Why Do My Armpits Smell So Bad?

Body odor might have a negative connotation, even if it’s perfectly natural. Still, it’s unlikely you feel comfortable walking around with noticeably smelly armpits. But what can lead to stinky underarms, and how might you go about combatting unwelcome body odors?


What Do My Armpits Stink All of a Sudden

Why do armpits smell, in the first place? In the simplest sense, stink happens when sweat encounters bacteria on the skin.

Now, sweating is inherently healthy. It helps to maintain your body’s internal temperature. Additionally, the amount you sweat doesn’t equate to the power of your body odor. Still, sweating can lead to stench.

Your skin contains eccrine and apocrine sweat glands. The latter open into hair follicles and can be found in the armpits. When sweat comes in contact with bacteria, a smell is produced. Sometimes that smell is less-than-desirable. Considering you have millions of sweat glands on your skin, it makes sense that you may occasionally experience stinky odor.

Additionally, everyone has a different microbiome—a diverse colony of microorganisms, including bacteria, that live on your body and work with the immune system to fight microbes. No matter your gender, hormonal changes and fluctuations in levels throughout a given day, month, or year can affect how much you sweat and the aromas you give off.

So, that’s the basis for explaining why your armpits might smell. Here are some other questions about body odors:

  • “Can lack of sleep impact body odor?” Yes, things like stress and anxiety can contribute to odorous aromas. And if you are sleeping, night sweats (more common in pregnancy, menopause and men with low testosterone) might also result in smell.
  • “Why do I smell after a night of drinking?” Aside from increasing the propensity to sweat, alcohol and other food and drink can occasionally contribute to stink. We’ll dive deeper into how a balanced diet can help reduce foul odors below.
  • “Was I born this way?” Maybe. Genetics play a role in body odor. Variants in the ABCC11 gene cause odor differentiation, and some individuals are practically devoid of body odor. Regardless of your composition, you can take actionable steps to help mitigate smelliness.

  • Women Aren’t Excluded from Odorous Armpits

    woman after shower in towel air out armpits sweat

    In general, persons assigned male at birth have more apocrine glands, which explains why they are more susceptible to smelly armpits and general body odors. However, women also deal with armpit bacteria. Not all these bacteria are bad. But your unique microbiome can manifest bacteria that, when engaged with sweat, results in smelly underarms.

    The number of sweat glands isn’t the only factor in body odor. Remember, hormonal changes—including those stemming from a rise in stress and or anxiety—can contribute to stinky armpits. Menopause can also lead to a change in an individual’s typical scent.

    Why Do I Still Smell After a Shower?

    It feels good to refresh in the shower after a long workout, doesn’t it? Feeling like you’re still sweaty or stinky after cleaning up ... not as much. Fear not. Sweating after a shower is far from unusual.

    Typically, steam and water vapor from taking a shower result in a more humid bathroom. Moreover, hot water still on the body keeps warming the skin after a shower, which can give rise to additional sweatiness. If you still smell after taking a shower, you might not be thorough enough in your cleansing methods. Perhaps you forgot to wash your armpits or other sensitive areas entirely. Antibacterial soaps and scrubs can also help.

    In order to help avoid sweating after showering, try some of the following strategies:

    • Wait 20-30 minutes after a workout before lathering up.
    • Slowly lower the water temperature before you finish your shower.
    • Douse your hair in cold water at the start of your shower to jumpstart the process of cooling down.

    Ogres Might Be Like Onions… But Why Do Human Underarms Smell Like Them?

    If you’ve seen the film Shrek, you might recall the scene in which the famously ill-mannered ogre likens himself to an onion with many layers that need to be peeled back to reveal his true self. Simultaneously, you might wonder: “OK, but why in the world do my armpits smell like onions?”

    Do not be alarmed. This is perfectly natural, even if it “stinks.”

    When the sweat from your glands meets the bacteria on your skin, it breaks down into products called thioalcohols. The thioalcohols give off a strong, often sulfurous scent that can also be comparable to onions or meat. Genetics plays a role in how many thioalcohols your body produces. Just like onions, some people have a more pungent smell than others.

    Save your tears for the cutting board. Fight back against thioalcohols and onion smell with antiperspirant or deodorant.

    Can Sweat Result in Persistent Stink Even After Using Deodorant?

    man smiling in mirror applying deodorant under arm

    It certainly can. ARM & HAMMER™ has both scented and unscented deodorant products that help prevent stinky armpits by using Baking Soda to neutralize odors. However, unlike antiperspirant, deodorant does not block sweat. Thus, the potential mingling of sweat and bacteria might lead to unexpected odors even after deodorant has been applied.

    People sometimes use these two terms interchangeably, but there are differences in using antiperspirant vs. deodorant.

    Excessive Sweating? Try an Antiperspirant!

    Antiperspirants have aluminum salts that block skin pores to help stop sweat from reaching the surface. They are also an option for combatting hyperhidrosis, a condition that causes excessive sweating.

    Indeed, even people with hyperhidrosis should still have antiperspirant in their toolbox before resorting to surgery or other remedies. ARM & HAMMER™ has scented and unscented antiperspirants that can help limit sweat and stink, including ULTRAMAX™ Solid Antiperspirant Deodorant, Fresh Scent.

    Eating Healthy: How a Balanced Diet can Help Prevent Stinky Armpits

    Be aware that sulfur-rich foods can sneakily be a cause for body odor and, possibly, smelly armpits. Vegetables are a culprit here, especially onions, cabbage and cauliflower. Some of the more conspicuous triggers of bad body odor are caffeine, alcohol and red meat. Spicy or hot food can also lead to stink, as can junk food.

    Of course, it’s pretty ridiculous to suggest you should stop eating your veggies. Even still, try mixing in some of these foods as you try to avoid armpit stink.

    • Citrus fruits such as oranges
    • Herbs that contain chlorophyll, such as parsley, cilantro and mint
    • Yogurt

    Other Tips to Help Prevent Armpit and Body Odor

    Aside from dietary considerations, try taking these steps to help limit armpit odor:

    • Practice good hygiene... and often.
    • Make sure to fully towel yourself off after showering.
    • Change clothes frequently and consider wearing loose-fitting clothes
    • Get ample rest, exercise, meditate... whatever helps you reduce stress.
    • Wear a deodorant to help neutralize and mask armpit odor, or an antiperspirant to help reduce sweating.

    What an Incredible Smell You Discovered! Now, Let’s Address It

    Now that you know some of the factors that play a role in why your armpits might smell bad, you can take steps to address body odor! Try some of these ARM & HAMMER™ deodorants and antiperspirants to fight odors and feel like your most comfortable self.

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