Why Stress Sweat Smells Worse

Ever notice you smell more when you’re stressed out?

The ‘return to work’ is something we’ve either excitedly anticipated or truly dreaded.

As offices start to fill up again and in-person meetings become a reality, we can’t help noticing the stress induced sweat that it’s causing. It’s a bit like the first day of secondary school, on repeat.

You’ve agonized over your outfit, packed and repacked your bag 4 times, and made sure that your skirt isn’t tucked into your pants. 

But as you get closer to the office the thought of standing up in front of the whole team and giving your carefully planned presentation is filling your stomach with those familiar butterflies. 

Flushed, you realise you’re sweating. 

Great. Now you’re going to have to watch your colleagues edge slowly away from you as the meeting rolls on. Not quite the #girlboss vibes you were hoping to channel. 

At least when we were all on Zoom you could smell like the curry you had for dinner last night and no one would know.

Stress can be Beneficial in Small Doses

You may not realize it, but a little bit of stress is good for you. In small doses, it can make you more perceptive, productive, and creative, by making neural connections stronger, and forcing your brain to be more focused (The Research Group). It can even improve your relationships!

But too much stress can have all sorts of negative effects before we even get to damp armpits and anxiety about whether everyone else in the room is subtly sniffing the air. 

Why Stress Sweat Smells Worse

So what’s the deal? Why, on top of whatever it is we’re already worrying about, do we have to deal with stronger smelling sweat? 

Stress sweat vs Regular Sweat

Grab your goggles; it’s time for the science bit (swishes hair).

Humans have two different types of sweat glands: Apocrine and Eccrine. They’re found in different places on your body, and they produce different kinds of sweat. (I know, this was definitely not covered in your GCSE biology exam.)

Eccrine Sweat Glands

When you exercise, or you spend time in a hot place (so, your spin class or those 4 days in July when we get Summer here in the UK), you activate your Eccrine sweat glands. Found all over your body, these glands have one job – to cool you down.

They produce a watery sweat that covers your body, and then evaporates, bringing a cooling sensation. This type of sweat tends to be odourless, although it can be a little annoying. 

Apocrine Sweat Glands

When you’re stressed, your body gets flooded with hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Your heart rate increases and your muscles tense. You’ll feel hot, and panicky. 

This is when your Apocrine sweat glands are activated. These glands are found mostly in your underarms, your genital area, and on your feet (yes, really). They produce a thicker, fatty sweat that contains proteins and lipids.

The problem is, bacteria love proteins and lipids and they are big fans of this type of sweat. When bacteria mix with the sweat, they create a stronger body odour than the smell from your Eccrine sweat glands.

How our Deodorants Combat Body Odour

Ok, so now you know why stress sweat smells worse, what can you do when this happens in real life?

First up: Find an effective deodorant:

Our deodorants use natural minerals and salts to get rid of the annoying odour-causing bacteria. They’re also raring to go from the second you apply them, while antiperspirant usually takes a few hours to wake up and get going. And we don’t believe in this “reapply when needed” phrase. Our 100% natural formula offers all-day odour protection, no matter how many presentations you have to get through.  

More tips to make sure you always smell great!

Healthy bodies sweat, and unless you’re willing to undergo pretty drastic measures, yours will too. But there are some simple tweaks you can make to reduce the body odour that comes from stress sweat.

  • Wear natural fabrics: when you wear synthetic fabrics, the sweat and bacteria get trapped in the spaces between the fibres, so the smell sticks around. Natural fibres, such as cotton or linen, are breathable, and let the moisture away from the skin before the annoying bacteria can feast on it. 
  • Watch what you eat: weirdly, foods containing sulphur (such as red meat, cruciferous veggies, and eggs) can make your sweat smell worse. A high level of the compound in your diet can mean the excess comes out through your sweat glands – yummy!
  • Choose a simple wash routine: washing with natural soap and cool water can make sure your skin is clear of odour-causing bacteria. They like warm, damp places. So keep it cool and make sure you dry properly after your shower.
  • Apply deodorant: use a natural deodorant like ours, obvs!
  • Breathe deeply: breathing exercises such as diaphragmatic breathing can reduce stress quickly. Try this exercise from Headspace and bring on the calm! 

So, whatever stressful situation you’re gearing up to face, now you can be safe in the knowledge that the only things people will notice are your kick-ass attitude and fabulous shoes!

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