Why does sweat have a bad smell?

Do you release an unpleasant odour as soon as you move a bit or get stressed? Read the following to understand why sweat sometimes smells bad and what you can do to control it.

Two types of glands

Sweat is released by glands located in the skin.

Eccrine glands are the most widespread. They are all over the body, but in greater numbers on the forehead, palms of the hands, and soles of the feet. These glands secrete an odourless perspiration that is mainly composed of water and salt.

Apocrine glands are mainly found in areas covered in body hair, such as the armpits and genitals. They become active at puberty. They secrete a milky sweat that doesn’t have an odour. However, it is decomposed by skin bacteria, and this is what causes the unpleasant smell.

Why do we sweat?

Perspiration is an essential mechanism that maintains our body temperature at a level that is optimal for our health (approximately 37°C).

Stress and emotions can also activate the sweat glands, especially those located on the soles of the feet, the palms of the hands, the forehead and the armpits.

Some people suffer from hyperhidrosis. These individuals secrete an extreme amount of sweat and require medical treatment.

Deodorant or antiperspirant?

A deodorant is designed to mask or reduce bad odours, by using a perfume or by reducing the amount of bacteria on the skin. It doesn’t reduce the amount of sweat being produced.

An antiperspirant temporarily blocks the sweat gland ducts, which reduces the amount of sweat released. Many antiperspirants are also deodorants.

To get the most out of your antiperspirant:

  • Apply it on completely dry skin. For example, after showering, use a hair-dryer on the cool setting to completely dry your armpits before application.
  • Apply it at bedtime when the sweat glands are less active (unless otherwise indicated on the label).

If you’re not sure which product to choose, or your usual brand is not effective enough, don’t hesitate to ask your pharmacist for advice!

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