Why Do You Stink When You Sweat?

smelly man


Anyone who works out regularly would likely attest to the fact that stink and sweat walk hand in hand. You work hard, you work up a sweat and all of a sudden you smell bad enough to make your friends', family and coworkers' eyes water. While you might assume it's the sweat that smells, that isn't exactly correct. If you don't believe me, wipe sweat off your forehead the next time you're sweating and smell it. You probably won't smell much. 

Sweat Glands: Eccrine vs. Apocrine Glands

The human body contains 2 basic types of sweat glands. The glands that cover most of the body produce the salty, clear sweat you're covered in after working out. Apocrine glands are specialized glands that are only found in two areas of the body: the groin and the armpits. Not coincidentally, these are the areas of the body that tend to smell the worst after a good workout. Apocrine glands secrete a different kind of sweat that's brimming with proteins, fatty acids and salts. 

What Causes the Stink?

When you sweat, it isn't the sweat itself that smells. The sweat comes in contact with bacteria on the skin and the bacteria begin to feed on it. As they process the sweat, the bacteria release chemical byproducts that make you smell like an old onion. These bacteria are especially active in the feet, groin and the armpits because these areas tend to be dark and damp and are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. 

The sweat in the armpit area contains an additional compound known as androstenone that really ups the stink factor. Oddly enough, some people don't notice this smell, while it drive others up the wall. That's probably why you can't get within 15 feet of Carl in accounting without your nostrils burning and he seemingly doesn't notice a thing. There's even a small subsection of the populace that likes the smell of androstenone, so he might even think he smells good.

If you know someone like this, print this article out and slip it into their desk drawer or locker. If you are someone like this, you'll know because this article will magically appear somewhere you frequent. Since I don't know you and don't have to be tactful, I'll be the one to tell you. Put on some deodorant. The people around you will appreciate it greatly. 


Can I Stop the Stink?

Yes and no. There's really no way to stop your body from emitting sweat, nor would you want to since it's your body's natural defense against overheating and is a route through which the body releases toxins that are starting to build up. You might, however, be able to stop the stink, or at least dull it a bit so it isn't so offensive to everyone around you.

First, let me tell you that you aren't alone. In a study done by a group known as Sentient Decision Science, 46% of the people surveyed said they'd willingly knock 10 years off their life in order not to smell bad. 

Let's quickly cover the basics. Bathing daily, washing your genitals and armpits regularly and using deodorant soap may be all it takes to stop the stink. Wearing clean clothes helps, as does applying deodorant to your armpits as soon as you get out of the shower. For some people, this isn't enough. They have active sweat glands and an even more active bacterial population and will start to smell again a short while later. 

What If It Doesn't Work?

If you still smell after taking care of the basics, you're going to have to go above and beyond the call of duty in your efforts to stop the stink. Here are 5 tactics you can use to stop the stink:

1. Watch what you eat. 

Your body odor changes based on the foods you eat. Chow down on a lot of pungent foods like onions, garlic and ginger and your sweat will smell every bit as bad as your breath. While you might know this already, you may not know a diet high in protein can also have an effect on your body odor. Eat a lot of red meat and suck down protein drinks and you might smell worse because of it. 

2. Change your socks, underwear and shirts more often. 

You might look a little strange leaving work to go to lunch and coming back in a different outfit, but if anyone asks, you can tell them you hit the gym at lunchtime and changed out of your sweaty clothes. Changing the clothes that come in contact with the smelliest parts of your body regularly creates a drier environment and will provide less sweat for the bacteria to feed on. 

3. Try a Natural Deodorant.

Traditional deodorants don't work well for some people. They also contain aluminum chloride, which can cause irritation, is said to clog the pores and may be a dermal irritant in some people. If traditional deodorant doesn't work for you, try a natural deodorant like Crystal Body Deodorant, available from Amazon.com. You can use the link below to check it out:

4. Apply Deodorant Twice a Day. 

Applying deodorant at night before you go to bed may be more effective than applying it in the morning because the deodorant will act on sweat glands during the night while you're sleeping and you'll wake up ready for the day. Apply deodorant again in the morning before heading out and you'll be less likely to stink during the day. 

5. See a doctor.

When you've tried everything and nothing seems to work, it's time to see a doctor. There are a number of diseases and metabolic disorders that can result in foul smells while sweating. There are a number of options available to those who need extra help, ranging from prescription strength antiperspirant to underarm surgery.