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How Stress Changes the Smell of Your Sweat

Why you really shouldn't sweat the small stuff.

We all sweat, it’s just a normal part of daily life and is caused heat or physical activity, but does your sweat smell different, depending on what caused it? Imagine being able to recognize that someone is stressed just by the smell of their body odor? It’s an unsettling thought, but apparently, this happens when you stress sweat, and the reason is that this sweat comes from a different gland.

You have two types of sweat glands; Eccrine glands and apocrine glands. According to Men’s Health, eccrine glands produce the sort of sweat that you’re used to, and it happens when your body temperature rises, like after a workout or a run. This sweat happens all over the body (the glands are located all over the body) and is used to cool down the body when it evaporates. But when you’re under psychologically stress, the cold sweat comes from the apocrine glands (mostly located in your underarms, as well as a few in your groin), and this sweat tends to have a more pungent smell.

According to Refinery29, another difference in this sweat is that the sweat produced by your eccrine glands is mostly water (99 percent), but the apocrine glands sweat is only 80 percent water, combined with proteins and lipids. These are the nutrients which the bacteria naturally found on your body feed off, which in turn produces the odor.

Associate professor of dermatology, Ramsey Markus, MD, told Refinery29 that the signals for stress sweat come from different parts of your brain and it’s getting you ready for action, much like the fight or flight mode. This could have come in useful for our ancestors, but considering in 2018, and we aren’t wielding swords or being forced to run away from saber-toothed big cats, it’s really just quite annoying.

So, is there a way to put an end to this stress sweat? A strong antiperspirant may do the job, but it’s better to get to the root cause and deal with it that way, like learning to calm yourself down in a stressful situation. But until you learn the art of meditation, practice deep breathing, or find a particularly soothing playlist, ensure your armpit hair is trimmed because excess hair actually traps the oils and gives the bacteria more to feed off.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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