How to tell if you have body odor

There’s a possibility you might smell bad without knowing it, but can actually be pretty hard to tell.

In order to get people to buy products like deodorant and mouthwash, advertisers first had to convince us that we all smell bad. It worked, and well: most people started using these toiletries, as well as many others, to keep those “bad” smells at bay. But sometimes they don’t work, or maybe you think you don’t need them. In these cases, there’s a possibility you might smell bad without knowing it, but can actually be pretty hard to tell.

The human nose can detect more than one trillion distinct scents , but it’s not so great at picking up your own odors. There’s always a chance you reek something foul and just don’t realize it. If that’s a fear of yours, here’s how you can find out for sure.

If you just lower your nose and take a big whiff of the air surrounding your body, you’re probably not going to pick up on your body odor. You’ll assume everything’s fine and go about your day smelling like something was living in your shirt, had a family, died, was eaten by its young and then they all died too. Why? It’s nearly impossible to smell yourself, even if you’re smelling funky. The receptors in your nose that would normally respond to your own particular brand of smells practically shut down after being bombarded with the same scents for so long. Basically, your nose goes numb to your own stank so you don’t go mad.

How to Deal with Excessive Sweat

All of us sweat, but some of us sweat a lot. Like, seriously, a lot. If you fall into this…

Remove your clothes and smell them

So, to check yourself for BO, you need to smell your clothes away from your body, and really get your nose in there. Obviously you can’t disrobe in the middle of your workplace, but you can hop into a bathroom stall easily enough and check everything piece by piece. Smell every part of your clothing and look for wet spots where you’ve been sweating. Sweat usually means you’ve become a love environment for bacteria growth , and bacteria is what gives off the stench.

Go by the golden rule of body odor: If you can smell any odor on yourself at all, others can smell it a lot more . Put on more deodorant, use wet wipes to give yourself a quick cleanup, put on a change of clothes, or if all else fails, rub some hand sanitizer on your pits until you can fix the problem. The same rules goes for deodorants, perfumes, colognes, and body sprays : If you can still detect your fancy perfume on your skin after a while, other people can definitely smell it when they’re around you. So go easy on that stuff.

How to Stop Sweating

Run your fingers along your scalp

Sometimes sweaty armpits aren’t the source of funky odors, though. Your hair can get pretty ripe if you don’t wash it often enough, or if you forget to use some dry shampoo after a super sweaty workout . If you’re worried your hair is crop dusting fustiness on everyone as you walk by, there’s a simple way to check it.

Wash your hands with hot water, but don’t use soap. (You don’t want the soapy smell to cover up what you’re about to check for.) Run your clean fingers along your scalp—not your hair—several times. Smell your fingertips and you should get a good idea of what your hair smells like.

The bad smell on your scalp is probably a mixture of yeast, dead skin cells and bacteria. It could also be a sign of ringworm of the scalp .

Check your ears

You probably think of earwax as the stuff you have to clean off of your earbuds, but it can also be a source of bad smells. When this happens, it’s usually a symptom of something else , like excessive earwax, an ear infection, a foreign object stuck in there, swimmer’s ear, cysts or ear cancer (it’s super rare).

Do some breath tests

When it comes to stinky breath , there are a few quick ways you can check for nastiness before you have to interact for people:

  • The hand test: The classic move. Hold your hand or hands up to your face and exhale into them so you can get a good whiff. This works best if you wash your hands beforehand without scented soap; otherwise you’ll just be smelling your hands.
  • The arm test: Lick your arm and wait about 10 seconds, then sniff the spot. If it smells bad, so does your breath. Again, it helps to clean off the spot first.
  • The spoon test: Grab a spoon, metal or plastic, and scrape the back part of your tongue with it . Let it dry a little and give it a sniff. This will probably smell a little bad no matter what—unless you just used a tongue scraper and mouth wash—but you can tell how bad it really is with this method.
  • The taste test: If you have a weird taste lingering in your mouth, your breath probably stinks. Whatever is overloading your saliva and taste buds is likely giving off an odor as well.

It’s also safe to assume that you have garlic breath if you just ate garlic, coffee breath if you just drank coffee and alcohol breath if you used your lunch break to “unwind.”

Why You Get Garlic Breath, and How to Get Rid of It

Garlic is one of the most flavorful things on the Earth, but it makes your breath smell like death…

Refresh your scent palate

So how can you reset your scent palate? As Pamela Dalton, a psychologist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center, explains to the Washington Post , our sense of smell doesn’t reset and recover as quickly as our other senses. To fully refresh your scent palate it could take several weeks. That’s why you can sometimes notice the smell of your house after you’ve been on vacation. And since you can’t really get away from your own body, there’s no way to completely regain your nose’s sensitivity to your own odors.

