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New Study Identifies An Enzyme That Is The Real Cause Of B.O.

Alexandra Engler
mbg Beauty Director By Alexandra Engler
mbg Beauty Director
Alexandra Engler is the Beauty Director. Previously she worked at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and
Sweaty Woman Running Outside

After a long workout, or even just a walk on a particularly hot day, you likely might experience one unintended and unpleasant side effect: a pungent odor coming from under your pits. There's a reason there's an entire beauty and body care market dedicated to stopping and masking B.O.—no one wants to smell bad.

Now, researchers have found out why this happens: And it all boils down to an enzyme that is present in the area's unique microbiome. Essentially, your skin's surface is home to trillions of bacteria, fungus, and other microbes (collectively called the microbiome, or microflora). These bugs play an essential role in our skin barrier function, helping our skin look and feel its best.

However, sometimes, these little things get out of balance. When this happens, things can go awry—or as in the case of your pits, smelly.

What the new research shows and why it's important.

The study released today in the journal Scientific Reports revealed that the exact enzyme identified actually lives in the bacteria Staphylococcus hominis. When you sweat, the enzyme in this bacteria releases a pungent smell—the smell we have come to know as B.O.

Why is this important? Well, if you better understand what causes something, you're better able to stop it in the first place.

"Solving the structure of this 'B.O. enzyme' has allowed us to pinpoint the molecular step inside certain bacteria that makes the odor molecules," says co-first author Michelle Rudden, Ph.D., from the group of professor Gavin Thomas in the University of York's Department of Biology. "This is a key advancement in understanding how body odor works and will enable the development of targeted inhibitors that stop B.O. production at the source without disrupting the armpit microbiome."

Essentially, this paves the way for us to formulate smarter deodorants that don't wreak havoc on our microbiomes, cause sensitivities, and so on. So if you're one who complains about their deodorant, just wait: There might be a more effective formula on the horizon.

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