This week, Mary decodes: Nervous sweat & why it smells so bad.
Nervous sweat (aka stress sweat) is something that I have experienced first hand. I was so stressed and nervous before doing one of the biggest presentations of my professional life; presenting to a group of over 200 investors, and Sephora merchants, in San Francisco for the Sephora Accelerate program.
Mary presenting at the Sephora Accelerate demo day conference.
Ironically, the presentation was about my natural deodorant company! Yes, I applied my deodorant and washed my underarms with anti-bacterial soap about 100 times as I was terrified I was going to smell after I walked off the stage and I will tell you why.
Why do you smell worse when you’re stressed or nervous?
When you’re stressed, your brain signals your body’s nervous system known as the ‘fight-or-flight’ center. Adrenaline and cortisol (a steroid hormone that helps the body respond to stress) is released into your bloodstream, which then activates the apocrine glands to start sweating. Odor-causing bacteria thrives on the fatty type of sweat produced from the apocrine glands, which creates a very unpleasant odor.
Photo by Benjamin Alexander Huseby
Nervous Sweat vs Normal Sweat
Your body has two different types of sweat glands.
Apocrine Sweat Glands
These are found mostly in your underarms area, genital area, and on your feet.
These glands become activated immediately to psychological stress or to an “event”. It produces a thick fatty sweat that is full of proteins and lipids.
Bacteria loves this type of fatty sweat and thrives when there are proteins and lipids. When bacteria mixes with this type of fatty sweat, it creates a very pungent odor.
This is why you are told that nervous sweat is the worst for many reasons but the main reason is because it SMELLS the worst. The unfortunate part of a nervous situation is that it creates odor, which can also add more stress. It’s a lose-lose situation!
Eccrine Sweat Glands
These are found all over your body.
These glands become activated through exercise or exposure to heat. It produces the watery sweat to help cool your body down. As this type of sweat is mostly composed of water, it tends to be odorless.
That is why even if you leave the gym drenched in sweat, you won’t smell as bad.
Photo by Vogue China.
Tips to prevent nervous sweat odor breakthrough:
It’s inevitable that we all experience nervous situations and stress. Here are some tips that will help you stay odor-free, even through the most stressful situations!
1. Wear a natural fabric. This is very important as rayon/polyester will smell like crazy as it loves to hold odor. Your best option is to wear cotton or bamboo under your clothes to help absorb excess moisture. Read more about fabrics and odor here.
2. Prepare your skin with an odor-eliminating soap to create a barrier on the surface of your skin before you apply the deodorant this leaves a residue on your armpit that will help to keep it bacteria free before you apply your deodorant.
3. Practice deep breathing/meditation before a stressful situation to help relax your blood vessels and to lower blood pressure.
4. Stay hydrated! Your body produces sweat when you’re dehydrated to help regulate your body’s temperature.
5. Watch what you eat! Onions, garlic and spices will add to the situation, so stay away from these type of foods until you are in the clear!
Have you experienced any embarrassing ‘stress sweat’ situations? Or do you have any tips for someone going through stress sweat? We want to know! Please chat with us in the comments section.
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