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Armpit sweat smells bad because of a combination of factors including scent glands and bacteria accumulation.

The sweat glands in the armpits are Apocrine sweat glands. Instead of only sweat, they additionally produce a mixture of lipids and proteins. The bacteria on the skin love that mixture, eat it up, and produce waste products. It is those waste products that create the bad smell.

The two different types of sweat glands are the normal Eccrine and those Apocrine. The latter occur where there is lots of hair, and that also includes pubic hair as well as hair on the back and other areas of the body.

Different bacteria live only on their own unique parts of the body and have their own distinct smell. For example, if you scratch your feet and then the armpits, that will not make the armpits smell like feet!

What Are The Purposes Of Sweat?

Sweating helps to serve three primary purposes - emitting scent, lubricating parts of the body, as well as cooling the body. Sweat evaporates and this thermal transfer cools the body to help regulate the body's temperature. 

When it comes to armpit and pubic hair, they act as act as "dry lubricants" to prevent skin-on-skin, which leads to rashes, friction, and chafing. However, sometimes hair alone just isn’t enough and oil is released to help movement without friction damaging the skin. When you move more, you sweat more oil for lubrication and more water for cooling. Pubic and armpit hair is meant to hold onto some smell, as we use it to identify each other. Many people are intrigued by the smell of their loved ones and, when alone, will be happy to sleep with that person's pillow or a piece of clothing to create a better night's sleep. That however is something to explore in a different article.

Additionally, apocrine glands are part of the hair follicle, so the excretions will also help to nourish the hair.


The Battle Between Bacteria And Fungi

There is a constant battle that goes on between them on our bodies. The fungi prefer heads, torsos, and feet, especially when there are more than 80 types of fungi living on our heels. Bacteria seem to prefer arms, armpits, torsos, genitalia, and other parts. We are used for shelter and food but in a non-harmful way. They are also said to act as an immune system, because, if our bodies are full of organisms, the more harmful fungi and bacteria have a harder time trying to gain a foothold. Both bacteria and fungi can lead to gross smells from our bodies and this especially includes armpits wear bacteria can get trapped and grow if not properly cleaned on a regular basis.


Why Is Some Sweat More Pungent Than Other Sweat?

When not open to the air and able to dry out, the bacteria thrive in such moist and trapped places and begin to emit the bad odor.

Ironically, we distinguish and recognize the odor, which is similar to fingerprints. Each person has a unique combination which in turn makes a unique smell, and we don't really mind that smell.

By instinct, people are drawn to a person's smell when that person has an immune system that matches theirs because it attracts love-making and makes better offspring!


Different Races Of People Sweat Differently

All humans sweat. However, just as various other parts of our bodies are different from one group of people to another, we also sweat differently. Humans have two types of sweat glands, Eccrine and Apocrine. While eccrine sweat glands are found all over the body and are found most densely in the palms of our hands and soles of our feet, apocrine sweat glands are most commonly found in our arm pits and groin area but also around nipples and eye lids. Eccrine sweat glands serve mainly to help cool the body while apocrine sweat glands actually function as scent glands and emit an odor even when the person is perfectly clean.

While there are wide variations among various individuals, certain races have been noted to include unique variations in terms of how many of each they have on the body. One example is East Asians, including Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, and Mongolians. This group of people generally have fewer apocrine sweat glands. While some people say that Asians don't need to use deodorant, the scent emitted by the apocrine glands is different than body odor created by bacteria and poor hygiene.


What Can Be Done About Body Odor Smell When It Is Too Pungent?

Frequent washing is the best solution to eliminating body odor from sweating too much. While antiperspirant, deodorant, and colognes will help mask the odor, they are not solutions. Here are some other ways that you can help mitigate body odor.

  • Drink more water and make some appropriate changes in your diet. Water is good, when evaporating, for dissipating heat.
  • A thorough bath with soap will not wipe out every bacteria. The skin has millions of valleys and crests for them to hide in.
  • Find a deodorant that works for you. There is a deodorant that is like a salt rock. When you get it wet, it releases a chemical that supposedly interacts with the bacteria to neutralize the smell. The type of bacteria that live in armpits are not able to live in a salty environment, so they bleed out their water, dry up, and die. Make your own such deodorant with water and sea salt and mix it up in a spray bottle.
  • An amusing story is that Steve Jobs thought that eating strawberries could eliminate the need to wear deodorant, but those around him did not agree!
  • Use hand sanitizer to rub your hands and armpits to instantly kill the smell, and the alcohol evaporates quickly. In a shower, use hand sanitizer and a paper towel.. A sponge bath doesn't do much about that soaked-in smell.
  • Antibacterial soap very effectively cuts down on the offensive odor.
  • Definitely do not take oral antibiotics as they will weaken your immune system and not do anything about the bacteria.
  • Use baby wipes.

While armpit sweat is not the only place on your body that will create a foul smelling body odor, it is certainly one of the worst offenders for a variety of reasons. 

Written by:
#MenWhoBlog MemberBlogging GuruThought Leader

James' passion for exploration and sense of duty to his community extends beyond himself. This means he is dedicated to providing a positive role model for other men and especially younger guys that need support so that they can thrive and be future positive contributors to society. This includes sharing wisdom, ideas, tips, and advice on subjects that all men should be familiar with, including: family travel, men's health, relationships, DIY advice for home and yard, car care, food, drinks, and technology. Additionally, he's a travel advisor and a leading men's travel influencer who has been featured in media ranging from New York Times to the Chicago Tribune, and LA Times. He's also been cited by LA Weekly "Top Travel Bloggers To Watch 2023" and featured by Muck Rack: "Top 10 Outdoor Journalists for 2022".

He and his wife Heather live in St Joseph, Michigan - across the lake from Chicago.