Nearly everyone smells from time to time, it's just a fact of life (and biology). It can be embarrassing if you feel as though you sweat quite a bit or noticeably stink, especially if it's due to a seemingly uncontrollable condition. And while you might think that there's not all that much to know about sweat or body odor, there's more to it than meets the eye. These strange and fascinating things you didn't know about female body odor might give you some added insight into your own circumstances (or those of someone close to you) and tell you more about body odor than you ever considered there was to know.
Sweat and body odor of all kinds (bad breath, smelly feet, vaginal odor, smelly armpits, and more) can be more than a little bit mortifying because they're things that other people can potentially see or smell. They're not always something that you can easily hide from others either. Amidst some of the strange things you don't know about female body odor, there might also be some misconceptions about what causes the odors, how they can change, or which parts of the body might be affected.
If you feel as though you sweat or smell an excessive amount, you might want to talk to your doctor who can help you determine what might be causing it and help you move forward.
1. It's Not Your Sweat That Smells
Though you might think that the copious amount of sweat all over your body after a particularly difficult workout is what's making you a little smelly, but that's actually a common misconception. As UCLA Health noted on ShareCare, it's actually the intermingling of bacteria present on your skin and the secretions your body releases that cause the stench.
2. The Medication You're Taking Might Make You Stink
You may have heard that things like garlic and onions can affect the way your body (and breath, of course) smells, but you might be less familiar with the idea that the medications you're taking can also make you a little bit smellier than usual. Dr. James Wantuck, MD, a co-founder of online urgent care provider PlushCare, told Reader's Digest that penicillin is one such medication that could affect the way you smell.
3. Your Hair Probably Smells
In an interview with The Scope, from University of Utah Health Radio, Dr. Kirtly Parker Jones, MD, vice-chair of education and professor emeritus in the department of obstetrics/gynecology at the University of Utah, said that the way your hair smells is a combination of the secretions from sweat glands and the oil gland attached to each hair. Plus, she said, your pubic and armpit hair have what are called eccrine glands, which also affect the way you smell.
Think about it, your hair starts to smell a little "dirty" after a few days, right? It's because of these glands and oils.
4. Laser Hair Removal Might Make Your Scent Worse
Wantuck told Reader's Digest in the aforementioned article that there have been some "case reports" that people have experienced exceptionally bad bouts of body odor after getting whole-body laser hair removal. More study is likely needed on this subject, but if you feel like your body odor is worse after whole-body laser hair removal, you might want to discuss the topic with your doctor or potentially try another form of hair removal.
5. Stress Changes The Way You Smell
Gary Beauchamp, a biopsychologist and the former director of the Monell Chemical Senses Center, told Prevention that when you're stressed, your body odor changes slightly because the stress adds a bit of a different layer to your typical scent. Stress really does affect just about everything.
6. It Might Be Able To Tell The World You're Ovulating
You might not have ever thought that you smelled better or sexier at different times of the month, but that actually might be the case. A 2001 study found that men thought that women's clothing smelled better when they were ovulating than when they weren't. The authors of the study concluded that it's possible that the way that a woman smells while ovulating might play a role in "mate selection."
7. It Smells Like Onions
A 2009 study conducted by a team of researchers in Switzerland found that female sweat tends to smell like onions and tropical fruits. Though it might not be so bad to smell overwhelmingly of something like passion fruit, smelling like onions isn't quite as appealing.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.