The Science of Sweat: Why Does Sweat Smell?

Why does sweat smell? Sweating is part biology, part physics and part chemistry but it's all pretty simple when you dissect the facts. It's one of the signs of a healthy integumentary system. Let's review our notes with a short lesson on one of our skin's essential functions.


a. Sebum
b. Epidermis
c. Dermis
d. Eccrine Sweat Gland
e. Apocrine Sweat Gland
f. Fatty Tissue
g. Oil Gland
h. Deodorant usage
i. Antiperspirant usage


Why do we sweat?

When sweat evaporates from the surface of your skin, the process removes excess body heat and cools you. It's physics 101: A substance in gas form has more energy than the liquid form at the same temperature. To change a liquid into a gas, it requires heat energy. Therefore, your body heat is transferred to sweat to evaporate it from liquid to vapour. Essential if you're in a desert. However, when we are nervous, have emotional stress and 'fight or flight' responses, this produces an increase in epinephrine (adrenaline) secretion. In turn, acting on our sweat glands to make sweat - hence that 'cold sweat' feeling when asking out a hot date.

But, that's not the whole story there. There are two types of sweat gland: eccrine and apocrine.


Eccrine Sweat

When the eccrine sweat gland is stimulated, our cells secrete a fluid similar to plasma through a tubule to the surface of the skin. The plasma is mostly water with high concentrations of sodium and chloride and a low concentration of potassium.

Apocrine Sweat

Your main apocrine glands reside in the underarm and in genital regions, inactive until puberty - hence the sudden need to use deodorant when we enter our teens. Sweat is produced in the apocrine glands in the same way as eccrine however, its sweat contains proteins and fatty acids. These substances give this apocrine sweat a thicker texture and a milky-yellow colour.

Apocrine sweat glands continuously secrete a fatty sweat via the tubule above. Emotional stress causes the tubule wall to contract, expelling the fatty secretion to the skin. It's this Apocrine sweat that the bacteria, naturally present on our skin, love. They break it down into odorous fatty acids to consume, hence the unpleasant smell that comes after sweating.


Battling Bacteria

So, if bacteria metabolising fatty acids & proteins in sweat secretions is the main cause of sweat odour, how do we combat them effectively? Well, there's some core methods of hygiene that can help:

1. Regular bathing or showering, scrubbing with something and a natural soap that's kind on your skin - especially after exercise or intense sweating. This will wash away the stale sweat that bacteria loves. Easy so far right?

2. The more hair in your armpits (or... down there), the more suitable the environment is for odour-causing bacteria to thrive. If you want a boost, consider a bit of a trim or bodyscaping to make life easier... for everyone. 

3. Apply nature's own weapons to combat the bacteria that are left on your skin. Reapply as needed throughout the day. Apply something that's part delicious fragrance and part anti-bacterial cocktail. Something that's packed with botanical goodness. Something a little like this:

Spice Natural Deodorant Triumph & Disaster


Anti-Perspirant Vs Deodorant

The difference is clear in the diagram above. Antiperspirants aim to block sweat from coming out entirely. Standard deodorants aim to mask the odour caused by sweat. Triumph & Disaster's low pH deodorant attacks the bacteria causing odour with natural sodium bicarbonate and botanicals as well as applying a bespoke fragrance to neutralise odour.


At Triumph & Disaster, we're about working with the body's natural rhythm. We're not about stopping sweat. To do so is reckless and ignores the body's natural function. Humans are designed to sweat, armpits in particular, have evolved as a key area to release toxins. Mess with this at your peril. Sending toxins from your armpits back into the body to overload other parts of our excretion and perspiration systems is not something we're interested in risking for the sake of a notion of self-confidence or curing minor discomfort. 

Shop Deodorant - Spice

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