Why Do Black People Smell? A Myth or Truth!

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black people smeel good or bad

Why do black people smell? According to some theories, black people have a distinct smell due to their diet. However, many may consider it to be an unpleasant smell, which may explain the stereotype.  Ideally, people of all races would smell of body odor, which could fit the description of pungent. It’s not relatable to black people only.

The idea that black people smell is a stereotype of other races. People with melanin skin may have similar skincare routines, but this is quite different from people with lighter skin, thus resulting in a distinct smell. One reason might be that most black people use cocoa butter-based products. Despite this, there is no scientific evidence to support this claim.

The most common cause of people smelling is body odor, which could be described as pungent.

Also Read: Everything You Need to Know About Black People!

What is Body odour?

smell 1

Your sweat is responsible for causing body odour when it is in contact with bacteria on your skin. When bacteria on your skin mix with sweat, they create an odor. Sweat itself does not smell, but the bacteria on your skin do. 

An odor on one’s body can be sweet, sour, tangy, or even smell like onions. Body odour isn’t always affected by how much you sweat. It is for this reason that a person can have an unpleasant body odor but not be sweaty. 

On the other hand, one can sweat excessively without smelling. Rather than sweat itself, the odor comes from the bacteria on your skin and their interaction with sweat.

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What causes body odour?

Whenever sweat comes into contact with bacteria on your skin, body odor occurs. Water, salt and fat are naturally present on your skin, and when you sweat, they mix with these bacteria and cause body odour. 

smell 2

Whether the odour is bad or good, or if it does not smell at all, is determined by taste. Food, hormones, and medications can affect your body’s odour.

A person with hyperhidrosis sweats excessively. The sweat glands in the eccrine glands are sometimes the source of discomfort when people with this condition have sweaty palms and feet because they sweat so much.

Your body produces unpleasant odours every time you sweat. Bad body odour affects some people more than others. Researchers have found that a person’s body odour changes during ovulation to attract a partner.

Other factors that can affect body odor are:

  • Obesity
  • Workout.
  • Genetics.
  • Hot weather.
  • Stress or anxiety.

As mentioned, your diet can affect how you smell, some of these diets are:

  • Garlic.
  • Onions.
  • Alcohol.
  • Caffeine.
  • Broccoli.
  • Cabbage
  • Red meat.
  • Hot sauce 
  • Cauliflower.
  • Spices like curry or cumin.
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG).

Eliminating or reducing these triggers may help improve your body odour.

But what do other races smell like?

Also Read: Black People Statistics You Probably Didn’t Know About!

Do other races have distinct smells?

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Interestingly, there is also a stereotype about white people smelling strange, specifically unclean, wet dogs. 

There are different mixtures of odorous chemicals secreted by different races. Due to the mixture of chemicals they secrete, black people are stereotyped as having unpleasant odors. According to the data, black people’s acetic acid levels are higher than those of other races, which may explain this.

Similarly, people’s smells vary and may be related to obesity, poor hygiene, or fatty diets.

Historically, Thomas Jefferson attributed black people’s distinct smell to their excess skin secretion of waste.

Despite this, Asians have the least odor of any population, since some people, regardless of race, have a naturally clean smell. 

Several people on Quora describe their experiences dealing with different races. There is a strong distinctive body smell that black people have. According to one contributor, black people he has met and worked with have powerful body odours that are hard to conceal with perfume or deodorant. The sweat glands are responsible for it, he believes.

It doesn’t matter how he categorizes it, he claimed that Indians have the biggest sense of smell and can tell whether an Indian is nearby or occupied a room.

The body odor of white people is usually manageable if they keep themselves clean and have not taken a shower or sweated recently. On the other hand, Mexicans, also have a very distinctive sweat smell.

Also Read: 70+ Incredible Natural Hairstyles for Black Women

What causes body smell?

Many individuals are unaware of another factor. Humans have a gene that generates a protein that nourishes the bacteria that causes body odour. This gene is most common among African-Americans and Africans. Latin Americans and Western Europeans came in third and fourth place, respectively.

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In contrast, Asians have an extremely low prevalence, with nearly none among Koreans. BTS, the boyband, can dance all night and still smell good. This explains why Western travelers find it difficult to buy deodorant in Asia, particularly in Korea, China, and Japan.

