body odor to motivate me to do so. I have dry white earwax which basically crumbles off of my q-tip. I never even knew people had sticky earwax but that’s because I’ve never asked to see someone else’s q-tip before.