Faux Pas: Winter-Time Hygiene

Oct 31, 2011

Every summer, I do a post on maintaining personal hygiene.  It’s 100 degrees outside and 99% relative humidity, of course you need tips on managing perspiration.  But what most people don’t realize is that it’s actually harder to maintain winter-time hygiene.  Allow me to explain.

As you layer on sweaters, jackets, coats and scarves, your body warms up.  So when you’re moving around outside–walking to the Metro, chasing a taxi–you sweat, and then that sweat gets trapped under all those layers of clothing.  And after awhile, you and your clothes start to smell.

Ever been trapped in a bar, on a Sunday, watching football with a bunch of people bundled up like Eskimos?  Then, you know the smell I am talking about.

So how do you prevent the smell?

Super Deodorant.  In the winter, I wear men’s deodorant, Old Spice High Endurance.  Mostly because if I have to dry clean every sweater, every time I wear it, I will need another job to pay the dry cleaning bill.

Base Layer.  Underneath all of your knits and jackets, you need a base layer.  And that base layer needs to be breathable.

I recommend a cotton (it must be cotton!), short sleeve, tissue tee.  Basically, if you’re going to sweat on something, it should be a $20 tee not a $200 sweater.

An e-mailer also suggested a yoga top designed to wick away moisture, but I haven’t tried that.  I also don’t do yoga, but some of you probably know what she’s talking about.

Wipe It Off.  You’re running to a meeting, and you feel it.  The perspiration has begun.  What to do?

I keep Herban Essentials wipes in my purse for just this occasion.  They smell ah-may-zing, and they’re antibacterial.  Just pop into the restroom, eliminate the offending sweat and move on with your day.

Roll It On.  Roll on perfume is life changing.  Pop the little stick in your purse and touch up your scent any time of day.  Personally, I love l’Occitane Plum Blossom.  But if you have a favorite scent, you can buy a perfume kit on etsy and fill a roll on with any fragrance you choose.

Febreeze It.  When all else fails, I keep a bottle of Febreeze in my desk.  If I need to spray a sweater or a blazer, I throw it on the back of my chair and give it a spritz.

When you’re hidden under layers of clothing, it’s easy to let your personal hygiene go.  Pedicures become infrequent.  Legs get shaved less often.  But that is no reason to allow odors to fester or permit sweat to ruin your clothes.

Tips and Tricks

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  1. LMS says:

    The woman at the drycleaner told me that if you put deodorant on right after you get out of the shower so that it has time to dry, it is less likely to get on your clothes and leave a mark. And the less drycleaning you have to do. I guess it's the alchohol in the deodorant that will stain. Turns out, reversing order of operations has been super helpful in not having to dryclean after every single use.

  2. AJS says:

    Those tissue t's from J. Crew are THE BEST. To the point that I feel compelled to comment on them. 🙂

  3. A says:

    Um I totally wear men's Old Spice High Endurance year round…now I do not feel as weird about it.

  4. Emily says:

    Thank you for this post. I was just thinking about this today.

  5. Kelly says:

    Also, it's important to clean your scarves! Those get sweaty too, but people never think of cleaning them and they get that funky sweaty smell pretty quickly.

  6. ES says:

    I'm so happy you posted this! I can't believe the number of people who think they don't smell bad. People try to fix it in the summer when they're actually drenched in sweat, but completely forget about it in the fall/winter. Trust me, if you feel a little warm when you get in your building after walking from the metro, your coworkers can smell it on you.

  7. missy says:

    I prefer merino wool, which comes in a variety of weights, is appropriate and breathable in all temperatures (believe it or not!) and doesn't smell after DAYS of wearing. No joke. That's the stuff I use for layering in outdoor activities in any weather. Multi-day backpacking through the woods? Two shirts max for hiking, lounging, and sleeping. NO STINK. I even wear merino underwear. Merino can be pricey, though, especially compared to cotton.

