Bromhidrosis is a chronic condition in which excessive odor emanates from the skin.
Bromhidrosis or “body odour” is a medical condition characterised by the skin giving off an unpleasant or even offensive smell.
It can be very mild, smelled only by the person suffering from it and easily hidden with deodorants or perfume, or it can range to being very severe where it is easily smelled by passing people.
When it is severe, it can be a very socially debilitating problem that is often poorly understood by those people who do not suffer from it. Unfortunately this often leads to jokes about people with body odour or “BO”.
There is also a lot of misinformation about bromhidrosis and body odour, with many people thinking that it is due to being “dirty” or not washing properly. This does lead to many strange remedies that are often promoted, usually for money, by non-medical people that really rely on excessive cleaning or using different chemicals on the skin such as vinegar.
Although this might make sense if the problem was due to poor hygiene or bacterial overgrowth, in almost everybody who suffers from bromhidrosis nowadays, this is not the cause. Therefore such remedies rarely work unless the sufferer does not shower or bath daily, and does not wear clean clothes daily.
The worry with advocating excessive cleaning of the skin or using chemicals on the skin is that the skin relies on its own natural defence mechanisms which include sebum (which is often called the skin’s own “oil”). Excessive washing, particularly with soaps or other detergents, destroy the sebum (or skin “oil”) leaving the skin with little defence and often allowing eczema to start.
Such patients can be easily seen as the skin gets red, dry and flaky and is usually very tender. This may help the bromhidrosis or body odour a little, but is a big price to pay as eczema can be very tender. Of course the treatment for the eczema is to allow the sebum (or skin’s “oil”) to return using emolients and reducing the washing regime to twice a day.
There are some rarer conditions that mimic bromhidrosis or body odour and specialists in the field of bromhidrosis will check for such conditions at the initial consultation
As you can see from the above explanation, true bromhidrosis or body odour starts when a person reaches puberty and continues through their reproductive life until menopause.
Fortunately, it is usually worst in the first few years after puberty, firstly because the sex hormones are at the highest level at this point and secondly it is at this time of life that people socialise looking for friends and partners, and so are much more aware of bromhidrosis and body odour.
As people go through their 30s, 40s and 50s the sex hormone levels slowly decrease reducing the stimulation on the apocrine glands, therefore reducing the bromhidrosis and body odour. Also, people develop coping mechanisms either managing to hide the smell with regular washing, changing of clothes, using deodorants, or making sure their lifestyles keep them away from situations where it might be noticed.