Old Man Hygiene
Jan 11, 2022 at 12:32 pm #3736669
I’m turning 50 this year and my body is changing. Sometimes it feels like it’s morphing faster than when I was a kid. The good news is that I have a great deal more grace this time around and I fully recognize that the changes are physiological.
One of my biggest problems is that even a little bit of sweat in a shirt smells gawd awful. This summer I sweated through a t-shirt and then, after I took it off, the smell got on my backpack’s shoulder straps. I’ve tried a bunch of different ideas, but nothing seems to stop it.
Next summer I plan on hiking across Washington state. It’s going to be hot and so I’m searching for ideas. If you’re an older person dealing with changing hormones what do you do to stay less fragrant?Jan 11, 2022 at 1:37 pm #3736674
I’m older than you and have friends older also, and none of us have noticed increased stink. So don’t assume it is from age. You might want to go to a doctor and have this checked out. Sometimes people give off different odors when they have a disease… dogs have been known to diagnose things such as cancer from smell, before the doctors can. A change in diet may also be at issue. Or… did you change the type of fabrics that you wear? Some fabrics breed and hold bacteria better than others… especially synthetic fabrics.
Good Luck with this…
DWRJan 11, 2022 at 3:08 pm #3736681JCHBPL Member
What DWR D said. Sudden, or even not-so-sudden, changes really should be checked by a doctor…especially as we get older.
Many years ago a friend suddenly began to smell bad…he never did before. Worst part was that EVERYONE noticed it but apparently he did not. He smelled bad straight out of the shower. It finally got to that awkward moment when the smell was so bad someone was going to have to tell him. Turns out he had some sort of fungus. Doctor cleared it right up. Still have no idea why everyone BUT him could smell the stench.Jan 11, 2022 at 3:43 pm #3736684
Considering I’m under pretty consistent medical care for my disability I don’t think that I’ve suddenly become otherwise ill. Still, thanks for the recommendation. I suspect it’s bacterial or fungal and has only really been an issue since my hormones changed because of my age. It gets worse depending on the fabric and the use of that fabric over time (like it’s building up). I will be talking with my doc about it, but I was wondering if anyone else had some hints.Jan 11, 2022 at 4:24 pm #3736686David ThomasBPL Member
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
Since it’s skin, you could take the standard dermatologist approach: try different creams until something works. An anti-bacterial soap then an anti-fungal. Does the stink get better. Doing that before a doctor’s appointment might focus their assessment and also help confirm to them it’s not all in your head.
I definitely notice things get funkier, sooner, during a hike than when I was half my age. It’s like my external immune system isn’t as robust as it used to be, rather like my internal immune system.
Wool is the least smelly fabric if you tolerate it. Cotton (is horrible in wet weather but) cleans up well in the laundry.
It’s contrary to what the rangers tell you to do, but Roger and I have decades of experience with chemicals, biodegradation and soil bacteria and we agree that a pinch of modern detergent to wash clothes on a trip is just fine for the environment. Dump the dirty water far from surface water, in nice organic brown dirt and in a warm spot (south-facing slopes for me, north-facing slopes for him). Modern detergents are excellent at removing oils and killing mold spores and bacteria.
I find sweat on my skin bugs me more than it used to. Not odor, but how my thighs stick together. Maybe I’m just an old guy yelling at clouds, but I wonder if the stickiness is more noticeable due to old, thinner skin. I do more often take and use a small shower or manage a sponge bath most days and that helps.Jan 11, 2022 at 5:04 pm #3736688
“I find sweat on my skin bugs me more than it used to. Not odor, but how my thighs stick together. Maybe I’m just an old guy yelling at clouds, but I wonder if the stickiness is more noticeable due to old, thinner skin.”
No kidding. I’ve been using wool and wool blends for a long time now and I tolerate them okay until it gets hot. Then the wool becomes a bit of a liability as it traps a lot of heat and sweat next to me. I’ve been trying shade shirts (have one from Patagonia that I mostly like), but they’re synthetic and tend to stink up super quick.
I had a brain tumor treated a year and change ago and now I can’t seem to regulate my internal temperature worth a darn so I’ve got to work on some strategies for dealing better. My skin is thin and if I break another blood vessel in my hands I swear I might just chop the whole darn thing off it hurts so much.
