What does body odor smell like?

Body odor is what you smell when sweat comes in contact with bacteria on your skin. Sweat itself doesn't smell, but when skin bacteria mix with sweat, they produce an odor. Body odor may smell sweet, sour, spicy, or onion. The amount you sweat doesn't necessarily affect body odor.

When it comes out of our pores, sweat is relatively odourless. A powerful scent emerges when bacteria that live in our armpits devour sweat as food and release intoxicating odors as a by-product. Compounds that are transported through the blood can also be released through the sweat glands. This can cause your armpits and skin to smell bad.

It's normal for stress to cause the release of foul-smelling compounds through sweat. Sweating and body odor are caused by the body's sweat glands. The two main types of sweat glands are the eccrine glands and the apocrine glands. Eccrine glands are found in most parts of the body and open directly onto the surface of the skin.

When the body temperature rises, these glands release fluids that cool the body as they evaporate. A fruity smell can indicate diabetes due to high levels of ketones in the bloodstream, while liver or kidney disease can often cause a bleach or ammonia smell due to the build-up of toxins in the body. As a professional olfactory at the New Jersey-based company Sensory Spectrum, she smells things for a living, to help companies evaluate the aromas of a new coffee infusion, or to assess whether a deodorant successfully blocks body odor. Law enforcement officers have long realized that people who arrive for questioning smell of their own personality, but leave with a very similar smell after the stressful interrogation.

Shari Bugarin
Shari Bugarin

Professional food ninja. Unapologetic food maven. Hipster-friendly social media fanatic. Freelance coffee maven. Subtly charming music trailblazer.