How to Smell Good: A Guide for Men

Updated on March 22, 2018
Jayne Lancer profile image

From behind the beauty counters of some of London's most renowned department stores, Jayne advises on skin & hair care, makeup & fragrance.

There are many reasons why a man might not smell good, like bad breath, sweaty feet, the wrong cologne, a smelly workplace, or (the most obvious) B.O., but it's easy to banish bad body smells. Find out how.


Body Odor

Body odor, or B.O. for short, is the obnoxious, cloying stench of stale sweat. It cannot be masked by strong fragrances, and even if it could, smelling good doesn't mean reeking of perfume—especially not if you're a guy.

If you want to minimize body odor, start by attacking its cause.

How to Get Rid of Body Odor

What Causes Body Odor?

As with all bad smells of an organic nature, the culprit is bacteria. Body odor is caused by the bacterial decomposition (or breaking down) of shed skin and hair cells and a fatty substance called sebum, which is basically a combination of sweat and fat secreted through the skin's sebaceous glands. Because bacteria thrive in a moist atmosphere, they are prevalent in areas of high perspiration, like armpits, groin and feet.

Preventing Body Odor

Only a high standard of personal hygiene can keep body odor at bay, but soap and water may not be your best option.

Daily showering and bathing washes away decomposed cells and sebum, which gets rid of odor, but using soap-based products is counterproductive in the long term.

Why You Shouldn't Wash With Soap

Although soap initially kills bacteria, it also raises the skin’s pH level creating the sort of alkaline environment in which bacteria breed most rapidly. But if you use a soap-free body-wash, the skin can retain its natural, slightly acidic pH level, making it very hard for bacteria to colonize. This means you'll smell sweeter for longer, even when pursuing strenuous activities.

Shaving Your Body Hair

Shaving your body hair will not make you smell better. In fact, it could make you smell worse. Hair absorbs moisture, which keeps skin dry and minimizes bacteria—it’s true that bacteria breed on hair, too, but reproduction is slower than on skin, thus producing less odor.

Women have to shave for aesthetic reasons, but men usually don't. If your hair "down there" and under your arms is bushy and unsightly, trim instead of shaving.

Washing with soap propagates odor-causing bacteria.
Washing with soap propagates odor-causing bacteria. | Source

Smelly Hair

You'll have less than fragrant hair if you smoke tobacco or work in a fatty kitchen or other environment where pungent smells cling. As a man, you can solve the problem by shaving your head. If, however, you like having hair, washing it once a day with a mild shampoo should get rid of nasty smells.

If your hair is oily, daily washing probably isn't a good idea, since it can make the condition worse. If that's the case, freshen it up between washes with dry shampoo. Batiste, available at drugstores, is the most popular brand for men. Not only does it make hair smell good, it absorbs excess grease and adds body.

Body-Wash, Deodorant, and Cologne

Make sure your body-wash and deodorant are of the same fragrance as your cologne, or at least don't clash with it. And always choose a high-end fragrance if you want to make a positive impression. Smelling cheap tells the world you lack taste and money.

If high-end toiletries are too expensive for you, use fragrance-free products.

Unscented body-washes and deodorants won't clash with your cologne (should you choose to wear one), and are healthier for the skin. Deodorants formulated for sensitive skin, for example, are completely without added perfume, alcohol and harmful aluminum.

How to Apply Cologne Properly

As already mentioned, smelling good does not mean reeking of perfume. Cologne will only make you seem more attractive if you keep it subtle—its effect should work only on the subconscious and should never be the first thing others notice about you.

All you need is a quick squirt on your inner wrists and the pulse points of your neck. If you moisturize these areas beforehand, the fragrance will last longer.

Cologne will only make you seem more attractive if you keep it subtle.
Cologne will only make you seem more attractive if you keep it subtle. | Source

Bad Breath / Oral Hygiene

What Causes Bad Breath?

Bad breath is one of the most offensive of bad smells. It’s usually the result of a dry mouth caused by medications or insufficient fluid intake. Drink plenty and chew cinnamon flavored gum—cinnamon neutralizes bad breath more effectively than mint flavors. Gum is also great after meals if you don't have a toothbrush at hand.

Of course, it goes without saying that you should brush your teeth at least twice a day as well as using dental floss before going to bed, but have you heard of "pulling"? You should do this, too, if you want sweet smelling breath all day long.


"Pulling" originates from the Indian traditional medicine system called Ayurveda, and is the practice of swishing oil around the mouth for 20 minutes in the morning before you clean your teeth. It literally "pulls" bacteria from teeth and gums, and frees the tongue of vile tasting (and smelling) "fur". Use edible coconut oil, which is antibacterial, and always spit it out after you’ve finished—never swallow.

"Pulling" with oil is much healthier and more beneficial than using a gargle or mouthwash, and its cleansing effect is noticeable the whole day through. It's also more comfortable than using a tongue scraper.

Eating Garlic and Onion

The aroma of garlic and onion can seep through your skin and linger on your breath for up to 12 hours after eating. Avoid these foods before dates or other important appointments.

Sweaty Feet

Deodorize Your Feet

Socks smell atrocious in next to no time if you've got sweaty feet. Unless you want to knock people out the moment you take your shoes off, use a deodorizing foot cream or spray. Products with added menthol work best.

Equally effective is baking soda and cornstarch mixed to a ratio of 1-to-1. Apply to your soles using a cotton ball or an old shaving brush and your feet will remain dry and fresh all day long. This also works well as an underarm deodorant.

The Right Footwear

Wear cotton socks and change them more than once a day if necessary.

Avoid plastic shoes and sneakers at all costs. Choose leather or canvas if you're prone to sweaty feet.

Buy charcoal inner soles: these absorb odor.

Whenever possible, leave your socks off during warm weather and sport sandals or flip-flops.

Charcoal inner soles absorb foot odor.
Charcoal inner soles absorb foot odor. | Source

Clean Clothes

Odor-causing bacteria continue to breed on your clothes after you've undressed, which is why they need regular laundering. Clothes worn next to the skin are the worst affected, so change your underwear daily.

If you're a smoker or find yourself in a smoky atmosphere, the tobacco stench will cling to your clothes. Garments like coats and suits that can't be washed or cleaned often should be hung out to air whenever possible to freshen them up.

Don't use fabric softener when you do your washing—it makes a man smell "mothered," which is always unattractive.

A Man's Guide to Smelling Good

Smelling good isn't difficult. Let's recap with these ten simple rules:

  1. Bath or shower daily with a soap-free body-wash.
  2. Trim body hair by all means, but never shave it.
  3. Shave your head if you work in a smelly environment or smoke tobacco. Otherwise, wash your hair daily or apply dry shampoo.
  4. Use deodorant under your arms.
  5. Make sure all your toiletries and cologne are of the same fragrance, or choose unperfumed toiletries that won't clash with your cologne, which should never be cheap.
  6. Apply Cologne sparingly if at all.
  7. For fresh breath, meticulous oral hygiene is essential, and get in the habit of "pulling" each morning.
  8. Avoid highly aromatic foods like garlic and onion for at least 12 hours before important dates.
  9. Wear foot deodorant if you suffer from sweaty feet, and place charcoal inner soles in your shoes.
  10. Launder your clothes regularly, change your underwear daily, and never use fabric softener.

Questions & Answers

    © 2014 Jayne Lancer


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