Anyway, I have some medicated soaps on the way and I’m going to experiment with some of these old, stinky shirts too.Jan 11, 2022 at 7:07 pm #3736697humorlessBPL Member
@sleepingLocale: The Cascades
Obviously we’re all different and what works for one won’t work for another. But I used to smell more than I do now (I’m 63), the only two changes were diet (I went Keto) and I don’t use any soap at all on any part of my body other than my hands. I haven’t used soap for a few years now, and I still sweat a LOT when exerting. I’ve never had anyone tell me, even in close quarters, that I was funky (and trust me, my brother would have no issue telling me), so this has worked for me.Jan 12, 2022 at 5:33 am #3736718Richard MockBPL Member
@moxtrLocale: The piney woods
I am 66 and noticed an increase in my body odor in the last couple of years too. Not greatly. I also remember the issue in my father as he got older decades ago though he was old school and didn’t use deodorant. Sorry I have no advice. The alternative to getting older is problematic. LOLJan 12, 2022 at 7:54 am #3736722AK GranolaBPL Member
We’re all guessing here, so I’ll toss in another guess. Could it be your diet? Too much protein? Your body is removing some of the excess waste and it stinks.Jan 12, 2022 at 9:14 am #3736724
“Next summer I plan on hiking across Washington state. It’s going to be hot and so I’m searching for ideas.”
In warm weather I always take a cotton shirt to hike in (I prewash in a product called Sun Guard by Rit to increase SPF rating to 30)… camp cloths may be synthetic, but cotton for hiking… it’s cooler and does not hold odors like synthetics do.
A few years ago I had some VERY bad stink in my boots. Tried several things, but the final solution was to a) change from synthetic to wool socks and b) soaked those boots overnight in a product by Gear Aid called Odor Eliminator… it’s concentrate so could even take it on a hike if needed.
Another thought… are you SURE that you actually stick more with age?? Do other people confirm that? Or… maybe you have just become more sensitive to smells???? You did say you had some brain work done, right? Could that have made you more sensitive to smells???Jan 12, 2022 at 10:11 am #3736726PaulWBPL Member
@peweg8Locale: Western Colorado
+1 to what Karen said. I can completely change my scent by varying my diet. For me, high levels of protein, especially from meat, make my sweat smell. During colder months I crave meat and my sweat stinks, at least to me. During the hot summers where I live, I become almost vegetarian, and even though I sweat more, I stink less. I don’t wear deodorant, so I keep tabs on my scent, mainly for the benefit of others.Jan 12, 2022 at 10:16 am #3736728
Wow! I love that hikers and backpackers are also, often by necessity, problem solvers. Thanks in advance, I really appreciate the added brainpower to my little problem.
I think my Dad experienced a similar change at about my age, which is why I suspect it’s both, at least in part, hormonal and probably congenital. If I think back, my grandfather always smelled a little funky too, although I’m not certain when that started for him.
Yes, I had some brain work done. A tumor about the side of a very large grape or ping pong ball got burned out of my skull. I’ve experienced some changes to taste, and probably smell, as a result.
One of those changes is that I can’t stand the taste of meat. It’s like rotting aluminum foil balls in my mouth. I’ve been a vegetarian for nearly two years now. I’m also gluten intolerant and tend away from a lot of grains. These are unrelated issues, but that’s why my diet is mostly fruit, veg, and beans with the occasional egg or piece of candy.
I haven’t been drinking as much water as I used to. I realized it this morning as I took another sip of coffee from my mug. Then put down the mug and went and filled up a water bottle. I’m going to make this change and see what happens.
Also, I’ve noticed that most of my recent shirt purchases fit me much tighter under the arms than the shirts of yore. So, I wonder if there’s a mechanical action at play here as well (fabric tightness to skin means sweat and oils build up thicker and probably a lot quicker making a verdant field for bacteria and fungus). Today I’ve dug out an old button-down to see if things stay less stanky.Jan 12, 2022 at 10:19 am #3736731
Oh one more thing, I’ve stopped wearing deodorant. At least for the time being. I’ve been using the powdery creamy stuff and this seems to collect and make that verdant field in my arm pits thicker on a microscopic level.Jan 12, 2022 at 5:08 pm #3736772obx hikerBPL Member
Along the lines of Karen and PaulW’s observations in reference to ingestion/diet; could there be some side effect from a prescription med?Jan 12, 2022 at 9:09 pm #3736792HkNewmanBPL Member
@hknewmanLocale: The West is (still) the Best
Besides the above observations like diet, hydration, etc… science suggests there are likely physiological differences in how people smell as they age. In healthy people though, the glands secreting skin oil should be at peak activity after puberty theoretically. A blind smell tests revealed middle age musk as most offensive, while older people didn’t smell too offensive.
