Us guys, we can put up with a lot of mildly irritating stuff: Hair that inexplicably grows on our toes (and ears, and out of our noses); shaving our faces 20,000 times (on average) in our lifetimes; and, of course, a crotch area that, no matter how much we soap up, scrub out and rinse off in the shower, still kinda smells like hot garbage by the end of the day. Or, at the very least, sweat.
But why? Why should we put up with a stinky crotch? After all, it’s not like we don’t work incessantly to keep it clean. So why does it not reward us with the smell of fresh laundry, or a rose garden in spring, or a bakery right after the hot-crossed buns come out of the oven? For real — we’re, uh, having guests over later, so it’d be nice to figure this out.
Unfortunately, according to the professionals, it’s not your fault your crotch smells. Well, it’s kind of your fault, but we’ll rectify that in a sec.
First off: Why does it smell in the first place? “The most common cause of odor coming from that area is caused by the action of bacteria on sebum,” explains Dr. Robert Brodell, Chairman of the Department of Dermatology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. “The other major cause is what I’m going to call a ‘yeast infection.’ We call it intertrigo. That’s when you have a warm, moist area that’s perfect for fungal growth, a.k.a., yeast. Imagine you’re in a brewery — that’s what it’ll smell like.”
Feel at least a little bit better? After all, it’s not because you’re not putting in the effort to keep the area clean, it’s that you’re going up against some very determined microorganisms dead-set on preventing you from uprooting them.
So what can you do? Let’s talk bacteria first. “Number one: You try to keep the area clean and dry,” says Brodell. Well, yeah, you’re already doing that, right? Brodell says that, while you probably (hopefully!) are, you aren’t doing it as thoroughly as you could. And by thorough, he means breaking out the tools.
“I’d recommend using an antibiotic soap. There are also prescriptions you can get, like Hibiclens. Hibiclens is used to scrub off in operating rooms for doctors, but you can use it in the shower. Then, use a hairdryer on its lowest setting and dry real well once you’re clean to kill the bacteria that makes the odor. And then I’d recommend using a drying powder.” (Always look for talc-free drying powders, as studies have found links between talc and various forms of cancer.)
And if it’s a yeast infection? “Same thing, except don’t use a drying powder where starch is an ingredient. The problem with starches is that some experts think that yeast fungus can eat starch. You could also use a broad spectrum antifungal cream — prescription ketoconazole would be an example — to kill the yeast. And so, you’d clean and dry, maybe after you used your antibiotic soap to kill bacteria, dry with a hairdryer. Then you’ve put on some topical antifungal cream to kill the yeast. Then dry a little more with the hairdryer on a cold setting, and then use your powder, because yeast, much like bacteria, loves a warm, moist area like a jungle, and doesn’t like a desert.”
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Who, after all, knew you needed more than some body wash and a towel? Unfortunately, our crotch area is prime real estate for bacteria and yeast, so when it comes to cleaning it and keeping it dry, if we don’t want any stank emanating off of the region, we’re going to have to break out the big guns. Doctor’s orders.