The chart below depicts the prevalence of the body odor gene, or allele G, in various groups.

The smelly underarm sweat gene is present in almost 97% of people of European or African origin. Meanwhile, the stench-free gene mutation was found in practically all Koreans, most East Asians, and 30 to 50% of Southeast Asians, Pacific Islanders, Central Asians, Asia Minorians, and indigenous Americans.

Given that bacteria in your body produce the majority of your smell, you may want to reconsider the concept that your bacterial makeup is mostly defined by your parents and then adjusted to some extent by your diet throughout your life.

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Does diet affect your body’s smell?

When you digest and process food, bacteria emit gases that leave your body in numerous ways. The majority of your body odour is caused by bacterial gases.

Bacteria are mechanical machines. When different materials are fed to them, they create varied effects. This can be demonstrated by simply altering your diet. Give your present bacteria additional dairy, and your body will begin to smell differently since your bacteria will now begin to metabolize more dairy.

So what if you alter your bacterial makeup and metabolise food differently?

While it is true that nutrition can have a substantial impact on your body odor, it does not account for your total body odor. We are born with a bacterial habitat that determines our smell, and no two newborns smell the same. Because you have a unique bacterial biome that gives you a distinct aroma, eating only impacts a portion of your body’s odour.

An Irish person born from Irish-only descendants will have bacterial concentrations dependent on the concentrations prevalent in his ancestors. These bacteria will be highly successful in breaking down Irish food, giving them an aroma that is largely shared by other people of the same ethnic heritage.

This should also be true for someone in Asia, Germany, or Africa, among other places. That is, your ethnicity can influence the most effective bacterial combinations required to digest food from your culture.

Also Read: Can Black People Get Hickeys? Everything You Need to Know!

What do Caucasian people smell like to Asian people?

It’s not so much how Caucasians smell to Asians. It is how dairy-eating people smell to individuals who eat very little dairy.

People do smell differently, but it isn’t due to race or culture; rather, it is due to what they eat. We just don’t notice how others smell while we’re eating the same foods.

You’ll detect a meaty-garlicky odour around Mediterranean individuals that you wouldn’t notice if you lived with them. Americans who come to Spain frequently smell a type of preservative that you would not notice if you lived in America.

Why does the strength of body odour differ between races?

East Asians carry the faulty ABCC11 gene. ABCC11 is a lipid transporter found in membranes. East Asians are unable to produce a lipid component that is converted into a molecule that is accountable for body odor. In most Europeans, Middle Easterners, and Africans, the ABCC11 membrane transporter is fully functioning. If you are born with a mutant ABCC11 gene, you won’t be able to create or secrete the odorant molecule, and you won’t smell.

While the normal ABCC11 gene produces moist ear wax, the ABCC11 mutation causes dry ear wax in the majority of East Asians.

What are the treatment options for body odour?

smell 5

Treatment for body odor could include:

1. Bath daily

Take a regular bath or shower with antibacterial soap to keep your skin clean. Concentrate on the regions where you sweat the most, such as your armpits and groin. Regularly removing some of the microorganisms on your skin can help prevent unpleasant body odors.

2. Shave your pubic area

Shave your armpits regularly so that sweat escapes rapidly and has less time to interact with microorganisms. Bacteria thrive in the environment provided by hair.

3. Wash and wear clean clothes

Wash your clothes regularly and wear clean clothes. Wear loose-fitting cotton garments. This lets your skin breathe. This guideline applies to undergarments and bras as well. Fabric clothing that can wick moisture away from your skin is also beneficial.

4. Use topical antiperspirant

Using a topical antiperspirant draw sweat back into your sweat glands. Sweat production slows when your body detects that your sweat glands are full. These include both over-the-counter and prescription antiperspirants.

5. Check your diet

Reduce highly odorous foods from your diet, and pay attention to whether certain foods make your body odor worse. Garlic, onions, and alcohol are just a few foods that can make your perspiration smell bad.

6. Minimise your stress level

Look for strategies to lessen your stress, as stress might activate sweating. 

How do you get rid of body odor naturally?

There may be choices that help if you desire a more natural approach to addressing armpit body odour. Alternatively, have a conversation with your doctor.

