If there’s one thing that kids excel at, it’s getting dirty. Sometimes it seems like they can just sit on the couch and, in the time it takes you to blink, your six-year-old has peanut butter in his hair. And it just gets worse as they get older. Then later on, as hormones kick in and puberty takes hold, your kids start to acquire a certain odor as well. But why do your normally sweet kids start to stink? And how can you stop it?
The science behind why people start to stink after they hit puberty has to do with a couple of things. First, you have to understand that sweat itself is odorless to humans. What you smell when you go to wash a week’s worth of gym socks or marvel at how a brand new pair of Reeboks can be so fragrant, is actually the waste product of a specific type of bacteria. This bacterium feeds on the proteins that are found in sweat, leaving behind a pungent odor. This odor gets worse in areas with thick hair, as more bacteria are found there.
When a kid hits puberty, their hormonal changes cause a specific type of sweat gland to activate. These apocrine glands are the ones that secrete the sweat that has the proteins those previously mentioned bacteria like to feast on. That’s why your baby or toddler can work up a sweat and still smell powder fresh; the apocrine glands aren’t active yet. Apocrine glands are found all over the skin, but are primarily concentrated near the armpits and groin. They are also found in the breasts, ears, and eyelids.
You might also be wondering why your kid’s feet get so stinky if they don’t have a cluster of apocrine glands. That super special odor is because of their socks. When your kid gets sweaty feet, the sweat can’t evaporate so it sticks around, forming a virtual feast for those bacteria we mentioned earlier. More bacteria means there’s more waste produced, which means that everything is a little smellier.
So how do you stop the stink? The best way is to reduce the amount of sweat that the bacteria have to munch on. One way to do this is to use antiperspirants, not just deodorant. Deodorants help to cover the smell; antiperspirants work to actively reduce the amount of sweat produced by those pesky glands. In general, if your kids perspire heavily, use a combination antiperspirant and deodorant to help keep the odor and excessive sweating under control.
There are problem areas where it’s difficult to apply antiperspirant without looking or feeling kind of strange. A lot of people have excessive sweating on the palms of their hand, the soles of their feet, or other places that are difficult to apply normal antiperspirants. Thankfully, there are discreet products that are made for these areas. Things like SweatBlock can help control excessive perspiration for four to seven days, making life easier and less slippery or smelly for even the worst sufferers. But beyond just applying antiperspirant, here’s a couple of ways you can help control foot odor.
1. Avoid Cotton Socks – Cotton socks are the worst thing you can wear when your feet sweat excessively. That’s because they don’t do anything to wick the sweat away from your skin. And when the sweat just pools against your skin, as we mentioned, the bacteria that cause body odor will flourish. Instead, get some good synthetic (such as olefin) or thin merino wool socks. These socks will pull the sweat away from your skin, letting it dry out. And wear a clean pair every day.
2. Choose Your Shoes Wisely – If your shoes have any sort of plastic lining, make sure to wear them sparingly. If you or your kids have sweaty feet, get a shoe with a breathable exterior; either mesh or leather is best to allow sweat to evaporate. And above all, don’t wear the same shoes two days in a row. Shoes won’t be able to dry out completely overnight, so make sure that you or your teen have shoes they can alternate.
3. Exfoliate – It’s not just sweat that bacteria love on your feet. They also like the dead skin that accumulates in the form of calluses and rough patches. Use a foot scraper or a pumice stone to get rid of the dead skin patches on your heels and balls of your feet. It may seem a little gross, but it will help reduce the number of bacteria on your feet.
Excessive sweat and the resulting odor can be a trying situation for many people. The stigma of stinky feet and wet patches on clothing are just two examples of how this affects millions of people every day. Thankfully, with just a couple of changes in their daily routine, nearly anyone with excessive sweat can reduce the impact it has on their lives.