Ask someone you trust

Last but not least, you can ask somebody you trust to smell you and tell it to you straight. Without a doubt, this is the most effective method. It’s not ideal to ask your partner or someone you live with, though, since they’re also fairly used to your smell. Ask a coworker or friend, and tell them to be honest. It’s a little awkward, but hey, it’s guaranteed to work.

This story was originally published on April 2017 and was updated on October 26, 2020 to replace outdated links and align the content with current Lifehacker style. Updated 3/3/22 with new details.

Research shows there could be as many as 70 types of bacteria in your navel. Soap and water may be all you need if yours is a bit funky. But odor can also be a sign of an infection. For instance, an infected navel piercing might stink. And if you have diabetes, it’s easier to get infections. If you somehow cut or scrape your bellybutton, it could get infected. Smelly discharge is a symptom.

How to tell if you have body odor

Earwax is normal. But if it starts to smell or you see discharge, it could be a sign of an infection or something stuck in your ear. This is especially true for children.

How to tell if you have body odor

Bad Breath

Waking up with smelly breath is normal. Your body puts out way less saliva, or spit, when you’re asleep. Saliva helps get rid of bacteria that cause odors, so your breath might also smell bad when you’re hungry or dehydrated. That’s because chewing signals the body to make saliva. Not drinking enough water slows down the process. Foods like garlic and onion can lead to bad breath, too.

How to tell if you have body odor

Bad Breath: A Sign of Something Serious

Changes in your breath can be a symptom of several health conditions. These include sinus infections, gum disease, and acid reflux. Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease, attacks the glands that make tears and saliva. The odor also depends on the medical problem. For example, gum disease may give off a metallic scent, while diabetes can make your breath smell fruity.

How to tell if you have body odor

Poop is naturally smelly because of bacteria and compounds. But if it smells worse than usual and comes with other symptoms like diarrhea, belly cramps, or nausea, it could be a sign of an infection. Certain bacteria, viruses, and parasites can lead to stomach bugs. Giardiasis is a type of diarrhea that triggers unusually bad-smelling poop. The giardia parasite, typically found in untreated water and food, causes it.

How to tell if you have body odor


Exercise, nervousness, and just being too hot can all lead to sweating. Sweat itself doesn’t have an odor, but when it mixes with bacteria on your skin, watch out. An antiperspirant, which controls sweating, usually fixes the problem. So can deodorant, which helps with odor. Some over-the-counter products do both. Prescription-strength antiperspirants may also be an option.

How to tell if you have body odor

It’s a mix of water and leftover waste from your kidneys. Pee that’s mostly water has little to no odor. But if you often smell ammonia, that’s a sign you need to drink more water. Certain foods, like asparagus, can change the smell of your pee. So can supplements. Adding water and other caffeine-free fluids should be enough to get you back on track.

How to tell if you have body odor

Smelly Pee: When to Be Concerned

You may need to call your doctor if an odd odor sticks around. A urinary tract infection (UTI), bladder inflammation, and uncontrolled type 2 diabetes can trigger unusual smells. So can metabolic disorders, diabetic ketoacidosis (a complication of diabetes), and gastrointestinal-bladder fistulas.

How to tell if you have body odor


Some people sweat a lot in their groin. That’s where your thighs and lower belly meet. Testicles can rub against the skin and trigger sweating. That can lead to body odor.

How to tell if you have body odor


If you’re uncircumcised, dead skin cells and fluids can build up in your foreskin. This buildup becomes a smelly, cheese-like substance called smegma. Washing your penis every day can stop this from happening. UTIs can also cause odor.

How to tell if you have body odor

Funky Feet

Lots of sweat and wearing the same shoes every day can lead to stinky feet. Washing them with antibacterial soap and fully drying can help. You can also sprinkle absorbent powder or use an antiperspirant on your feet. Foot soaks with vinegar or Epsom salts help, too. It’s also important to give your shoes a chance to dry out. Spraying them with a disinfectant kills the bacteria that cause odor.

How to tell if you have body odor

Vaginal Odor

Your vagina has its own unique smell. Sex, your period, or sweating may briefly change it. Not cleaning well or leaving a tampon in for too long can also cause odors.

How to tell if you have body odor

Vaginal Smells: When to Call Your Doctor

A fishy or foul stench that won’t go away could be a sign of infection or another condition — especially if it comes with itching, burning, or discharge. Bacterial vaginosis, caused by too much normal bacteria, is the most common reason. The sexually transmitted infection (STI) trichomoniasis also causes odor. Other STIs, like chlamydia and gonorrhea, don’t usually have odors. Although less common, cervical or vaginal cancer can also change your vagina’s smell.

Show Sources


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Seattle Children’s Hospital: “Ear Discharge.”

Mayo Clinic: “Sweating and Body Odor,” “Vaginal odor,” “Diarrhea,” “Bad breath,” “Diabetic ketoacidosis.”

