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Bacteria in your armpits feast on sweat. To beat them, trim excess hair and apply an antiperspirant.
updated 12/17/2008 8:18:04 AM ET 2008-12-17T13:18:04

Many of the trillions of bacteria, fungi, and parasites on your body protect you from invading pathogens and other harmful outside elements. But if they bloom, they can be painful and stinky. Fight back on these battlegrounds.

If your eyelids burn and your eyes are bloodshot, it could be ocular rosacea, a painful inflammation that may be linked to the parasite Demodex folliculorum.

The fix: Give your eyelids a daily bath, says Toronto dermatologist Benjamin Barankin, M.D. With your eyes closed, rub a mix of equal parts baby shampoo and water over your lids, and rinse well. After symptoms clear, repeat weekly for prevention. If that doesn't solve the problem, see your dermatologist for a prescription treatment.

Face, chest, back
One in five men in their 30s have acne, according to a 2008 study. Propionibacteria acne on your skin are partly to blame. When dead skin cells clog pores, the bacteria thrive in the backed-up oil and create pimples, says Dr. Barankin.

The fix:  Exfoliate to speed skin-cell turnover, which keeps your pores clear. Dr. Barankin recommends scrubbing your face gently with a washcloth once or twice a week in the shower, when your skin's already soft. Use a loofah for your chest and back.

Propionibacteria and other bacteria reside year-round in your armpits and groin, feasting on sweat. The by-product of their diet is bromidrosis (that is, B.O.).

The fix: Snip some excess hair from your pits, use an antibacterial soap, and apply an antiperspirant. "The hair doesn't cause the odor, but trimming it will decrease the area on which the bacteria can reproduce," says Debra Wattenberg, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center.

One common type of skin bacteria is Staphylococcus aureus, a weaker variation of the dangerous MRSA bug. If it invades a small cut, it can cause bacterial paronychia, a painful infection in the skin around the nail.

The fix: Soak your injured digit in hot water three or four times a day. This will lure white blood cells to clean the infected area, says Dr. Wattenberg.

The fungus Candida albicans can multiply due to too much moisture or stress, creating a yeast infection. Your penis may be tender or itchy and will look red or raw. "It happens more than men realize," says Melissa Piliang, M.D., a Cleveland Clinic dermatologist. Uncircumcised men are at higher risk: Bacteria can better thrive underneath foreskin.

The fix: Wash with a soap that's free of chemical fragrances. Try Dove Sensitive Skin Unscented Beauty Bar. Rinse well, dry, and apply an antiyeast cream, such as Monistat.

The microbe Brevibacterium thrives in dark, humid areas and helps give your feet (and some cheeses) their awful stink.

The fix: Twice a week, soak your feet for 5 minutes in a solution of half white vinegar (a germ killer) and half salt water (to dry skin). Moisture-wicking socks made with Coolmax fabric can help keep your feet dry.

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