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/old-person-smell/Jan 14, 2022 at 9:39 am #3736963Moab RandyBPL Member
Matthew, I can’t offer advice about what may have changed your BO, but if you’re looking for something to eliminate underarm odor/chest odor/foot odors, I highly recommend an Israeli product called Lavalin, from your healthfood store or Amazon or Lavalin.com. To me it seems it should be the thru-hiker’s greatest secret. I use this just once before backpacking or sea kayaking trips, on my underarms, feet, and parts of my hairy chest. It really works! to keep my clothes and socks and drysuit smelling clean–especially my sleeping bag. In normal, city use, it lasts at least 2 weeks for me. I haven’t been able to take a 2-week backpack trip in a long time to test that, but six-eight days, sure.
I just use the regular underarm formulation for everything, though they do make specific forms. It’s not a fragrance coverup. It’s made from flower extracts and I’m guessing it’s some sort of antimicrobial.
Shower well in the evening. Then, while your skin is still moist, thoroughly rub a thin paste into your skin. Put on an undershirt and socks. In the morning, scrub it all off to clean your pores–do not leave it on, or it might irritate.Jan 14, 2022 at 1:06 pm #3736985
@Moab Randy I’ll take a look and let you know how it does.
Here’s a bit of an update: I’ve stopped using deodorant and this seems to be a big part of it. Just got back from a very foggy, wet walk in the park right by our house (I do this almost every day) and I’m covered in sweat, but I don’t stink. Not even a little bit. It’s possible that I’m not smelling much because my nose is running from the cold, but even so, I think I may be on to something.
Next, I’ve started using H2O2 after a shower and on areas of my clothes where there may be buildup. This seems to be helping a great deal too since my shirts no longer maintain that low-grade funk after a wash.
Finally, I’m fairly certain that some of this is in my head. I mean, that it’s the result of bits and bobs getting singed by the radiation surgery.Jan 14, 2022 at 2:38 pm #3736991Moab RandyBPL Member
Less than half seriously, have you had COVID? Loss of smell is often a symptom.
In general I’ve found that my shirts over extended time tend to accumulate irremediable funk, especially cotton undershirts. I can set this back temporarily to some extent by treating with Shout laundry spot remover or some enzyme treatments like those sold for polypropylene, but ultimately I have to turn them into rags. The pleasure of new shirts! (but with a significant environmental cost).Jan 14, 2022 at 5:40 pm #3737007humorlessBPL Member
@sleepingLocale: The Cascades
“I’m fairly certain that some of this is in my head.”
Well, your nose if rather strongly affixed to your head, so there may be something to that…. :-)Jan 15, 2022 at 1:41 pm #3737066
“Less than half seriously, have you had COVID? Loss of smell is often a symptom.”
I have not had COVID and I’m triple vaxxed, still wear double masks everywhere, and because I’m mute I tend to keep to myself. I think that the changes to my sense of smell are just my brain adjusting to having a chunk of it burned out. Well, the tumor got burnt, the brain got singed.
I’ve been comparing notes with other tumor survivors and this isn’t all that uncommon from what I gather. It’s crazy that no one, including my oncologist, said word one about this. I never really realized how much we use taste and smell just to navigate everyday life.Jan 15, 2022 at 5:45 pm #3737091AK GranolaBPL Member
OMG that study write up is so funny! “Middle-aged man musk took top prize for intensity and unpleasantness” – maybe this is why marriages so often go south during that time. Maybe it’s really all about the subtle and not so subtle odors we are all sharing with each other that makes some people behave the way they do. Not volunteering for being a sniffer in the next study, that’s for sure.Jan 15, 2022 at 7:26 pm #3737099Tom KBPL Member
Once upon a time, there was a day when stinking just went with backpacking. It was certainly not a cause for personal angst. How could one not reek after a few days of schlepping a pack over hill and dale without a shower? You just got used to yourself and your partner(s), and vice versa, and cracked jokes about who stank bad enough to keep the bears and mosquitos at bay. Ever imagine what it must have been like on the Lewis and Clark Expedition? Yes, things have indeed changed.Jan 15, 2022 at 7:50 pm #3737103
“Once upon a time, there was a day when stinking just went with backpacking.”
Er… for some ‘primitives’, I suppose. There are indeed guys that just like to be gross. But REI has been selling backpacking soap since at lease the 70’s… and Louis and Clark bathed also… not sure how frequently, but they did not do that entire trip with cleaning up…Jan 15, 2022 at 7:50 pm #3737104W I S N E R !BPL Member
“Once upon a time, there was a day when stinking just went with backpacking.”
Truth, spoken by Old Man Hygiene himself. ;)Jan 15, 2022 at 9:41 pm #3737113Tom KBPL Member
“Truth, spoken by Old Man Hygiene himself. ;)”
Gotta smell the part. ;0)
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