Medline Plus: “Sjogren’s Syndrome.”

PLOS One: “A Jungle in There: Bacteria in Belly Buttons are Highly Diverse, but Predictable.”

How to tell if you have body odor

Chances are it’s one of your biggest fears. You pass someone in the gym, the office, on public transportation and you get a whiff … body odor. You look left, you look right, but you have no way of knowing if it’s you or someone else nearby. Suddenly you break into a nervous sweat, only intensifying the issue at hand: do you smell?

It would be amazing if you could sniff yourself and immediately pick up on any emanating odors, but alas, life isn’t so simple. According to Lifehacker, it can be quite difficult to detect your own body odors because the receptors in your nose shut down after smelling the same scent for too long.

Luckily, there’s a way to reset your nose so you don’t have to attempt the embarrassing arm-lift, head-duck combo in the middle of your office (you’re not likely to catch a whiff anyway). The answer? Plain and simple: coffee.

How to tell if you have body odor

According to Lifehacker, coffee is a single-scent component that acts as a palate refresher for your nose. It gives the receptors a break from what they’ve been sniffing all day long. In fact, that’s why department stores often keep coffee beans at perfume counters (ladies take note — it’s the little things that will make your next shopping spree a success).

So, all you have to do is mosey into your office’s kitchen, and take a quick whiff of some black coffee (and/or coffee beans). This should reset your nose, so if you do have a bit of a smell, it will be more obvious to you.

While this little trick is likely to work, it won’t totally reset your nose’s receptors. Pamela Dalton, a psychologist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center, told The Washington Post that it actually takes a few weeks since you’re likely to be pretty insensitive to your own body odors.

Needless to say, showering regularly, washing your clothes and keeping your desk drawer stocked with body spray (and coffee beans) should definitely help you sweat through the summer heat smelling like an angel.

If you notice a change in body odor, it could be a sign of a medical condition that needs treatment.

How to tell if you have body odor

Have you ever caught a whiff of a foul odor after finishing an intense workout or spending an afternoon outside in the heat, only to realize the odor was coming from you? The smell goes with the sweat, and some of us give off a stronger and more pungent scent than others.

Most of the time body odor isn’t a problem and a shower will quickly wash it away. But if you notice a change in body odor or you’re sweating much more than usual, it could be a sign of a medical condition that needs treatment.

What causes body odor?

You probably notice body odor most when you’re sweating. Your body has two main types of sweat glands — eccrine and apocrine — that release fluid (sweat) onto your skin’s surface when you’re hot. Sweat serves an important purpose. As perspiration evaporates, it cools your body temperature.

Eccrine glands are all over your body. Apocrine glands are in areas like your armpits and groin. They produce a thicker, milky fluid.

Sweat itself doesn’t have a smell. The odor happens when bacteria come into contact with the perspiration your apocrine glands release.

What diseases can cause body odor?

People who sweat more than usual may be diagnosed with the condition hyperhidrosis. Primary hyperhidrosis is a relatively rare condition that happens without a specific cause. Secondary hyperhidrosis is related to a medical problem, such as hot flashes with menopause, an infection, or an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism). Stress, certain medications, and alcohol use can also cause you to sweat more than usual.

If you’re still looking for a cause, look at your diet. Certain foods can change the way you smell. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower produce gas. The breakdown of garlic and onions in your body releases sulfur-like compounds that waft out through your pores. And people with a rare condition called trimethylaminuria develop a fishy odor after eating seafood.

How to get rid of body odor

The easiest way to eliminate body odor is by taking a bath or shower, which will remove bacteria from your skin. However, for many people a daily shower or bath may not be necessary. Showering a few times a week, especially after you exercise or do other activities that make you sweat, may be enough to rid you of body odor without drying out or irritating your skin.

After your shower or bath, apply an antiperspirant and deodorant. Most over-the-counter antiperspirants contain aluminum-based compounds that block your body’s eccrine glands, preventing you from sweating. Deodorants repel the bacteria that cause odor, and may contain an additional fragrance. Some products combine an antiperspirant and a deodorant. If over-the-counter products don’t control sweating and body odor, your doctor can prescribe a stronger prescription-strength antiperspirant/deodorant.

Wear clothing made from breathable fabrics such as cotton, silk, or wool and wash clothes after each wear. For exercise, you may prefer to wear moisture-wicking fabrics like polyester or nylon. You might also consider shaving your armpit hair, which allows sweat to evaporate quickly, before it can produce an odor.

Secondary hyperhidrosis treatment addresses the condition that caused the excess sweating. Treatments for primary hyperhidrosis include antiperspirants, botulinum toxin injections, and prescription medications. For sweating so severe that it affects your daily life, surgery can block nerve signals from triggering your sweat glands or remove those glands entirely.

