Soap sometimes smells different when I use it
July 2, 2020 9:03 AM   Subscribe

Sometimes if I’m really sweaty or if I haven’t showered in a couple days, I’ll notice that the soap suds smell different when I’m lathering up. Like, it smells bad. It doesn’t affect the whole bar, it’s just while I’m washing up. I buy different kinds of soaps with nice scents but is there something about body chemistry that is making this change happen? Is there a way to fix it? This has stumped me for all of the pandemic and I need to know the answer. Halp me, oh Metafilter!
posted by fleecy socks to Health & Fitness (8 answers total)
This happens to me after a big workout. Most noses get used to smells very quickly - I've always assumed I'm just disturbing sweat/oil and therefore "waking up" my nose to the existing B.O. before washing it off.
posted by invincible summer at 10:11 AM on July 2, 2020

When my hands are very dirty the lather turns brown, but I don't buy brown soap. Your filthy body is turning the soap lather filthy. (This isn't a moral judgement. It's how soap works.) Soap works by binding to your filth and enabling said filth to be carried away with water.
posted by phunniemee at 10:12 AM on July 2, 2020 [11 favorites]

Feature of soap, not a bug. Scrub away and maybe lather, rinse, repeat depending on the number of days you've gone sans showering.
posted by Kitchen Witch at 10:46 AM on July 2, 2020

I've noticed this with some perfumes and colognes. They smell significantly different after I put them on. Sometimes worse, sometimes better. I would assume this is because of how they interact with my body chemistry, so my suggestion would be trying a soap with a different scent.
posted by Gneisskate at 10:49 AM on July 2, 2020

I think you're smelling dislodged stink particles! They were probably just stuck to you too far from your nose (armpits, groin, back of neck, feet) and now that the soap is migrating around your body, your rubbing is carrying them around closer to your nose.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 10:59 AM on July 2, 2020 [3 favorites]

As Mookie says to Joie, "It's your upper lip." In other words, you're smelling yourself. The soap has nothing to do with what you're smelling -- your own scent is just more powerful than that of the soap and you're dislodging it by scrubbing.

Is there a way to fix it?

Don't go days without showering. You don't have to use soap every day (I wouldn't), but scrubbing yourself under warm water daily is good hygiene.

Keep in mind, you're only smelling it in the shower because your rubbing yourself dislodges it and wafts the scent to you. You're otherwise inured to it. Others in your orbit are not inured to it and are smelling it.
posted by dobbs at 12:03 PM on July 2, 2020 [6 favorites]

Is it a fishy smell? Glycerin often smells fishy when it interacts with body fluids, especially the, uh, crotch ones.

All soap has glycerin in it naturally as a byproduct of the saponification process. Some soap (the clear soap, like Neutrogena bars) is all glycerin, some soap (usually fancier soap) has added glycerin to increase humectant properties, while other, cheaper soaps (like Ivory) have the glycerin removed and used in other, more expensive products.

You could do a test with a clear bar and a cheap bar to see if one smells worse and determine if it is, in fact the glycerin that's offending your nostrils.

(source: I am a soapmaker.)
posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 12:06 PM on July 2, 2020 [15 favorites]

(I should mention the the glycerin smell is generally only present in the lather immediately when you use it, is not super strong, and does not not linger after rinsing, nor should the bar itself smell between uses. A strong fishy smell that lingers in the crotch area is an indication of bacterial vaginosis and is not related to glycerin.)
posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 12:20 PM on July 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

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