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Fitness Hygiene - 6 Ways to Keep Clean
While You Get Lean

By Joe Wilkes
From the Million Dollar Body Club - Join Today and Workout to Win!

Smelling ArmpitWorking out makes you feel and look great, but it doesn't make you smell great. One of the biggest advantages to working out at home instead of the gym is that you don't have to lug around a suitcase full of products to restore your body to its inoffensive pre-workout condition. There's no shortage of products that you can have easy access to at home. The industry of smelling good and looking good is massive. But which products really work? And which ones are really necessary? Let's take a look at some of the most commonly used toiletries and what they doand separate fact from fiction.

  1. Deodorants vs. antiperspirants vs. crystals. There's always been a lot of debate about which of these methods is the most effective for eliminating odor, but one thing is undebatable, if you don't use something, your friends, family, and workout buddies are going to be keeping a wide perimeter around you and your malodorous underarms. As we talked about in "The Sweatiest Thing," body odor is caused by sweat from your apocrine glands, which, unlike your eccrine sweat glands (which only produce water and saline), excrete quantities of fat and protein that the hungry bacteria living on your skin digest, and this digestion process is stanky! So, with better living through chemistry, there are numerous approaches for battling B.O.

    • DeodorantDeodorants. These are regarded by a lot of people as just perfumed sticks of goo that give off a strong enough smell to mask whatever nastiness is taking place under your arms. In fact, that's only part of the story. You can't really cover up B.O., but you can prevent some of the bacterial reactions taking place (I'd write about the time I was stuck in a small, enclosed room with a hippie chick who only used patchouli oil as deodorant, but the memory's making my lunch come up). Most commercial deodorants contain some sort of antiseptic or other chemical that makes the surface of your skin unfriendly to the bacteria that want to eat your excreted fat and protein. They also contain some sort of perfume which will make you smell pretty. But they won't stop you from sweating under your arms, they'll only ameliorate the damage.

    • Antiperspirants. The purpose of antiperspirants is to reduce your sweating, thus giving your armpit bacterial sharecroppers nothing to feed on. Antiperspirants usually contain some kind of aluminum salts which cause your sweat pores to close up. There have been lots of rumors that the aluminum will contribute to Alzheimer's disease, and that clogging the pores will cause toxic buildups which can lead to breast cancer. Neither of these urban legends has been given credence by the medical community, including the Alzheimer's Society and the National Cancer Institute. Antiperspirants are the most likely to cause irritation under your arms though, with fragrance-loaded deodorants a close second. So, if you have sensitive skin, crystals may be the way to go.

    • Crystal DeodorantCrystals. I admit that, before doing research for this article, I thought those crystal deodorant sticks were some wacky faith-healing googaws that Shirley MacLaine or some other New Ager had cooked up. As it turns out, they work similarly to deodorants by coating your skin with a chemical salt that inhibits the bacterial reactions that cause B.O. These probably interfere with your body's natural processes the least. They don't stop you from sweating, don't include artificial fragrances, and, surprisingly (at least to me), actually performed better than traditional deodorants in reducing odor.

  2. Now, apparently, you can even have the nerves in your underarms surgically severed to prevent sweating or you can receive Botox injections to paralyze your sweat glands. These extreme methods have their own drawbacks, not the least of which is the expense. The best thing to do is to probably try different products and see which ones work best for you and those who have to smell you. For truly excessive perspiration or body odor, it might be worth checking with your doctor, either to receive a prescription-strength antiperspirant or to see if any strange odors emanating from your body might be signs of an underlying health problem.

  3. Body WashBody wash. I have become a big proponent of body wash over bar soap—purely because of laziness. I know body wash costs more, but, for me, its big advantage is that it doesn't dissolve into airborne particles in the shower, like soap does, which creates that dreaded soap scum. And to someone for whom washing the shower is a semiannual event at most, this is no small thing. It turns out that there's an even better reason not to use bar soap though. Because most soap has an incredibly high pH level, it can remove a lot of natural protectants from your skin. It's why your face gets that tight feeling after you wash it. Soap-free body washes have a pH balance that will get you clean but will not upset the pH balance of your skin. Another thing you should avoid in body washes is irritating chemical fragrances. Look for body washes that are labeled "fragrance free" or that are scented with essential oils, which are more skin friendly. Also, avoid body washes which contain sulfates and parabens, chemicals that can dry out and irritate your skin. Various formulations of body wash can offer even more in the way of dermatological delights. You can look for natural moisturizing ingredients such as aloe vera or shea butter or soothing ingredients like oatmeal or peppermint oil. Mesh scrunchies are ideal to use with body wash as they help exfoliate your skin and, unlike sponges, are more resistant to collecting bacteria or mildew. For maximum exfoliation, you can use a body brush before your shower. This dry, stiff-bristled brush will help loosen the dead skin to maximize your shower's effectiveness. It also helps circulation, which can improve your skin's appearance (here are more great tips for healthy skin).

