New research shows there’s a big difference between the sweat we produce from a hot day, or exercise, and the sweat we produce from stress! And until recently, even scientists didn’t know WHY stress makes us sweat. But here’s what we know now:
First: Normal sweat and stress sweat come from two different places. Experts say the sweat from being overheated comes from our glands just below the skin, all over the body. But the sweat caused by stress or fear comes from glands found only in a few areas, like under our arms.
Also, you’ll know stress sweat when you SMELL it. According to the Monell Chemical Senses Center, the main ingredients of heat sweat are water and salt, which are odorless. But stress sweat contains proteins which interact with bacteria on our skin, triggering an odor. That’s where the expression “the smell of fear” comes from.
And it turns out, women are more sensitive to stress odors than men. In a recent study, researchers tested 40 different fragrances, to see if they could hide sweat odors. And in most cases, men didn’t notice odors after they were covered with perfume or cologne, but most women still reported a strong reaction to the B-O!
So, knowing all that, what’s the point of having stinky, uncomfortable stress sweat? The most popular theory is that stress sweat sends a “warning signal” to others, that we might be in danger. In fact, a study from Stony Brook University shows that when we’re exposed to another person’s stress sweat, our pulse races, and the brain goes into “fight or flight mode.” But that doesn’t happen when we’re exposed to people only sweating from exercise!
So, if you smell someone’s stress sweat, be on guard for potential danger, like an angry boss!