Need ideas about causes and solutions for strong and unusual body odor
November 5, 2013 9:45 AM   Subscribe

I have a new boyfriend who I like A LOT and am very attracted to. Right after a shower, he smells normal and good. But anytime he starts to sweat, his body gives off a strong and terrible odor. Looking for thoughts about the cause and possible solutions.

I've showered with him a few times now, so I know he showers thoroughly and it's not a hygiene issue.

The terrible smells mostly come from his armpits and crotch and they are different smells. The armpit smell seems like extreme BO. I know he wears deodorant because I've seen him put it on. He's aware of it. When he's starting to sweat and produce the smell he will say, "Ugh, I'm starting to smell really bad." Soon the smell is so strong it fills up the air and gets on anything his armpits are touching.

The crotch smell just smells like someone who hasn't changed their underwear in a week. I know it's not hygiene since I've seen him wash his crotch and it smells fine right after a shower. But it's so bad that while we were having sex I needed to keep the blankets over our lower half. And I accidentally lifted them up afterwards and the smell that came out from under them was powerful and awful. I needed to wash all my bedding after he left. So far we've just spent time at my place and I'm kind of aprehensive about going to his because of what his bedding might smell like.

I don't think the problem is me being physically incompatible to him and his natural smells. For one thing he smells himself when it's the armpit issue and he thinks the smell is bad himself. It just seems like he might be having some kind of health issue.

He's really wonderful and I like him a LOT. I'm not going to break up with him just because of this and I still enjoy getting physical and sex with him, I'm just wondering about possible causes and solutions.
posted by Sock of Silliness to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If he's hairy in those places, trimming or shaving might help.
posted by janell at 9:51 AM on November 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've found that potatoes seem to do this to me. My wife swears that I smell a hell of a lot better since I cut them out of my diet.

Maybe try to find food sources?
posted by straw at 9:52 AM on November 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

If he's doing all the normal hygiene stuff that people probably should be doing and he STILL smells bad? Maybe time for him to see a doctor.
posted by heavenstobetsy at 9:52 AM on November 5, 2013 [20 favorites]

I agree with heavenstobetsy: doctor time.
posted by phunniemee at 9:56 AM on November 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yea, how is his diet, for the armpit issues? And for the groin area, could he have some sort of low-grade fungal infection? I would ask if he could have an all-over low grade fungal infection, but, you say they are two distinct funks.
posted by kellyblah at 9:56 AM on November 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

If his crotch smells bad he might have a yeast infection.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:57 AM on November 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

BO etc is not caused by sweat, but by bacteria acting on it. Perhaps he has some kind of bacterial infection? Seconding suggesting he gets checked out by a doctor. If he is aware of it himself he hopefully won't be offended if you suggest it gently.
posted by billiebee at 9:58 AM on November 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

For some dudes, crotch funk can be battled by either trimming the nether hairs or (hilarious, i know) blow-drying the area after showering.
posted by elizardbits at 10:00 AM on November 5, 2013

Does he get take-out a lot? I remember a coworker suggesting that my other coworkers stank because of all the MSG they ate. Dunno if it actually causes BO, but it's worth checking into.

Perhaps his body is sweating out a lot of sodium and the bacteria are having a feast...
posted by ditto75 at 10:00 AM on November 5, 2013

Is he using just deodorant or actual antiperspirant?
posted by radioamy at 10:01 AM on November 5, 2013

Aww, poor guy (and poor YOU!). The good news: he acknowledges it's a problem! This is HUGE... the fact that it's out in the open, and the fact that you're both on the same page (Page 1: "Smelliness = UGH"). N-thing everyone else: he's gotta see a doc. You can phrase this in a complimentary way ("I think you're so great, and you're so hot, and I LOVE being with you, but I think we'd BOTH love being together a lot MORE if you got this addressed, honey").

(Because someone always brings it up on BO threads: it could always be TMAU. If a GP and/or a dermatologist and/or an endocrine doc can't solve it, you can always research THAT angle.)
posted by julthumbscrew at 10:01 AM on November 5, 2013

A consultation with a doctor is advisable. Such severe body odor can sometimes be a symptom of a serious medical condition. Some of these conditions cause foul-smelling compounds to be excreted in the sweat.
posted by Tanizaki at 10:01 AM on November 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

My immediate reaction is that he is ingesting something that is messing with his natural body odor. Either his diet, his medications or both mixed together could be the root of this malodorous malady.

There are anti-depressants that make you sweat more, for instance (don't ask me how I know). Even over-the-counter vitamins opcan change everything from the color of your pee to the dryness of your skin, hair and mouth. If your beau doesn't keep hydrated, his body odor may be worse, too; his urine and semen will definitely be affected. I don't want to get into the morality or ethics of specific diets here, but on a purely practical level, if he is ingesting a lot of asparagus and no pineapple, you'll not want to smell any part of him for long!

So, a combination of medications (or recreational drugs and alcohol) and diet could result in both out-of-control sweating and an altered body scent that, together, spell disaster for your olfactory receptors.

Some diseases will change the way you smell or taste as well, though. People with diabetes have sweet breath and their urine may have a sickeningly sweet cloying scent (not that the natural ammonia Urine scent is any better, just different). Viruses, bacterial infections--It is possible your guy is sick and doesn't know it, but I would expect a fever or some digestive stuff to tip him off at least if illness is the culprit.

Also, how is he doing his laundry? Maybe his body is clean but his clothes, sheets and towels are not? I think this is the least likely scenario, though, as you mention washing your own sheets after he left, which suggests the problem is IN hi. Rather than ON him.
posted by misha at 10:09 AM on November 5, 2013

Here is an example of a recent medical case where an infection caused extreme BO. Pardon the trashy source...
posted by cecic at 10:14 AM on November 5, 2013

Garlic and onions can do this for some people.