Usually, body odor (as well bad breath) is more of a nuisance than a serious health issue. But if you find that you can’t manage sweating and odor with lifestyle changes like regular bathing and antiperspirant/deodorant, ask your doctor or dermatologist for advice.

How to figure out if you have a bad case of body odor

How to tell if you have body odor

Last Updated June 26, 2019

Summer is here, and that means our sweaty days are back. Sweating is essential for us because it’s our bodies’ way of cooling themselves and preventing heat exhaustion. However, with sweat comes body odor, or B.O. You don’t want your friends and partners running away because you smell a little ripe. In order to prevent that, here are a few ways you can check if you have B.O.

Smell your clothes after a long day.

While others can usually smell your odor, you yourself can’t smell your B.O. just by sniffing your body. That’s because you get so used to the smell that you become immune to it. To solve this issue, take your clothes off after a long sweaty day, but don’t smell them right away. Shower first in order to give your nose a break and get rid of your natural odor. Then, smell your clothes. Chances are, you’ll smell the sweaty, musty odor your body may have been giving off and can prevent it in the future.

Rub your scalp and smell your fingers.

B.O. can sometimes come from your hair, and the smell of your hair comes from your scalp. For that reason, you should make sure your scalp doesn’t stink by rubbing your scalp with your fingertips and then smelling your fingers. If you detect an unpleasant odor, you should consider jumping in the shower as soon as possible. If you don’t, you’re good to go. It may seem a little gross, but it does the job!

Blow into your hand and smell it.

Checking if your saliva smells is a good way to make sure you don’t have bad breath. The feeling of not knowing whether your breath smells is the most annoying, and you spend the whole day self-conscious about your breath. Make sure you don’t have bad breath by blowing into your hand and then smelling it. If it smells, you should run to the nearest store and buy yourself a pack of gum or mints. If it doesn’t, you’re off the hook (for now).

Diagnose your sweat and odor.

You have to make sure your perspiration and odor aren’t caused by an unknown condition. Your body has many ways to tell you about what’s going on inside, and perspiration and odor are definitely a couple of them. If you think you smell unusually pungent, you should check if it could be the result of some lifestyle change you’ve recently made. Sometimes, new medications, natural hormonal changes and stress can alter your smell. Other times, it may be a symptom of a serious medical issue.

These are a few basic ways to check if you have B.O. Asking a friend if you smell is another option, but more often than not, we prefer to check ourselves. Stay hydrated, stay hygienic, and you won’t have to worry about B.O.

body odor, hormones, hygiene, summer

About this blog

The Daily Clog (Cal+Blog) accumulates various tidbits about Berkeley and college life. We focus on the UC campus, the city of Berkeley and Berkeley’s online community. We give our two cents on all the goings-on.

Everyone has body odors, but every person’s is a little bit different. Odors even vary between areas of our bodies. But did you know using certain soaps and deodorants could alter your body’s natural smell, sometimes in a negative way? Dr. Kirtly Parker Jones talks about the smells of the human body: why we like some odors and dislike others, what smells can tell us about a person, and how the body uses smells to communicate to others.

Interviewer: You are a woman and you are not terribly in love with your odor. Is something wrong with you or are you just normal? That’s coming up next on The Scope.

Announcer: Questions every woman wonders about her health, body and mind. This is, “Am I normal?” on The Scope.

Interviewer: We’re with Dr. Kirtly Jones, the expert in all things women. Dr. Jones, one of the things that are so important to women, men too, but women especially is they leave the house and they want to smell good. But sometimes they just loose that freshness smell throughout the day even though they shower as much as they should or need to. And they have perfume and body spray on but there is still that body odor that they’re just not really in love with. What’s going on?

Dr. Jones: Well such a great topic so it turns out that body odor is a very important advertisement. So you may not like what you are advertising and maybe somebody else doesn’t. So there are a lot of different parts of your body that have an odor. In fact, let’s pick your scalp. Do you know what your hair smells like or someone else’s hair smells like when it needs to be washed? It smells a little funky and the smell of hair changes when kids go through puberty. So little kids have that wonderful little kids smell, kind of like wet puppies.

Interviewer: Okay.

Dr. Jones: With dirty hair. And then when they go through, adrenarche, when their adrenal glands wake up at about 8. They start making a little bit more male hormones, this is boys and girls and their hair starts to smell different.
So what’s this smell from in hair? The smell is from a combination of oils that are put out by the sweat glands and the oil glands. Each hair has an oil gland that’s attached to it. So hair and the smell attached to it is very important in telling people where we are in a menstrual cycle and where we are in our shower cycle.

