Why did you first smell your belly button?

It’s a real question. Come on, don’t deny it. We all stuck our finger in somewhere haphazardly, in places we really shouldn’t have. Wait, no? Does that make one of us? We stand corrected.

Okay, fine, let’s say ‘hypothetically’ it wasn’t you who stuck that thumb in some random hole in your torso. It was say, a ‘hypothetical’ friend (an intimate friend, at that!) who discovered some random, odd, salty taint coming oozing from you. He started sniffing you up and down (said friend is a … dog) to find that maybe that sour odor came not from your cat litter, your decomposing sandwich in your locker, or your gym shorts you left in a plastic bag, but from precisely, that crevice in the middle of your abdomen.

And what is it that he picked out? Is that a Cheetoh puff! Wait, that’s where my iPhone 4 went?! Wait, is that an old … pickle? And what is that smell?

In any case, if you’ve ever had a curiously odorous bellybutton, you are far from alone. Just about every other guy (and girl) has experienced SABBD (Smelly Ass Belly button Disorder) at least once in their lives. It’s exactly how you’d imagined Roger from Doug smelling like, for instance. But if you’ve ever wondered why said small pit produces so much putridity and still haven’t Googled it, we found the answer for you.

At least, Dr. S. Manjula Jegasothy from the Miami Skin Institute did. She got down with our dirty questions about why bellybuttons and other places smell. Here’s why every part of your body that could smell, does smell. As for Roger? It’s probably that Killer Tofu.

Belly buttons

“The canal inside the navels (or belly button) is closed off to external air and so when sweat is produced in this area, it is difficult for it to escape and can therefore smell,” contritely explains, Dr. Jegasothy. Therefore, she beseeches: “Hygiene is important for this area!”

How to clean. To clean your BB, simply use a cotton swab with alcohol, then soap. Gently give it a twirl and get the grime out. Afterwords, add gentle soap and water. Give it a thorough dry (if you’re unsure if you can make it completely dry, use a blowdryer on its ‘cool’ setting). If not, the cotton swab should work.

Ear wax

For some of us, earwax has a thick, musky stench. We already know that some people have waxy, yellow gunk as ear wax, while others have dry, off-white flakey wax. Whatever the case, some ears smell bad.

“Ear wax, or cerumen, is produced by most people as a consequence of normal lubrication produced by the ear canal to keep the tympanic membrane, or ear drum, hydrated and functional,” explains Dr. Jegasothy.

But why does it stink? “If an individual is genetically susceptible to irritation or dermatitis in the ear canal, excess wax may be produced and can sometimes smell,” she explains.

How to clean. How do you get rid of a smell produced in your inner ear? Great question. It stars with good hygiene, says the doc. That, and something called Debrox ear drops. “It’s available over-the-counter and can be used to soften ear wax,” she says. “But often, a visit to the ENT doctor may be needed to aspirate, or suck out this excess wax.” Good to know.

Balls

Sweaty (schweddy!), stinky (stanky!) balls. We already went over this in a very thorough post here.  Long story short: Balls get hot, sweaty and attract bacteria that then starts to, well, smell. If you’re in need of solutions here, head to this Post. Right. Now. 

Armpits

“The underarms and the groin are filled with apocrine sweat glands, which are completely different from the eccrine sweat glands that are found everywhere else on the body,” the doctor says. Unfortunately (or fortunately for a certain few), apocrine sweat glands overproduce sweat and smells differently from eccrine sweat.

How to clean. If daily showers are just not cutting it and deodorant just doesn’t work, Dr. Jegasothy says two remedies should be taken into consideration. The first, is Botox, the second, Dysport. The former is best known for getting rid of wrinkles but still useful to closing up pores. The latter, Dysport, has been used in the same way, but a different brand. “One treatment session can eliminate sweating in these areas for one to two years,” she says. “After two to three treatments, many patients find that there underarms and over groin sweat is eliminated permanently. This treatment is actually the number one procedure requested by men at my practice.”

Hair

Sometimes your head completely reeks even after shampooing rigorously. But why? Dr. Jegasothy says it has to do with an overproduction of oil that makes your hair smell.

“Since the hair shaft itself is made of dead proteins, it is actually the overproduction of sebum in the hair follicles that can make scalp smell, and therefore make the hair smell as well,” she explains.

How to clean. “The best way to eliminate the problem is to use a zinc based shampoo, such as Selsun Blue or Head and Shoulders, which have been shown to penetrate the hair follicle and reduce genetic inflammation which causes this type of sebum overproduction. Dandruff represents scaling of the scalp in response to this excess sebum production, so these zinc-based shampoos eliminate dandruff as well.”

Feet


Feet are probably the stankiest of all body parts, and it’s mostly because they’re usually in tight quarters all day (aka shoes), without ventilation. An overproduction of sweat mixed with dirty shoes creates a perfect storm for smelly feet. That cheesy smell? It comes from sweat decomposing, which is probably the worst sweat ever.

How to clean. Wash them every day and change out your shoes. Wearing socks that soak sweat or wick them away can also do the trick as well as using powders to keep it extra dry. There are also great soaks from the likes of Art Naturals that are anti-fungal.

Bum

Your butt could be smelling for various reasons: Sweat, leftover defecation from improper wiping or something more problematic. If daily washing isn’t working, and using a wet wipe after relieving yourself isn’t effective, try going to a professional. There may be something else going on.

Other regions of the body

Sometimes some smells are just unexplainable. Like, where TF is that taco/cheese/dirty rag coming from?? If you’ve already adhered to the above and still can’t explain your stench, chances are, it could be from your food. Yes, blame it on last night’s leftover enchilada.

“This can be particularly true if a patient is eating particularly aromatic foods such as spices, garlic or onion,” affirms Dr. Jegasothy. Good to know what to avoid if you’re looking forward to a special occasion, like, picking up Pringles from your local 7-11. That, and a date or something.

Embrace that funk


If all else fails and you still smell like ?, embrace it! It’s sexy sometimes. There’s science behind why:

“It is believed that the apocrine sweat gland also may contain pheromones, which were considered to be the odorous molecules of sexual attraction,” the good Doc says. “It was also believed that these pheromones from the apocrine sweat system were necessary in our pre-verbal ‘cave man’ days in order for mates to signal one another.”

You read that? Sweat, smell, stench, whatever you call it is sexy. Just get rid of that Doritos crumb in your belly button, will you?