You Might Have B.O. and Not Even Know It

You likely know someone with persistent B.O. Hopefully you’re not that person.

But how would you know?

The problem is that it’s very difficult to detect your own body odor because your olfactory systems are desensitized to your particular aromas, says Pamela Dalton, Ph.D., M.P.H., at the Monell Chemical Senses Center.

It’s the same with your home, office, or any other space that you frequent: You grow accustomed to the scent. It’s only after you leave and then return that you detect the odors anew.

But back to B.O.

“Everyone sweats, and eventually everyone will experience a bad odor day, but there are definitely people who sweat more or who have more body odor than others,” says Dr. Susan Massick, dermatologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

But that doesn’t mean you have to be that guy, because there are a few ways you can attempt to detect your own body odor. Here’s how:

Trick your olfactory system

It’s not foolproof, but you can try to reset your sense of smell by inhaling an odor that’s distinctly different from your own.

“It’s almost like a white-noise reset to the olfactory system,” says Dalton.

Try this: sniff coffee or charcoal for a full minute. Then go back and take a whiff of your underarm or other potentially offending area. In a pinch, you could even smell the crook of your elbow, which contains few sweat glands.

Sniff the most pungent areas

Your armpits and groin are typically the stinkiest areas on your body, says Massick. That’s because these areas are full of apocrine glands, which produce odor-emitting sweat after mixing with the bacteria on your skin.

Train Your Nose

Women are usually better at identifying B.O. than men. Dalton theorizes it’s because guys just aren’t as in-tune to the scents around them.

“They’re not actively scanning the environment to see, ‘Is it me? Is it my cubicle mate over there?” she says.

It’s not easy, but Dalton says you can train yourself to recognize and identify different odors. You can improve your sense of smell by paying attention to the various aromas when you’re cooking or shopping for cologne. Think about the notes and what object or item they represent.

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