Now there are two kinds of hair that are very specifically designed to send out messages. These are the pubic hair and the axillary hair. Those areas have specific glands called eccrine glands that give off odors. Now some of these odors are odors that our brain can actually recognize and some of these odors bypass a part of the brain that lets you know you’re smelling stuff. And goes right to the part of the brain that gives you information about sex.

Now we know that many animals tell when others are in heat and it’s by smell. Well humans probably do that too and we call this message in smells pheromones. And pheromone smells go through a special area of your nose directly to your limbic system, a part of the brain that senses things sexual. Now what do American women do? Well American women may not like the extra smells that their bodies can register that come with puberty and axillary hair, like sweaty.

Interviewer: Okay.

Dr. Jones: So they shave off all their pubic hair and they shave off all their axillary hair and they put antiperspirant on to make them.

Interviewer: So perfume and bodies spray.

Dr. Jones: So they do something to skip from sweating and then they cover on top with deodorants. So there is antiperspirant and then there is deodorants to mask the smell that men might actually be able to assess not in their cognitive part of their brain, but their behavioral part of their brain.

Interviewer: This is all mental.

Dr. Jones: It’s so mental but it’s not part of the brain that you can get to. In fact, some researchers are trying to create a spray that’s made out of the smells that women make when they are ovulating. And to see if it changes behaviors in a bar or changes behavior in whether you are choosing to buy something or not.

Interviewer: That’s so weird to me.

Dr. Jones: It is. So let’s go back to body odors from the armpit.

Interviewer: Okay.

Dr. Jones: So the armpit has this eccrine glands which are sending a signal about where you are in your sexual menstrual cycle. And it may be a message that you can’t actually smell. But the smell that you sent is probably a combination of oils that are broken down by the bacteria in your armpit. So your armpit has different bacteria than your forearm which has different bacteria than back of your hand. And the way those bacteria break those oils to release scents may be biologically important.
What we do when we add all those soaps and alcohols, we kill all bacteria that might be good for us. We end up with some bacteria that might not be good for us. And a recent research was done to ask people not to use any soap when they shower for a month and see then if they were releasing different odors that may be were less smelly. It turns out that in this particular study when people were free from using any soap on any of their body parts they actually changed the bacteria on their skin for a better, more health bacteria that didn’t create so much obvious odor.

Interviewer: So the key there is, what you just said, is if you don’t want body odor, just don’t use soap.

Dr. Jones: Don’t use soap because you may be changing your body odor.

Interviewer: Fascinating.

Dr. Jones: Now there are other kinds of odors that we give off so our regular skin, not our pubic and axillary skin, but our other skin, can have an odor which defines us. And people are different bio types but different biological what we call HLA antigens, which are the things which define who we are immunogentically, immunologically. Those are run in families and women tend to like the sweaty odor of people who are a little different from them.

Interviewer: Okay.

Dr. Jones: Because you don’t want to have babies with someone who is just like you. You want someone who can mix it up a little bit more. Women actually smell scent much better than men. So rather than you trying to discover all your scents, I would somebody that you trust, a girlfriend perhaps, not maybe a member of your family, and ask if they can smell you and what they think.

Interviewer: Okay.

Dr. Jones: If they say I can’t smell you.

Interviewer: Because most of the time your smell that you don’t like is probably not even an issue.

Dr. Jones: They may not be able to tell. If they say “Oh I’ve been meaning to tell you this, you have the world’s worst smell breathe or you have the world’s worst body odor.” Then you better just keep doing what you’re doing which is scrubbing all your parts and putting soap on it and put all your powders on it and good luck for you.

People don’t naturally smell like lavender or pine or whatever your deodorant scent is. It’s normal to stink a little after a workout or long day. But for some, body odor is an everyday problem. In some cases, your body might be trying to tell you something is wrong.

A lot of body odor is caused by natural human functions.

Your body releases sweat to cool you down, which is why you’re sweatier on hot summer days or when you exercise. But it’s not sweat that makes you work up a stink.

“Sweat itself is odorless,” says Patricia K. Farris, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and clinical associate professor at Tulane University School of Medicine. “Body odor occurs because bacteria that lives on the skin breaks down sweat, causing an unpleasant odor.”

While armpits are the most common site of odor, your body can build up smells in your feet, groin, belly button and anywhere else moisture can get trapped.

That said, not everyone sweats the same. There are certain factors that might result in more frequent or more potent body odor.

For example, it will come as no surprise to parents that teenagers generally produce stronger body odors. Their sweat usually will be chemically more potent than an adult’s because they are being flooded with new hormones through the puberty process. Growing older can also change the way we smell, as our skin changes as we age.

Men, in general, are more likely to produce stronger body odors from sweat. They don’t necessarily sweat more, but they may stink more when they do.

Your diet can also worsen your body odor.

“Foods like onions and garlic may find their way into sweat, making body odor worse,” Farris says. “I suggest avoiding these foods if you are prone to body odor.”

