What determines the smell of sweat and how to reduce it?

Photo by Avi Richards on Unsplash

Why does sweat smell?
In fact, sweat doesn’t smell most of the time. It is needed by the body for cooling, consists mainly of water and is odorless. Don’t believe me? Then just sniff the little kids frolicking in the heat!

In adults, the situation is somewhat more complicated: during puberty, the so-called apocrine sweat glands are activated. They focus mainly on the hairy parts of the body: under the armpits, in the groin, on the head. But some of them are also present on the feet and palms. Their feature is more “fat” sweat.

In addition to water and a small number of electrolyte salts, apocrine sweat contains various products of protein metabolism, volatile fatty acids, and other compounds. This mixture already has a scent. But it cannot be called unpleasant. Apocrine sweat determines the individual sexual aroma of each person. It is barely distinguishable, but it can intoxicate, dizzy – in general, beckon the representatives of the opposite sex.

Unfortunately, in addition to members of the opposite sex, apocrine sweat also attracts bacteria. Still: such a nutritious composition! Microbes living on the skin, on which an increased dose of this life-giving moisture is suddenly splashed out, begin to multiply at a tenfold speed. And where there are a lot of bacteria, there is also their waste: chemical compounds with an unpleasant, sweaty odor.

What affects the smell of sweat and why some don’t smell?
Sweat odor is usually easy to deal with. After you sweat, it takes several hours for bacteria to multiply and start smelling. If during this time you have time to take a shower, use wet wipes, change wet clothes, then the appearance of an intoxicating aroma in every sense will not threaten you.

In theory. In practice, as always, there are nuances.

Every human body is different. Some are lucky. Even after sweating seriously and not taking any hygienic measures after that, they remain fresh (dust, dirt, and so on, in this case, we take out of the brackets). According to the American Chemical Society, these people lack the protein compounds needed for bacteria to multiply on their skin. The microbes in their sweat have nothing to profit from, they multiply poorly, and an unpleasant odor does not arise.

The smell of sweat is not familiar to about 2% of Europeans and most Asians.

Others are less fortunate. They start to smell not even after a few hours, but almost immediately after the appearance of sweat. And this is not always a matter of bacteria. Often – in the characteristics of the body, inattention, habit to a particular lifestyle, and even hidden health problems.

Why sweat odor can be unpleasant and strong:

  1. You are wearing sports shoes or closed shoes without socks
    Socks are usually made from breathable fabrics. Their main task is to wick moisture away from the feet. When you neglect your socks, moisture does not drain away and your feet are literally bathed in sweat and rapidly multiplying bacteria in it.

Moreover, bacteria in this area are special: microbes of the type Bacillus subtilis like to settle on the soles. They give sweaty skin and shoes that very specific and very strong smell.

  1. You wear non-breathable clothing
    Natural fibers such as cotton, linen, even wool are breathable and moisture-wicking. This means that, firstly, they provide free access to air to the skin, preventing it from overheating and sweating intensely. And secondly, they absorb the sweat that has appeared and bring it out. In this case, bacteria simply do not have a breeding ground and an unpleasant odor does not arise.

Synthetics are quite another matter: polyester, nylon, viscose. Such fabrics look light and beautiful but do not wick away moisture. As a result, sweat is trapped, and microbes get a real nutrient pool. Their concentration increases at an accelerated rate, and the unpleasant odor appears earlier and is felt more strongly than in clothes made from natural fabrics.

  1. You eat a lot of spices
    Garlic, curry, and other spices release sulfur-containing gases during digestion. According to the American dermatologist Marie Jhin, these gases are excreted from the body through the pores, giving the skin an unpleasant scent. To make the smell intensify, just sweat.
  2. You went overboard at the party
    The body perceives alcohol as a poison and seeks to decompose it into its components as quickly as possible and remove it. Most of the alcohol is processed in the liver and excreted in the urine.

It is worse if you drank more than the liver can quickly process, or this organ is malfunctioning for some reason. In this case, the products of ethanol processing begin to be released with breath (this is how fumes arise) and through the pores of the skin.

Some breakdown products, such as acetic acid, have a very specific odor. When you sweat, they begin to rapidly evaporate from the skin and an unpleasant smell of sweat becomes evident.

  1. You are taking certain medications
    Some medications, such as antipyretics or morphine-based drugs, dramatically increase sweating and/or break down into constituents in the body and change body odor. With all the effects that evaporate with perspiration.
  2. You have some hormonal disruptions
    The number and composition of bacteria that live on the skin largely depends on the hormonal balance of the body in Hormonal Imbalance That Causes Body Odor. That is why – due to the different ratios of androgens, progesterone, and estrogen – men tend to smell stronger and sharper than women.

Diabetes, menopause and other hormonal disruptions can also accelerate or slow down the multiplication of certain bacteria on the skin. By the way, they often increase sweating, which makes the unpleasant smell even more pronounced.

  1. You are malnourished
    Magnesium deficiency, Book: Magnesium, The Nutrient That Could Change Your Life or a diet high in Body Odor protein at the expense of other nutrients has been shown to give the body a pungent, unpleasant odor that is exacerbated by perspiration.

How to get rid of sweat odor
Given the information provided above, the solutions are obvious.

  • Review your diet to eliminate foods that increase sweating and unpleasant odors.
  • Wear breathable fabrics.
  • Use antiperspirants: when used correctly, they not only mask the odor but also reduce the amount of sweat you produce.
  • Do not wear closed shoes without socks and try to ventilate them regularly.
  • Become familiar with the side effects of your medications. If medication increases sweating or cause an unpleasant odor, consult your doctor about replacement options.
  • See an endocrinologist make sure there are no hormonal disruptions. This is especially true if you notice a sudden change in the smell of sweat.
  • After sweating, try to shower or use wet wipes no later than an hour and a half later.

12 thoughts on “What determines the smell of sweat and how to reduce it?”

  1. This is so informative. Lol, I would argue that fruity wines would never do that to me but they are alcoholic beverages I guess.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this post,because I didn’t know so much about sweat. Great and really informative 👍 👏 👌

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