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Sweat and Body Odor

Sweat is a clear, odorless (yes!) substance that's part of a natural and healthy bodily function. Designed to cool down and prevent overheating in the presence of external or internal factors, perspiration occurs with exposure to sun or other heat sources, exertion, stress or hormonal changes. As the sweat is allowed to evaporate, it regulates the temperature, thus cooling the body.

It has been found that females sweat less than males, but are still able to maintain a normal body temperature. Because female bodies evaporate sweat on their skin more efficiently, thus cooling the body without lot of perspiration, it makes them more efficient sweaters than males.

Interestingly, it’s not the perspiration itself that causes body odor, it’s the bacteria on the skin feasting on the sweat. The areas where body odor occurs, are mostly warm and unventilated, creating a perfect environment for bacteria to thrive. The bacteria, which feeds on the carbohydrate waste material, proteins, and lipids contained in the sweat, upon decomposition, leads to the bad body odor. As the bacteria digests the sweat, it causes molecules to break down and release the odor into the air, phew! Pesky little things!

But, let's back up. How is sweat produced in the first place?

Located all over the human body, millions of eccrine and apocrine glands are responsible for producing the sweat.

Eccrine Glands (source):

  • Found almost everywhere on the body, with the highest concentration in the palms, soles, and on the head.

  • Glands on palms and soles do not respond to temperature but do secrete at times of emotional stress.

  • Sweat made from these glands consist primarily of water and salt.

  • pH of 4.7-6.

  • Primary function is to regulate body’s temperature.

  • Secondary function is the removal of the waste by secreting water, sodium salts, and small portion of nitrogenous waste to the surface of the skin.

  • Active during both thermoregulation and during emotional induced sweating.

Apocrine Glands (source):

  • Found in the underarm and groin area and inactive until puberty.

  • Sweat is thicker.

  • pH of 6-7.5.

  • These typically larger glands, open into hair follicles instead of hairless skin areas.

  • Unlike the eccrine glands, apocrine glands play no part in the regulation of body temperature.

  • The function of these glands is still widely debated, but the stronger smelling sweat made by apocrine glands is often associated with the production of pheromones.

  • Also active during emotional induced sweating.

So what does that mean for us? Knowing how and why perspiration occurs helps to understand that a little sweat is normal and good for us which guides us to make better choices in defending against body odor without feeding the body unnecessary and questionable ingredients.


These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. For any medical concern you should consult with an appropriately-licensed physician or other health care worker. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. Full Medical Disclaimer.