What to smell out for

While body odor itself is harmless, it can be caused by underlying conditions that need to be addressed.

Sweating disorders, called hyperhidrosis, impact roughly 1 in 20 people in the U.S. It goes unrecognized among about half of people who have it. If you’re sweating more than usual, sweat a lot at night or notice other changes, talk to your doctor. They can provide a diagnosis and help treat any possible problems.

In some cases, something else in your body can cause your sweat production to go into overdrive. For example, anxiety can lead to excessive sweating. While many people find bathing to be soothing or relaxing, a shower isn’t going to fix an anxiety disorder. Your body might be telling you through your nose that it’s time to check in on your mental health.

A change in body odor can also occur with diabetes. Due to changes in how the body interacts with chemicals, people with diabetes may give off a slightly sweet or fruity smell. While that may not sound as undesirable as pungent onion-like odors, it’s an example of how you need to keep track of changes in your body and communicate them to your health care team.

Body odors can sometimes be worsened by skin diseases or infections. You can get infections in places such as your ears, belly button and feet, causing strong smells. The same is true for your nether regions, which are especially prone to infection.

In extreme cases, a really bad smell could be the result of severe conditions such as gangrene, which is rare but possibly fatal.

One of the stinkiest places people have body odors is their feet. Anyone can have smelly feet. And once again, sweat is the main cause. To cut back on feet smells, let your shoes dry out between wearings, and don’t wear the same shoes two days in a row. Socks can also help, as long as they are kept clean.

People are often too embarrassed by body odor to seek help. But if you’re having problems controlling odors, check in with your health care team. They may be able to easily solve your problem.

Controlling your basic body odor

There are things you can do to cut down on your everyday natural body odor. You may be able to resolve smells if you:

• Clean yourself regularly, washing with antibacterial soap to cut down on bacteria on your skin.

• Wear antiperspirant daily, which reduces sweat in the biggest culprit area for body odor: the armpit. Deodorant can also mask smells.

• Shave under your armpits, which makes it easier to keep them clean — for both women and men.

How to tell if you have body odor

Your body odour is completely natural and all of us have our own distinct scent.

What is sweat?

Sweat is mainly water, but it also contains some salts. Sweat is made in glands in the deeper layer of your skin. These glands are all over your body but there are more of them in your armpits, palms, forehead, and on the soles of your feet.

Why do you sweat?

The main function of sweating is to regulate body temperature by helping to cool it down when it’s too high. When the water in your sweat evaporates, it cools down the surface of your skin.

You might also sweat when you eat hot or spicy food, have a fever, or experience emotional distress.

If you sweat excessively, there could be an underlying condition causing it. Some of these conditions could include:

  • obesity or high levels of body fat
  • hormonal changes that happen during menopause (hot flushes)
  • infections or other illnesses linked with fevers
  • diabetes
  • an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism).

Some medications may also cause you to sweat a lot. These can include some medications used to treat depression like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants.

Why does sweat smell?

Sweat doesn’t actually have a smell on its own. Your sweat glands secrete protein, which forms an odour when it is broken down by bacteria living on your skin. When they do this, they also produce waste products and it’s these waste products that cause the unpleasant smell. The reason the smell is usually stronger in your armpits, groin and feet is because those areas are usually hidden away from light, and they’re warmer and damper.

What does it mean if your body odour changes?

You might notice a change in your body odour if you start a new medication such as antidepressants. Some research suggests that a woman’s body odour changes depending on where she is in the ovulatory cycle.

You might also notice a different odour if you change your diet. Foods containing sulphur (like broccoli and cauliflower), spices, or drinking coffee and alcohol can all affect the way you smell.

Illnesses that cause body odour

Changes in body odour could also mean you might be sick or have an underlying condition. Conditions like diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease can make body odour worse.

If you have diabetes and your blood sugar levels get too high, your breath may start to smell fruity. If this happens suddenly, and you’re also urinating a lot, it’s important to see a doctor straight away.

Another condition that causes a change in body odour is trimethylaminuria. Trimethylaminuria is a metabolic disorder where the body is unable to breakdown trimethylamine. Trimethylamine is found in eggs, fish, liver and legumes. As the trimethylamine builds up, it’s released through sweat, breath, urine and reproductive fluids, leading to a scent that has a fishy odour.

It doesn’t seem to contribute to any other health problems, and symptoms can be reduced with some dietary changes and specific soaps.

Does your body odour change when pregnant?

Many pregnant women notice a heightened sense of smell, but a woman’s own body odour might change during pregnancy too. The hormonal changes associated with pregnancy are to blame.

Hormonal changes can increase sweating, and your own heightened sensitivity will be picking up more smells than usual anyway, so try not to worry too much about it.

