Does Your Sweat Smell Worse When You’re Stressed? This Is Why

November 13, 2018

When you get really stressed out about something, your body reacts in a physical way: your heart rate speeds up, your muscles feel tight, your stomach might start to hurt, your blood pressure rises, and you might even notice yourself sweating more than usual. You might also notice that that sweat smells, well, bad. Like really bad, in a way that makes you think, “Does my sweat always smell like this?!” So, does your sweat really smell worse when you’re stressed out?

The answer, surprisingly, is yes — your sweat definitely gets a little funkier when you’re feeling super nervous and anxious about something. The explanation? There are three different types of sweat, and the kind that happens when you’re freaking out about something is the smelliest.

Sweating from stress is an evolutionary response.


According to Thompson Tee, “When you experience stress, the brain releases adrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream.” The nervous system is triggered to start sweating, and as your body essentially goes into overdrive, you sweat to make up for all of that work it’s doing.

Dr. Elizabeth A. Liotta, board certified dermatologist, explained this in detail to Healthy Women, saying that when you sweat because of stress, it “comes from the eccrine glands — where sweat from activity and heat comes from — as well as from the appocrine glands. The appocrine glands are larger and are found primarily in the underarm area. This stress sweat contains a lot of the nutrients that bacteria feed off of, and it’s the bacteria feeding off of sweat that produces most of the resulting odor. That means that stress-induced sweat smells worse than sweat from other causes.”

But wait — it gets more annoying!


Liotta says that your body produces more sweat in stressful situations than other times, and your underarms “can sweat an average of 30 times more than when at rest.”

Plus, since this kind of sweat isn’t happening because of your external body temperature, it’s almost impossible to control. On top of that, smelling that stress can trigger you to sweat even more. And worrying that you’re going to sweat when you’re stressed is also probably going to make you sweat. It’s a vicious cycle.

Preventing this smelly situation isn’t just about putting on extra deodorant — you need to actually keep yourself from stressing out. Dr. Kathirae Severson, an internal medicine physician at Piedmont Physicians Group, told Piedmont, “Talcum powder or medicated powder are also good options to help slow bacterial growth, which will minimize odor. But, if you’re a stress sweater, it’s important to get to the root of the problem. Exercise, meditation, and therapy are all viable options to help minimize the stress in your life.”

So, if you’re a big stress sweater, the only thing you can really do is learn how to calm yourself down… and hope no one around you has a sensitive sense of smell. In all seriousness, it’s happened to all of us, so it’s nothing to freak out over. Just try to relax and don’t focus on the sweat, and it will eventually calm down.