However, I tend towards the stinky and your description is a bit worrying even to me. I'd also suggest a doctor.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:18 AM on November 5, 2013

He's wearing deodorant but is it any good? I have naturally quite strong BO, I assume it's genetic because my Dad smells the same. But I'm also allergic to perfume and some other stuff so finding an antiperspirant that actually works well enough to stop me smelling without hurting my armpits was a bit of a struggle (Mitchum unscented for the win). Anything I'm even mildly allergic to not only irritates my skin but that irritation then makes me sweat more, so getting it right was important on several levels.

And even then I have to shave my armpits every day and wash carefully and still occasionally end up smelly after I exercise or whatever. The washing part didn't work so well when I lived somewhere with hard water which was fun. And I use an anti-bacterial in-wash stain remover thing to keep my clothes fresh, because otherwise they sometimes release BO as they warm up regardless of how clean I am underneath (also fun!).

Did you know antiperspirant is supposed to be put on the night before rather than fresh in the morning? Then the pores have time to close up while you're relaxed and sleepy then stay closed for 24-48 hours. Personally I find this helps, plus less sticky deodorant on my clothes because I have more time to let it dry in the evenings.

So I don't think you're at doctor level yet, more at the trying out different products plus maybe washing right before being intimate level. I'd say this is a hygiene issue still, like he gets clean but for whatever reason that doesn't last. So things he could consider are: different antiperspirants, different laundry products, different soap (maybe something antibacterial?), different clothes (e.g. I smell much less when wearing wool), hair trimming, maybe baby powder or similar, anything else that might make him sweat less. If none of that works then yeah, a doctor would be the next step.

Of course all of this would mean having to talk to him about it. I know that my husband has no problem telling me I smell but that's after a lot of years together, I don't remember how we broached it back at the start.
posted by shelleycat at 11:01 AM on November 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

Yeah, deodorant without antiperspirant doesn't do anything, so I'm guessing there's his first problem. Can't help with what's going on downtown other than to guess it might be food related.
posted by cnc at 11:05 AM on November 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I imagine that trimming the hedges down there and maybe using some powder (Gold Bond or something) will help as well.

And yes, it's great that he acknowledges the issue!
posted by radioamy at 11:13 AM on November 5, 2013

This sounds like a medical issue. If I were him I would consult a physician.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:52 AM on November 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Assuming there is no medical condition, this is just his natural smell. All people will start to 'stink' like themselves several hours after showering.
So this is probably a pheremone thing. Your body chemistry and his body chemistry don't match. Either live with it or move on, don't destroy his self esteem trying to change/tolerate him to suit your liking.
It wasn't until my late 20's that I decided that life was too short to sleep with a man who's natural smell/body odor doesn't drive me wild. Yes there is such a thing!
posted by tenaciousmoon at 11:55 AM on November 5, 2013

Check he is doing his laundry properly, washing his towels etc to start with. Sometimes you just can't skimp and you have to use a nice hot wash with an enzyme cleanser if you are prone to BO. They basically put the clothes on and the built in funk comes back with the body heat and everything gets recontaminated. Also check he's putting on clean clothes after every shower.

Trim the body hair, make sure everything is nice and dry before he gets dressed, men can get yeast infections too. Trimmed hair also means deodorant and anti antiperspirant gets onto the skin and not just the hair.
posted by wwax at 12:12 PM on November 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've traveled to lands where literally the minute you get off the plane, the BO hits you in an incredible way. What all of these (very different places) had in common was: lack of anti perspirant and food utilizing spices, garlic, onions - and dairy.
posted by Kruger5 at 12:54 PM on November 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

The armpit thing - the bacteria gets into clothes, and it's a cycle. When I realise I'm starting to get whiffy, I wash all my bras, shirts, coats and stuff in a anti-bac (or rather, hippie version of) and dry them in the sun and I'm good for another few months. I use Mitchum deoderant as well - nothing else works because the perfumes interact with me and make me smell like wet laundry.

I don't know about the crotch thing, but maybe something similar.

I'm hairy so there's probably more overlap for me with him than most, but if I shave my pits without also doing the anti-bac treatment on my clothes, the smell is SO much worse.
posted by geek anachronism at 2:15 PM on November 5, 2013

Does he take fish oil? That stuff can make you stink.
posted by Corvid at 2:22 PM on November 5, 2013

Does he smoke cigarettes? Sometimes nicotine causes really strong body odour.
posted by goo at 2:22 PM on November 5, 2013

A family member of mine took some prescription drugs for many years for a neurological disorder that gave him a strange and unpleasant body odor. So, there's another data point/thing to consider.
posted by stenseng at 3:23 PM on November 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Doctor's appointment, in the meantime have him shower before sex.

If he's already showering before sex, combine the two.
posted by yohko at 9:19 PM on November 5, 2013

Might be a yeast infection, it's possible in both armpits and groin.
A doctor is good to see anyway, another thing to do is to get everything waxed down there, pronto.
posted by ahtlast93 at 10:24 AM on November 6, 2013

I vote for the yeast infection. I too have the BO thing going and realized that it stopped after I was treated for a vaginal yeast infection. Hair growing places tend to be the worst; my brother and daughter even develop it in the hair on their head. My doc told me that some people have a form of psoraisis that causes the smell because of dead/dying skin. He also had me use an antibacterial soap aka Dial.

So a visit to the doctor is in order; trimming the hair so the skin can be cleaned properly and getting medication to rid of any disease process. My daughter discovered that the problem with her scalp could be controlled with the use of a hair the chemicals control the situation on her head. Good luck and don't give up. I bet it can be fixed.
posted by OhSusannah at 6:15 AM on November 7, 2013

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