Gladiators of ancient Rome anointed their bodies with scented oils before they fought in the arena so that their perspiration will smell better. So why not do the same when we work out a sweat at the gym? Frivolous as it may sound, the ritual of self-scenting before a workout becomes a dilemma when viewed from a personal grooming perspective. Fragrances are a double-edged sword. They are useful in combating body odour but they may also assault and offend people near you. There are unwritten rules of etiquette to follow when you emit scents in the gym, be it via natural bodily secretions, or from fragrance products. Even if it seems as if you are in your own little world when you are working out alone, be mindful that there are others sharing the same space with you.
The way you smell affects those around you, which in turn influences how you will be perceived by others. Research showed that people associate good health and attractiveness with pleasant bodily smells. It would be such a huge disappointment and mismatch if you are super-fit and gorgeous, but reek of Eau de BO when you are pumping iron. Contrary to popular belief, body odour is not caused by sweat, but mainly by diet and bacterial activity. Bacteria thrive in moist conditions and feed on proteins found on our skin. As colonies of bacteria feast and digest their protein meal, they fart and release gases that are to become the distinctive scent of body odour.
Fragrance products in the form of deodorants are essential grooming toiletries for combating bacteria-causing body odour. The aerosol can spray deodorants you can find in supermarkets and pharmacies are mostly formulated with aluminium-based compounds that react with the electrolytes in sweat to block sweat glands, hence slowing bacterial growth. They also contain heavy-duty, synthetic fragrances to mask bad body odours with a stronger, ‘better smelling’ odour. Though they do the job, I often find scents from conventional aerosol spray type deodorants too harsh and cloying to use at the gym. God forbid I suffocate myself or anyone near me while I’m running on the treadmill. More frightening is that conventional deodorants may contain a slew of toxic chemicals that may cause cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and allergic reactions.
I prefer to use a natural, inoffensive and safe way to eliminate bacteria and body odour. Organic Pharmacy’s Deodorant Spray works well for me. This spray is made from natural ingredients and is free of any harmful synthetic chemicals such as aluminium and parabens. A pump of this aromatic and herbaceous smelling deodorant spray will release Rosemary, Sage and Aloe, a trio of active combat agents that fight off bacteria growth and bring down body odour. Rosemary will swiftly charge at bacteria colonies and wipe them out with its anti-bacteria properties of eucalyptol and rosmarinic acid. Sage supports Rosemary in the combat warfare with alpha- and betathujone that deodorises the skin, while Aloe detoxify and condition the skin to impede\ bacteria activity and growth. Together, they create a scented armour to shield you against any nasty smelling bacteria.
Body odour is also directly linked to what you eat. Volatile molecules from your recently consumed meal will be excreted through the surface of your skin when you sweat. Either you change your eating habits and switch to boring, plain tasting food to smell better, or make full use of your rich diet-infused sweaty body odour and have a little fun layering it with fragrances to create new, better smelling scents. The mixing of ‘bad’ smelling odour compounds with nicer smelling aromatic compounds to create a new scent is an odour neutralising method used in perfumery. For example, Indole, an aromatic organic compound that is responsible for the intense faecal odour characteristic of human faeces, is often mixed with other aromatic chemicals and essential oils to create alluring, fine fragrances for fashion brands that you may have unknowingly purchased and used before. In fact, some sewage plants use this mixing tactic with their ample supply of foul-smelling indole compound, and blend them with other chemicals to recreate more pleasant and bearable smells as a form of industrial sewage odour control.
Use this trick when you are working out at the gym, and experiment with Jo Malone’s Lime, Basil and Mandarin cologne as an odour transformer to add a zesty, herbaceous twist to your food-induced body odour. The top notes of lime and basil fizzles immediately upon spray and blends into an intriguing, pleasant smelling citrus-herbal marinade on your skin while neutralising foul-smelling body odour. In culinary, lime is used as a dressing and garnish to get rid of fishy smells. This fragrance works the same way. Lime, Basil and Mandarine cologne is a perfectly gym-safe scent because it smells so natural, inoffensive and pleasant that it can even be used as an invigorating aromatherapy potion before a workout to make you feel energised and uplifted. If lime is not your cup of tea, pick up Origins’s Ginger Essence cologne and use it as a fresh and spicy dressing to augment the unpleasant smells of food-induced body odour. Ginger Essence features the medicinal and herbal smell of ginger root that is simultaneously cool and warm in its olfactory character. A few pumps of Ginger Essence on skin will unleash the fiery and stimulating fragrant ginger note that fuses with warm body sweat to produce a pleasant, slightly salty but sensual body scent cocktail that can be quite tantalising, especially when you are trying to pick someone up at the bench press in between sets of workout.
You can also smell fresh and clean at the gym with inoffensive citrus and soapy-type fragrances too. Ferarri’s Light Essence Bright is an understated composition that seems uninteresting at first. However, pump it on before you start training in the gym and it creates an olfactory illusion with its sparkling and soapy lemon green tea accord that will lead people to believe that you have just stepped from a shower wearing freshly laundered clothing. The functional purpose of the use of fragrances in the gym is to eliminate unpleasant body odour and to present a clean olfactory image to others around you. If you choose to wear a fragrance, be it from a deodorant spray, cologne or eau de toilette, remember to tone it down and keep it light so that you do not offend or suffocate anyone around you. If you choose to go au naturel, make sure your body odour is not offensive. A safe and guaranteed way to smell nice in the gym without pumping on any fragrance is to adopt a healthy diet, take a good shower before your workout, and confidently wear the natural, manly scent of clean skin.