What the smell of your sweat means

Have you ever noticed how some people can sweat buckets and smell like rain…

But others? Well, let’s just say you wouldn’t want to have to sit next to them in a crowded room for too long.

Despite playground taunts, some of us aren’t born stinkier than the next person. It all comes down to what’s causing you to sweat…

Sweat caused by heat or exercise is different from stress sweat — and it’s the stress sweat that is actually quite smelly.

In fact, sweat caused by stress not only smells worse, but also affects how people perceive you. Stinky stress sweat gives off the smelly illusion that you are less confident, competent, or trustworthy to the people that pick up your scent.

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Why we sweat differently

What is so different about the kind of sweat a person exudes while working out or playing hard versus the kind of sweat that drenches someone before a job interview?

For starters, sweat caused by heat or exercise and sweat brought on by stress come from different glands.

Exercise or heat sweat comes from your eccrine glands that are located all over your body. That’s why it seems to pop out in little beads everywhere. These glands produce sweat that is made up almost entirely of water, so it tends to be odorless.

Stress sweat on the other hand, is not produced by these eccrine glands. Instead, it comes from an apocrine gland — glands found in your underarms, genitals, and the bottoms of your feet. They produce stinky sweat for two reasons…

Number one, the sweat from these glands isn’t just made up of water — it also contains the byproducts of proteins and fats. And, number two, the locations of these glands tend to have a lot of bacteria. When you add those two together, you get that nasty smell.

This is because the bacteria in your armpits and lurking on your feet love to feed off of the proteins and fats in your stress sweat. And when they do, they produce that noxious odor. You know it if you’ve ever experienced it…

When you’re under stress and start sweating, smelling that stink only makes your stress worse, creating an endless loop of more stress and more smell.

So, how can you beat this smelly problem?

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Don’t let stress make you stinky

If stress is your sweat trigger, you need to work on how you handle that emotion before tackling your armpits.

The first thing to do is to change your perspective about what happens when you feel stressed. According to my colleague Craig Cooper, stress may actually be good for you…

Studies indicate that people who have a robust short-term stress response — a pounding heart, a sweaty brow, rapid breathing — heal better after surgery or vaccination, and they may respond better to cancer treatment. Exercise and sex — which are unequivocally good for you — both stimulate a hormonal response similar to what happens when you get charged by an angry pitbull…

So the next time you’re heart starts racing, imagine it as a fitness challenge. Changing the way your brain perceives stress just may change the way your body reacts to it.

Next, check your pH levels. Foods, medication, hormones and stress can affect the alkaline/acid balance of your body. Your pH level should be in a slightly alkaline range of 7.35 to 7.45. But the pH of the skin is ideally around 4.5. Harsh products can change that and make the skin hospitable to bacteria that smell bad when combined with sweat.

Lastly, stop relying on dangerous clinical strength antiperspirants.

These chemical-laden sticks lock in your sweat, preventing your glands from de-toxifying. This can create a whole host of problems on its own. Conventional antiperspirants also contain a high percentage of aluminum as their active ingredient.  This metal has been linked to everything from Alzheimer’s to breast cancer.

Luckily, there are many natural deodorant alternatives on the market today that do not contain aluminum so that you can feel more confident about your odor-busting choices.

However, if you would like to have complete control over the ingredients you are applying to your skin, as well as have the ability to tweak it to your body’s chemistry, here’s a simple recipe I came across that uses all-natural ingredients that have antibacterial properties and smell pleasant:

  • Mix equal parts arrowroot powder or cornstarch and baking soda (about 1/4 cup each)
  • Stir in enough coconut oil to moisten the mixture, but not so much that it’s wet (about 6-8 Tbsp.)
  • Add 10-15 drops each of peppermint essential oil and patchouli
  • Add 5-10 drops of cedarwood essential oil
  • Store in a glass jar, such as a small mason jar

You can always pick your own essential oils to add scent to the mix and make a deodorant that is unique to you. Always do a spot test to make sure there is no irritation from the essential oil you use, as the skin in your armpit can be rather delicate.

If you can, let switching to a natural deodorant be your first step in detoxing your personal environment. The average woman uses over 15 toxic personal care products per day (about 6 for men), with roughly 120 chemicals spread out among their contents, many of which are incompletely tested for toxicity.

Editor’s note: Did you know that when you take your body from acid to alkaline you can boost your energy, lose weight, soothe digestion, avoid illness and achieve wellness? Click here to discover The Alkaline Secret to Ultimate Vitality and revive your life today!

  1. Antiperspirant Safety: Should You Sweat It? — WebMD
  2. Non-toxic DIY Deodorant with Naturally Antibacterial Essential Oils — The Soft Landing


Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

By Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

Dr. Adria Schmedthorst is a board-certified Doctor of Chiropractic, with more than 20 years of experience. She has dedicated herself to helping others enjoy life at every age through the use of alternative medicine and natural wellness options. Dr. Schmedthorst enjoys sharing her knowledge with the alternative healthcare community, providing solutions for men and women who are ready to take control of their health the natural way.