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What does your armpit say about your health?

How your armpit smells and what you do about it surprisingly says a lot about our health.

Your micro biome is unique to you and fluctuates with your surrounding environment. New research suggests that the products we use to help prevent body odour alters our micro biome.

Researchers at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences [1] investigated 17 participants who were grouped by what products they used to help prevent body odour; deodorant, antiperspirant or none.

On the first day of the experiment, participants were asked to follow their normal day-to-day hygiene practices while scientists took a swab of their armpits to analyse their micro biome. The results showed that those who used antiperspirants had the least number of microbes in their armpits whereas those who used deodorant had the highest number of microbes, but the least diversity.

After the first day, participants were instructed not to use any products for the duration of the study. By the sixth day, those who had previously worn deodorant and antiperspirant products had the same micro biome as those who hadn’t worn any products throughout the full 6 days. This suggests that bacteria in the micro biome can regenerate over time and reinforces evidence that our micro biome does in fact change with our environment.

Our body odour is created when bacteria in the armpit breaks down sweat, producing a product called thioalcohols. Deodorants and antiperspirants help to mast the smell of our body odour by reducing the amount of sweat we product and the bacteria present in our armpit which breaks down the sweat.

Amongst the 17 participants studied, there was two common types of bacteria found in the armpit; Corynebacteria and Staphylococcaceae. Those who did not wear any products on their underarms appeared to have more Corynebacterium (62%), which is responsible for producing bad odours but also to protect and defend our body against harmful pathogens. Staphylococcaceae was found in product wearers and has both detrimental and beneficial effects on our ecosystem, depending on its balance with other microbes.

It is still unclear as to if using deodorants and antiperspirants is detrimental or beneficial to our micro biome and if these effects differ across different brands of body spray. However, this study does support previous research in that the bacteria in our micro biome fluctuates with our environment.

[1] https://peerj.com/articles/1605/