Does sweat regulate its own smell (or the myth of BO)?

I am just back from another four days of scrambling up mountains, hiking through gullies, entertaining leeches, encountering lyrebirds who have not read the textbook that says they are supposed to be shy, and being out of range of any type of communication. I was also in areas where water is scarce, so washing was something I left behind as an unnecessary appurtenance of wimpiness. But would I smell, I wondered? So I plastered on an extra layer of deodorant, hoping it might last for a bit. It did until somewhere on the second day. By that time my shirt was reeking so strongly, it drove away mosquitoes. One could see the fumes rising from it in a cloud.  But then I sweated some more, copious amounts in fact. By the fourth day, my shirt smelled vaguely used, but  certainly not like it had done earlier. Two possible answers suggest themselves:

1. My nose had lost the ability to smell in its usual way.

2. Sweat, once unencumbered by soap, deodorant, and whatnot, regulates itself.

I’m going for the second option. It’s a bit like hair and shampoo. Toss the shampoo and it takes a while for your hair to get used to its new-found freedom.  Once it does, it regulates its own moisture levels, ceases to smell, and self-cleans.


3 thoughts on “Does sweat regulate its own smell (or the myth of BO)?

  1. Option 2 would be good, but I sadly have to go with Option 1. After a few weeks trekking, I could not smell my clothes – but the laundry guy back in Kathmandu clearly could. I also noticed in India that after a few weeks of the local food, Indians no longer smelled of sweat and spices, but westerners smelled of sweat and meat.

    1. Apparently, there was an experiment done with jeans. A group was asked to wear them for three months without washing. At the end, others were asked to smell them. The response: “a bit used.” Not washing your hair at all does the same thing.

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