    Here's another tip, and please hear me out on this because I've become an evangelical convert. Natural deodorant. Not Tom's, which smells like onions or farts by day's end. I'm talking coconut oil + cornstarch (simple recipe) or throw in a dollop of shea butter, a smidge of baking soda (may irritate if too much) and essential oils of your choice. My boyfriend and I both bike commute in all weather and we do not smell when we wear this deodorant. The next morning? No smell. Armpits smell like nothing, and I am not ashamed to admit we've done a nose-to-armpit smell test.

  8. Belle says:

    Kelly- THAT IS AN EXCELLENT POINT. I didn't really think about that when I bought my first scarf, until I examined it one day and saw how filthy it was. Yuck.

    A-It totally works. I wear it all the time.

    Missy-Interesting idea, I don't know if I'm brave enough to chance it though.

  9. J says:

    Another trick for removing BO is hand sanitizer. You can't do this frequently because of the drying effect but if you are really in a bind, after removing the sweat from under your arms you can pour some hand sanitizer onto a tissue and wipe that under your arms to kill any lingering odor causing bacteria.

  10. Belle says:

    J-Hand sanitizer…I hadn't thought of that.

  11. Kim says:

    Don't be cheap – dry clean your sweaters! And people forget to dry-clean their coats. Twice a season at a minimum! I also buy armfuls of Old Navy lace-edged tanktops – about $9 a pop.

  12. mc says:

    A wet hand towel with bathroom soap also does the trick in a bind, although sanitizer is less sticky.

  13. Belle says:

    Kim-No one is saying that you shouldn't dry clean your sweaters. But if you dry clean something, every time you wear it, you're going to wear it out and spend a fortune. Clothes don't need to be cleaned every time you wear them.

  14. KLo says:

    Also – Dryel is a wonderful and inexpensive interim fix (if you have easy access to a dryer, that is).

  15. Aja says:

    I'm very much with you on everything here. I hate dry cleaning sweaters in the winter! Twice a season is the most they get. (Luckily I have enough sweaters to keep a steady rotation).

  16. Helena says:

    Dry cleaning wool and cashmere sweaters or other garments damages the fibers and doesn't remove odors, anyway. Air them out between wearings and, when you need to, handwash with a cedar delicate wash (The Laundress makes one)– better for the environment and your clothes!

  17. V says:

    Another trick is to apply deodorant before you go to bed, it gives it more time to activate (or something) and it really does work better. I also take off my coat the last half block walk up to my office building, that way I'm not sweating like crazy as soon as I enter the warmth.

  18. VA says:

    Helena's right – aside from being expensive, the chemicals used in dry-cleaning are really damaging to delicate fibers like cashmere, so you should do it sparingly to prolong the life of your sweaters.

    I've heard from a few different sources that spritzing fabric with vodka can help remove odors. Has anyone tried this?

  19. Ashley says:

    Has anyone had any luck w/ sweat shields? I tried it once and had a hard time w/ the pads staying in place, but I know there are a few brands on the market. If they work, it's a good idea for preserving sweaters and blazers!

  20. Fantastic suggestions, but I do have a question – does anyone have a recommendation for a T shirt that would work under an unusual sweater neckline? I just bought the Vince Slouchy V-Back sweater, which is fantastic to wear, but I have no T-shirts that accommodate this neckline!

    https://www.saksfifthavenue.com/main/ProductDetail.jsp?FOLDER%3C%3Efolder_id=2534374306442011&PRODUCT%3C%3Eprd_id=845524446442659&R=822508923106&P_name=Vince&N=4294912466+306442011&bmUID=jdCMY.U

  21. Sam says:

    @A: ME TOO! Once Old Spice came out with all their cool new, not-so-locker-room-smelling deodorants, I jumped on board. Soooo difficult to go back to ladies' deodorant-antiperspirants now.

    Now, if only someone would come out with super deodorants with feminine scents… I'm thinking vanilla, cocoa-butter, freesia, citrus…

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