  4. Shampoo and ConditionerShampoo and conditioner. If you work out every day, it could mean that you are taking two or more showers every day. If possible, try to schedule your workout close to the time you would be showering anyway, so you don't end up drying out your hair and skin from overwashing. If you are washing your hair more than once a day, it's very important to choose a shampoo that is gentle or you'll be stripping your hair of all its natural oils and dulling its color, especially if you have naturally dry hair. Using a good conditioner will help your hair retain moisture and will not dry it out from the frequent washing. Even though it's more convenient, try not to use two-in-one shampoo-conditioner combos. The conditioner is usually washed out with the shampoo and is not nearly as effective as when conditioner is applied separately. As with body wash, it's good to try finding shampoo that is free of artificial fragrances, parabens, and sulfates. It may be hard to find shampoo without sulfates on a typical supermarket shelf and even harder to find one at a low price. You may have to look in a professional beauty supply store or a store that sells natural products. If you use gel, mousse, pomade, or a similar product in your hair, you might treat yourself to a clarifying shampoo once a week—it's formulated to be more astringent than your daily shampoo and will strip out the buildup from other products.

  5. Baby PowderBody powder. Body powder is great for absorbing moisture and preventing chafing. It's important to look for talc-free body powder though, as there has been some evidence that talc can contain impurities, including heavy metals, which can be carcinogenic. Talc can also be inhaled and cause lung problems. If you want to spend extra money for "medicated" foot powder, it won't harm your feet, but, generally, it's just regular powder infused with a little camphor or menthol to give you a cool, tingly feeling—it usually doesn't contain any active ingredients or medications to prevent athlete's foot or fungal infections. Tea tree oil is an ingredient, on the other hand (or foot), that has been shown to have some moderate antibacterial properties, in addition to having that menthol-like cool feeling. But the best thing you can do for your feet is to change your socks frequently and invest in decent socks and shoes, as Steve Edwards discusses in the article below.

  6. Applying LotionMoisturizer, lotion, and sunscreen. After you've been sweating and showering, it's very easy for your skin to get dry, as a lot of your natural oils have been washed down the drain or sweated off onto your workout floor. Like with body wash and shampoo, try finding products free of fragrance and parabens. Also, don't buy products that contain mineral oil or petroleum. Both of these will clog your pores and can trap sweat and dirt, causing acne. For your face, you should also try to use a moisturizer that contains sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. If you're working out outside, make sure your sunscreen is broad-spectrum in addition to having a high SPF. It should protect against both UVB rays, which cause superficial sunburn and skin discoloration, and UVA rays, which penetrate deeper into the skin, accelerating aging and causing skin cancer. Make sure you don't forget your ears and the back of your neck when applying sunscreen as they are prime real estate for skin cancer. Don't forget your lips, either—try to use a lip balm with an SPF 15 or higher to avoid drying and burning.

  7. ShavingShaving. The shower is a great place to shave for men and women because the steam opens up the pores, making it less of a struggle to remove unwanted hair. Giving the area to be shaved a good scrubbing beforehand to exfoliate the skin will help prevent ingrown hairs. That and keeping the skin warm and moist means you won't clog the razor with dead skin. But you'll still be scraping a sharp metal blade against your poor skin, so you'll want to use a shaving cream or gel that contains moisturizers to lubricate the area, and is free of irritating additives like fragrance, sulfates, and parabens. Shaving cream designed for men or women is really only a marketing ploy. There's no real difference except maybe in fragrance, which you don't want anyway. Razors, on the other hand, are designed to shave different parts of the body more effectively, so you may want to experiment with different kinds. Men and women probably shouldn't share razors because men's hair tends to dull the blades more than women's, and dull blades equal sharp cuts. You should try shaving against the direction of the hair growth for best results or with the grain of the skin for less irritation. After shaving, make sure to use some balm or moisturizer on the area, since you've taken off all the natural oil with the hair. Alcohol-based aftershaves may feel bracing, but, really, they're just going to irritate your scraped-up skin.

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I am a full time Beachbody Coach. I motivate and guide close to 2,500 Club members and head a team of 11 Beachbody Coaches who are all committed to helping you reach your goals. Before joining BeachBody, I was a certified personal trainer for more than a dozen years and have been a running coach for over 20 years. Continued...


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