Why Do We Smell (Bad)?


Why Do We Smell (Bad)?

We have all experienced the smelly kid in class, and we all hope that we are never that person. But have you ever wondered why we smell? It's sweating, right? Well, only partially. In essence, perspiration is odorless. However, when perspiration comes in contact with the bacteria on our bodies, the bacteria breaks down the protein in our sweat causing a foul smell.

There are a couple of factors that influence the amount of odor given off. For example, the armpits contain a large concentration of apocrine glands. Apocrine glands,as opposed to the Eccrine glands which are responsible for producing sweat to help regulate body temperature, develop during puberty and usually have a foul odor. Apocrine glands are also found in the eyelids, ears, breasts, and genital area.

Hair can also cause body odor. Hair, in areas such as the armpits, makes it more difficult for sweat to evaporate in turn making it easier for bacteria to breakdown the proteins. Our feet are typically smelly for the same reason: socks make it more difficult for sweat to evaporate.

How can we combat this smelly odor? Well, it's pretty simple: take regular showers! The use of anti-bacterial soap keep the number of bacteria down, hence minimizing the amount of proteins being broken down. Deodorants and antiperspirants work well also! Deodorants make the skin more acidic and therefore harder for the bacteria to survive while antiperspirants block glands from sweating. Wearing natural fibers such as wool, silk, or cotton can allow for sweat to evaporate more easily also reducing odor.

Why is this important? Like I said, no one wants to be the smelly kid in class. However, it should be mentioned that body odor can be attributed to more than just poor hygiene. An overactive thyroid gland, for example, can cause an increase in sweat production. If you find this blog interesting, or are fascinated by scents I also suggest reading this article .

Works Cited




For all these years I thought it was the sweat that was what was causing the smelly odor. So now I know what my deodorant is actually doing when I use it. After reading this article I started thinking about what an odor is. I never stopped to think about odors before and my only question is what makes one odor different from another odor? Is it the molecules or different types of bacteria? I'm now curious.

That's also a good question. One thing sort of on that topic I found while researching was that we perceive certain smells as bad, but they are not inherently bad. It is possible for people from different ethnic groups to perceive different smells as good while they may be bad to others.

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