Your body will sweat more as it tries to keep you cool while all the extra blood pumps through your body to carry nutrients to your growing baby. Extra sweat can mean smelly feet, smelly armpits, smelly groin – in fact all the usual places where bacteria and sweat come together. Some pregnant women may also experience night sweats.

Almost all women have more vaginal discharge during pregnancy. Normal discharge is pale and creamy, doesn’t smell bad and doesn’t cause an itch. See your doctor straight away if your discharge is abnormal or contains any blood.

Body odour after pregnancy

You’re likely to keep sweating more than usual for a few weeks after you’ve given birth, especially at night, as your body decreases the levels of estrogen and progesterone you needed during pregnancy. Make sure you stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

Body odour when breastfeeding

Smell is an important part of the bonding process between mothers and their newborn babies. Glands around the nipple secrete a smelly fluid after a woman has given birth, and scientists believe that newborn babies respond to this smell. It’s even been shown that breast milk odour can calm premature babies and provide a measure of pain relief.

How can you manage body odour?

To limit body odour, it’s a good idea to not eat too much strong smelling or spicy food and limit how much coffee and alcohol you’re drinking.

It’s also important to follow these hygiene practices:

  • wash your armpits, groin and feet at least twice a day with soap and dry thoroughly
  • use antiperspirants and deodorants
  • change and wash your clothes regularly

If you have a problem with excessive sweating, or you have concerns about your body odour, it’s best to see your doctor for advice.

And finally, does shaving underarms reduce smell?

Shaving can prevent too much heat building up under your arms, which in turn may limit excessive sweating.

And it seems shaving or waxing (ouch!) under your arms, combined with soap and water, really can reduce body odour.

An experiment on American men in 2015 found that wet blade shaving or waxing followed by washing with soap and water, resulted in a significant reduction in odour when compared with soap washing alone or hair removal with scissors. The effects were noticeable even after two or three days.

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All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified Health Care Professional.

How to Tell If Your Bad Body Odor Is Cause for Concern

Even copious amounts of deodorant and a devotion to perfume don't guarantee that you won't stink sometimes. Body odor is a normal occurrence, and when it's not connected to a larger problem, you can attribute it to the mixture of sweat, bacteria, and environmental dirt that accumulates on your skin, Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, tells Allure. "Body odor becomes stronger over time, as more bacteria and sweat build up on the skin, and they interact with each other," he explains. "This is not harmful, as healthy bacteria live symbiotically on our bodies."

But there are some body odors that fall outside of this norm. Some are totally benign, while others might signal that something is up with your health. "Many health conditions have signature odors associated with them," whether those smells are "breath odors, body odors, urine odors, or stool," Tamara Duker Freuman, a registered dietician in New York City, tells Allure. "In some cases, a particular body odor can give us insights about our health."

Doctors are really only beginning to scratch the surface of what body odors can tell us, says Zeichner. For example, recent reports have detailed how "certain cancers of the skin thought to give off volatile organic compounds" have been detected by canines' noses, he says. The same principle of using hyper-sensitive sniffing devices is also being applied to studying compounds in gasses that could be used to diagnose certain diseases, Freuman adds. If all you have is your own nose, though, and you've noticed that your B.O. is smelling off, how can you figure out what's going on and what should you do about it? Here's what the experts have to say.

Body odors are often caused by three things: diet, stress, and underlying medical conditions.


"Diet isn't the only source of new or different body odors, though it's never a bad place to start," Freuman says. "These odors typically result from metabolic processes that produce volatile compounds (VOCs), which are molecules that evaporate, causing an odor in their wake."

In some cases, the food-induced B.O. will show up in your sweat, Zeichner says, which happens when your body can't properly break down certain compounds in your food. A common culprit of this is garlic, which contains sweat-polluting sulfur. The foods you eat can also obviously affect your breath: Onions, alcohol, fish are all likely to leave you in need of a mint.

Then there's the "sweet and somewhat 'fruity' smell on the breath," Freuman explains, which may be caused by the ketogenic diet. Reports on this connection are mixed, according to Niket Sonpal, an adjunct assistant professor of clinical medicine at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in New York City, although he acknowledges that theoretically, it's possible.


If it's not because of something you ate, your funk may have to do with relationship drama or an overloaded work schedule. "One of the number one reasons that body odor can increase, become a little bit more pungent, or have a more lingering scent, is stress," says Sonpal.

Your body has two types of sweat glands, according to the Mayo Clinic: eccrine and apocrine. Eccrine glands are everywhere, producing the watery sweat that builds up when you're working out. Apocrine glands, however, are concentrated in your armpits and groin and produce a different kind of fatty sweat. When your anxiety kicks up and the apocrine glands switch on, "that milieu of sweat from the gland in the armpit and the normal surface body bacteria make a smell," Sonpal explains.

