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What causes sweaty skin to smell?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine

Body odor or BO, as it is affectionately called, is not due to perspiration per se, but rather the bacteria that feast on its chemicals.

 

Sweat is actually completely odorless until it comes into contact with bacteria that normally live on the surface of our skin. The bacteria break down the proteins and fats in sweat into fatty acids and ammonia. The result? Fairly putrid BO. People with certain metabolic disorders are at higher risk of body odor, and they can produce odors that smell like fish. Talk to your doctor about what options (other than deodorant) might work for you.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.