Does stress smell? Yes, it certainly does! The cause of the smell is all thanks to sweat. Not ALL sweat smells bad, just STRESS sweat.
Sweat is produced in the deeper layer of skin called the dermis.
Sweat glands are located all over the body, however, mainly on the forehead, armpits, palms of our hands, soles of our feet and groin.
Why do we sweat?
The main function of sweat is to control our body’s temperature. Sweat consists mainly of water with some salts. The water evaporating from the skin surface acts to cool down the body.
The three primary causes of sweat are:
Physical activity, such as when you exercise.
High temperatures due to our environment
When you are stressing out in a meeting, exam or a hot date, the body produces stress sweat. Stress sweat, is different to the sweat that is produced when you are exercising or due to hot weather.
Where does all this sweat come from?
The eccrine glands produce the sweat due to exercise and high temperatures. Exercise or hot weather can produce a large amount of sweat and it contains about 99% water.
Stress sweat is produced by the apocrine glands, which are located in the underarms and groin. When we are stressed, the hormones adrenaline and cortisol are also produced. Some of the effects of these stress hormones include, increased heart rate, tensed muscles, dry mouth and smelly sweat.
Why does stress sweat smell?
Of the three types of sweat that live in our armpits, stress sweat is the worst smelling.
Stress sweat consists of 80% water, but what makes that type of sweat smell bad is due to the 20% proteins and lipids that it contains.
Bacteria love to ‘snack on’ proteins and lipids and that smells bad! More proteins and lipids means more bacterial growth. Consequently, when you are stressed, you sweat more, which means more bacteria, more bad odour, more stress and the vicious cycle continues.
Stress sweat and your image!
Scientific research has proven that the way you smell can impact your image.
The way you smell can influence the way people judge your confidence, trustworthiness and competence.
The chemicals and odour of stress sweat can negatively impact a person’s image. Hence, if people aren’t hanging out with you, it may be your stress sweat that makes you appear untrustworthy.
How to reduce stress sweat:
Most health related issues are influenced by the way we breathe and this has been proven through scientific research. Therefore, you can reduce stress by optimising your breathing technique. Begin by being mindful of your breathing and then consciously slow it down. You can slow down your breathing by gently breathing in from your nose, deep into your belly and then gently out of your mouth. Take up exercises that encourage ‘mindful’ breathing, like yoga, pilates or go for a swim. Check out, https://www.thebreathingclass.com/breathe-the-book/
The best way to prevent or reduce stress is by exercising daily. Get out there and move your body. Your mind will thank you and so will those around you. Check out ‘How to have happy and healthy skin’
Begin your day with a glass of water and aim to drink at least 8 glasses, that is 2 Litres, per day.
Eat a balanced diet, which includes vegetables, fruit, carbohydrates and proteins. A low glycemic index diet helps stabilize blood sugar levels, which in turn, helps to reduce stress on the body.
You can reduce sweating in those dark hidden spots, by applying an antiperspirant at least once per day. Antiperspirants contain the active ingredient, aluminium chlorohydrate, which works by blocking sweat glands. When sweat glands are blocked, moisture is prevented from reaching the skin surface.
If you want to avoid a rash, don’t shave before wearing an antiperspirant and make sure that your underarms are dry first.
Do not apply an antiperspirant to an area of your body that is chaffed or has a rash, as this may ‘burn’ your skin and cause an irritation. Remember, antiperspirants were designed for armpits only!
So, next time you find yourself in a stressful situation, be mindful of your breathing and drink water. Better still, help prevent stress sweat through exercise, eating healthily and by wearing a good antiperspirant.
Model Credit: Andrew McInnes (right) and Jonathon Kapetas (left)
Ballard, A. (n.d.). Stress Sweat Stinks . Retrieved 5 11, 2017 from International Hperhidrosis Society : http://www.sweathelp.org/hyperhidrosis-treatments/antiperspirants/antiperspirant-basics/170-media-contacts/305-stress-sweat-stinks.html
Levine, A. G. (2013, 10 21). A sticky concern: Your stress sweat makes you seem incompetant. Retrieved 5 11, 2017 from National Geographic: http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2013/10/21/a-stinky-concern-your-stress-sweat-makes-you-seem-incompetent/
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