Medical conditions

Finally, certain medical conditions can also cause strange smells, although these are pretty rare. "In general, these odors are caused by metabolic compounds, secreted in sweat, breath, or urine, that have a particular odor," Nitin Kumar, a board-certified gastroenterologist in Effingham, Illinois, tells Allure. "Other times, the compounds do not have an odor but are metabolized by skin bacteria into compounds that do."

Take "fish odor syndrome": As Freuman explains, this rare genetic condition, which doctors call trimethylaminuria, leaves the body incapable of breaking down a pungent-smelling chemical compound found in fish, cruciferous veggies, and soy. This in turn "causes an all-over fish smell" in people who have the condition.

A person with phenylketonuria, another rare inherited disorder, can develop a particular scent when triggered by a type of artificial sweetener; the condition actually causes you to smell a bit like a mouse, says Kumar.

Other medical conditions like liver disease, diabetes, and kidney failure can also cause strange-smelling breath or sweat, Kumar says. Again, though, this is rare. "It's likely that all of these diseases would be found due to other signs or symptoms first," he explains. "But in rare cases, the odor may be noticed first."

Prevention is the most effective way to address stink, but supplements could help.

For some stink situations, the fix is pretty straightforward: Avoid foods that leave you with an undesirable odor, focus on reducing your stress levels, or try a new deodorant. If you're not willing to give up your garlic bread, you can try taking a soluble fiber or activated charcoal supplement right before eating it (or whatever food is leading to the stink), according to Freuman. These supplements "bind to VOCs in the gut and may reduce their odor-causing potential," she says.

One word of caution: some studies have shown that activated charcoal can interfere with other organic molecules, like those in thyroid medication or birth control. You should make sure you talk to your doctor before taking any new supplements.

To change the smell of your sweat, Zeichner says peppermint oil has anecdotally been known to help, although there's no formal research confirming the effect. Try a drop or two on your tongue, he says, to see whether the touch of mint in your bloodstream alters your sweat's scent.

Sometimes, your B.O. means you need to see a doctor.

In general, your daily brand of body odor probably doesn't mean anything, says Sonpal. It's when your scent changes significantly that you should do some further exploration. "It could be a hygiene issue, it could be that you've become tolerant to the form of antiperspirant deodorant you're using, or it could signify something is happening," he says. "If switching up your deodorant and stepping up your hygiene habits isn't helping, it's worth checking in with your doc."

"Digestive system body odors, in particular, can offer some clues as to health-related issues," Freuman adds. "These are worth paying attention to, especially if they represent a change from what's normal for you." Changes in the smell of your gas or a "WTF?" bowel movement could signal a bacterial infection or a deeper dietary issue.

The bottom line: If an out-of-the-ordinary odor is throwing you off, don't hesitate to see a care provider.

How to tell if you have body odor

Odd smells on your breath may be about more than what you ate for dinner.

Many people feel self-conscious about body or breath odor and may wish to cover it up with deodorant, perfume or mouthwash. But by just masking smells, people could be ignoring serious health issues, according to medical experts.

Catch your breath

Do you notice your breath smelling fruity? It may not just be the peach you had with lunch, but rather a very serious medical complication of diabetes. Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) occurs when your body is running low on insulin, causing your blood sugar to spike, Robert Gabbay tells Men’s Health. Gabbay, chief medical officer at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, said that the condition is more common in people with type 1 diabetes than type 2.

With this condition, your body isn’t creating the energy needed to function properly, and it breaks down fatty acids for fuel, which creates a build-up of acidic chemicals called ketones in the blood. One such acid, acetone, causes the fruity smell, Gabbay said. DKA can be a significant health problem, even leading to diabetic coma or death, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). If you notice the smell along with other symptoms such as a very dry mouth, difficulty breathing and abdominal pain, ADA recommends contacting your health care provider or going to the emergency room immediately.

On the other side of the breath spectrum, a foul smell could be a warning sign of undiagnosed sleep apnea, especially if you brush your teeth regularly. Sleep apnea causes breathing to stop and start while you sleep and makes your mouth very dry, a common cause of bad breath. The condition leaves sufferers chronically tired and also at greater risk for diabetes, stroke, heart disease and memory loss. If you have good dental hygiene but are still waking up with bad breath, it may be time to talk with your doctor.

Skin conditions

While some body odor is normal, a particularly strong smell could be a sign of skin disease, doctor and author Jennifer Stagg tells Bustle. "Skin infections can present with a putrid odor from the byproducts of bacterial growth. Gangrene, which is dying tissue, has one of the most offensive odors and smells like rotting meat."

Internal health issues may result in unpleasant body odors (BO), as well, such as liver and kidney disease and hyperthyroidism, which can lead to excessive sweat and increased BO. Stagg recommends talking with your doctor if you notice a strong smell from your skin.