How to Stink-Proof Your Workout Routine
What's That Smell?
There's nothing like a whiff of someone's armpit—including your own—to ruin the happy vibes (read: endorphins) you get during your morning workout. Unfortunately, exercise is one area where BO is often par for the course, with the intensity of scent heightening with every interval.
"Odor comes as a result of the combination of sweat, sebum, extended time between cleansing, and the interaction of bacteria, yeast, and protein on the skin," explains Francesca Fusco, M.D., of Wexler Dermatology. (Plus bacteria can live on gym equipment, so you've got a perfect storm.)
The good news is that unpleasant odors can be kept in check simply by choosing the right shampoo or cleanser or by applying your deodorant at the right time. (Seriously!) Here, eight steps to a stink-free workout session.
Start With a Clean Slate
The first step in your fresh workout journey should be choosing the right cleanser. According to Dr. Fusco, using plain old soap and water pre- and post-grind usually does the trick, but for super-sweaty (read: smelly) workouts, you may want to step it up. "Look for an antibacterial soap that will kill bacteria and help slow down their repopulation on the skin," she adds.
Try: Cetaphil Gentle Cleansing Antibacterial Bar ($5; walmart.com)
If you find your skin is too sensitive to beat BO with antibacterial soaps, a solid antiperspirant is your best bet, says Sejal Shah, M.D., founder of SmarterSkin Dermatology. But it's really when you're applying that matters most. "You want to apply your antiperspirant at bedtime so the product has time to work and block glands while you aren't sweating," Dr. Shah says. "If you apply it after showering, the sweat you accumulate will wash it away and prevent it from working as well." (Related: Do Natural Deodorants *Actually* Work During Sweaty Workouts?)
Try: Secret Freshies On-The-Go in Cool Waterlily ($5; target.com)
Add an Herbal
When it comes to super-sweaty workouts like hot yoga, dermatologist Lamees Hamdan, M.D., founder of natural skin-care brand Shiffa, swears by tea tree oil. "Sweat covers everything—you and your mat—and a sweaty room is a great breeding ground for bacteria-causing odors."
"After class, shower and add a few drops of tea tree essential oil to a body oil to help prevent body odor naturally," Dr. Hamdan explains. "You can also mix a few drops with water in a spray bottle to make a simple, yet really effective antibacterial and antifungal spray for wiping down your gym bag, equipment, and mat."
Try: Organic Tea Tree Oil ($5; thrivemarket.com)
Dry mouth can lead to bad breath, and exercise can commonly cause dehydration. "Aside from having plenty of fluids and electrolytes, use a mouth rinse to help replenish saliva in the mouth," says cosmetic dentist Lawrence Fung, founder of Silicon Beach Dental. "Opt for one with xylitol (which can help increase salivary production) and without alcohol (which can cause even more drying)."
Try: Hello Naturally Healthy Mouthwash ($6; hello-products.com)
Opt for a Braid
To keep your neck and shoulders cool (and additional bacteria from lingering), throw your hair up or, even better, put it in a braid. "My top options are crown braid pigtails, two French braids merged into one, and boxer braids," says celebrity hairstylist Gabriel Samra. Add a spritz of dry shampoo to your roots before you work out to help absorb any excess sweat, and use a hair tie that doesn't absorb bacteria and you have the perfect no-stink formula. (Related: 3 Easy Braid Hairstyles You Can Wear from the Gym to Work)
Purify Your Strands
Once it's time to take down those braids, pay attention to how you wash your strands. "I always tell my patients to think of their scalp as an extension of their skin—it needs to be cleansed just as thoroughly," Dr. Fusco says. To get to the root of hair buildup, Dr. Fusco suggests a clarifying shampoo and conditioner with micellar technology (the same found in micellar makeup removing waters). "It attaches itself to unwanted dirt and oils to thoroughly cleanse."
Try: Dove Purify and Strengthen Shampoo and Conditioner ($4 each; target.com)
Choose Breathable Fabrics
When it comes to workouts where sweat is inevitable, you can't beat cotton. "Odor happens when there's a lack of ventilation and sweat is trapped on skin. Cotton is a breathable fabric that allows for air to get through, which stops moisture from getting trapped and therefore prevents odor," explains Susie Wang, cosmetic chemist and founder of 100% Pure.
Bonus Tip: If you still want to opt for a moisture-wicking fabric containing polyester, just be sure to change into breathable clothing immediately after working out. "Fresh sweat doesn't have as much odor because bacteria hasn't had the chance to break it down," adds Dr. Shah. (You might also want to look for ventilated sneakers!)
Try: PACT 92% Organic Cotton Legging ($30; wearpact.com)
Sanitize Your Gear
Once you remove your clothes, it's important to make sure they're properly washed. "It won't help if you clean your body, but are wearing a shirt and pants that are still carrying dirt and bacteria which can sit right back onto the skin," says plastic surgeon John Diaz, M.D. "Regular detergent can remove mild stains and dirt but won't necessarily kill lingering bacteria. The best way to achieve this is to wash clothes in hot water and add bleach or laundry sanitizer," he adds. Add distilled white vinegar to the wash if your clothes are particularly smelly. (See also: How to Get the Smell Out of Seriously Stinky Clothes)
Try: Lysol Laundry Sanitizer Detergent Booster ($10; target.com)