1. Baking soda

Using baking soda and water, make a paste. Allow the paste to dry on your armpits. Baking soda balances the acid in your skin and helps to eliminate odours.

2. Green tea

Warm water with green tea bags daily, placing the soaked tea bags under your armpits for a few minutes. Green tea may aid in the blocking of pores and the reduction of sweating.

3. Apple cider vinegar

In a spray bottle, combine apple cider vinegar and a tiny amount of water. Spray the solution into your armpits. The acid in vinegar aids in the killing of microorganisms.

4. Lemon juice

Mix lemon juice and water in a spray bottle. Spray the mixture under your arms. Lemon juice contains citric acid, which kills bacteria.

5. Alcohol

You can also carry alcohol-soaked cotton balls whenever you feel the smell and use them. 

What deodorant is best for armpits that smell?

Deodorants function by disguising the odor of the body with a more pleasant smell. Antiperspirants, on the other hand, help you sweat less. Use an antiperspirant underarm product as aluminium is the active component in the majority of antiperspirants. 

After showering or bathing and before going to bed, apply an antiperspirant. For optimal effects, apply antiperspirants on dry skin.

Also Read: Homophobia in the Black Community: The Ultimate Guide!

Frequently Asked Questions

Do different races have different Odours?

The amount a person sweats, as well as the different bacteria that the sweat might come into contact with on the skin, may very well differ between races — likely as a result of evolutionary adaptations

What ethnicity has the ABCC11 gene?

East Asian and Native American people were already known to have a form of the ABCC11 gene that causes the dry type of earwax and produces less underarm body order, compared with other ethnicities.

Which race has the most sweat glands?

Mongolian populations are found to be quite high in the number of eccrine sweat glands but have a general paucity of functioning osmidrosis apocrine sweat glands, which would seem to account for their known lack of body odour. There are three glands which secrete fluids onto the human skin.

Why do people smell different?

Body odour is caused by a mix of bacteria and sweat on your skin. Your body odour can change due to hormones, the food you eat, infection, medications or underlying conditions like diabetes. Prescription-strength antiperspirants or medications may help.

Which hormone is responsible for sweating?

Acetylcholine acts on the eccrine glands and adrenaline act on both eccrine and apocrine glands to produce sweat.

Which part of the body sweats the most?

Interestingly, feet are usually the sweatiest part of the human body because each foot has approximately 250,000 sweat glands. They can produce up to half a litre of perspiration per day. Plus, they spend a lot of time wrapped in shoes and socks, increasing the amount of sweat they excrete.

Now it’s your turn

You are what you eat. Whatever you eat gets processed and some of it is secreted out onto your skin, oils and sweat as well. Thus, body smell knows no race. 

Whether you’re black or caucasian, your diet also contributes to body odour. A diet rich in foods with thiol compounds or compounds that contain a lot of sulfur like garlic or onions is more likely to produce a body odour or smell.

To keep a refreshing smell, take your hygiene, lifestyle and diet seriously, and use antiperspirant daily.

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Ben Brown, a seasoned wordsmith and cultural aficionado, is your go-to for all things eye-opening. A black man on a mission, he's been serving up well-researched insights with a dash of wit, stirring curiosity and sparking dialogue. When he's not writing, Ben's exploring the world or creating culinary masterpieces. He may not claim to be an expert, but his pen begs to differ. Stay tuned for a refreshing take on the black experience, one article at a time.

4 thoughts on “Why Do Black People Smell? A Myth or Truth!”

  1. Black ppl stinks no matter what explanation you will use.Ive been sharing rooms with blacks in few different country’s,one been a vegan eventhey,they came from different country’s and different backgrounds and their smell was exactly same.After 36yrs of observation I can tel that black ppl stinks and this in not stereotype!!!

    • Thanks for your contribution, Paul.
      You are not close but your words says a lot about how you smell, though.
      You think your roommates represents all black people?
      Your perspective – your view.

    • You are making generalisations and calling it your experience.
      Going against your own rules.
      And that’s what the post is seeking to address.
      Generalizations gives way for stereotypes and that will affect everybody.
      If you think every race has similar issues in one way or form, then don’t generalize for anyone.
      Be empathetic instead.


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