Why do the buttocks smell?
The reason why the buttocks or bum has a bad smell is mainly due to feces (stool). The odor is usually isolated to the anus and the area immediately around it (perianal area). However, depending on factors like personal hygiene and tendency to perspire, the odor may affect a large part of the buttocks area. Similarly clothing also plays a role in the odor of the area as do skin applications like perfumes, deodorant or lotion.
Smelly buttocks (also called the bum) can affect some people to the extent that it impacts on relationships and social interaction. This may not seem like a medical problem at the outset. However, sometimes the odor can be very offensive and persistent despite a person’s efforts to reduce it.
The reason why the odor may be intense and widespread could stem from an underlying medical problem where conventional measures to clean the area and reduce the odor are not as effective. It may be accompanied by other symptoms like itchy buttocks and even a skin rash on the area. Smelly buttocks can therefore cause a significant psychosocial impact due to embarrassment and lowered self esteem.
Causes of Smelly Buttocks
There are several reasons why the buttocks may smell uncharacteristically offensive. It is important to note that the buttocks naturally has an offensive odor largely due to defecation. However, with proper cleansing this is minimized. For some people though the odor can be severe despite their best efforts. There may be other causes of smelly buttocks that have not been discussed below. It is therefore important to seek medical advice.
Poor personal hygiene is one of the main reasons why the buttocks may smell extremely offensive. While the general practice of cleaning the area particularly after a bowel movement is well know, at times the cleaning method may not be thorough. The other hygiene factor is not bathing frequently or changing underwear as often as it should. Even improper washing of underwear may also contribute to the hygiene factor and odor.
Read more on bad body odor.
Sweat contributes to an offensive odor anywhere on the body when it is excessive, accumulates or is not removed with bathing during the course of the day. The same applies to the buttock area. People who suffer with excessive sweating are more likely to experience problems with body odor. However, the reason why this area is more prone to sweating is because the entire groin area is covered as part of social norms. This allows for more heat to be retained and as a result there is excessive sweating is common in the groin and buttock area.
Clothing may retain odors which can then contribute to the overall odor of the skin. This is an important factor when it comes to underwear. Sweat, fecal particles, dead skin and bacteria coat the underwear after a short period of use. Urine and secretions from the genitalia can also soil underwear and exacerbate the already offensive odor. It can then contribute to its own odor apart from odor from the anus and skin. Usually underwear is changed frequently to minimize this problem.
Read more on bad groin odor.
Obesity can limit a person’s movement and make it difficult adequately clean the anus and perianal area. It is more of a problem with people who are super obese. In addition the tendency for fat to aggregate in the buttock region means that the intergluteal cleft (also commonly referred to as the “butt crack”) may become deeper thereby increasing the chances of feces adhering to it and making proper cleaning difficult.
Any cause of limited movement may hamper a person’s ability to clean themselves adequately. Understandably this will increase the risk of an offensive odor persisting in the buttock area. As discussed above, severe obesity can limit mobility but this may also be seen with fractured bones, spinal cord injury, strokes, Parkinson’s disease, neuromuscular disorders and even with severe back pain.
Diarrhea can contribute to an offensive odor in the buttock area due to the liquid consistency. Diarrheal stool may leave remnants on the buttock that may not be cleaned by usual practices. This is more likely to happen with explosive diarrhea where fecal particles may extend over a wider area of the buttocks rather than just the anus and perianal area.
Sometimes a person is not aware of the fecal particles that have contaminated the entire buttock areas or even splased onto the groin region. The frequency of bowel movements and any other changes in stool odor may further contribute to it. Fatty stools (steatorrhea) may also have a more offensive odor than normal as are infections of the bowels where diarrhea-causing bacteria may increase offensive odors.
Read more on bad stool odor.
Fecal incontinence is a term where there is an inability to hold back a bowel movement. As a result a person soils themselves. Sometimes the anus cannot prevent small amounts of feces from leaking out, which may be commonly referred to as anal leakage but this is fecal incontinence as well. The offensive odor is a result of the feces soiling the underwear and due to improper cleaning of the buttock region.
How to treat a smelly butt?
When there are underlying conditions like diarrhea or fecal incontinence then medical treatment is required. Without correcting these underlying problems, commonly used remedies to treat smelly buttocks may not be effective. However, simple lifestyle changes may be sufficient with many of the other causes of a smelly buttocks.
It is important to clean the anus and perianal area thoroughly after passing stoo. Dry toilet paper alone may not be sufficient. Using a bidet may be ideal but these facilities may not be widely available. Instead using moistened toilet paper or flushable wet wipes may be more practical. However, the area must be thoroughly dried to prevent further irritation of the skin.
Daily bathing is essential and if body odor is a problem then more frequent bathing is advisable. A strongly scented soap or bathing gel may be helpful but could irritate the skin. Rather focus on removing the cause of the odor like the fecal particles and bacteria. An antibacterial soap may be a better option and if it is too harsh for the rest of the body it can be used only on the buttock area.
Use Clean Clothing
Underwear needs to be changed daily and preferably more than one time a day. Never wear used clothing after bathing. Just as important is properly washing clothing and underwear. These days most people use washing machines and dryers and these devices are used properly for thorough cleaning. Never wear damp clothing or underwear as this can contribute to a bad odor and encourage bacteria and fungi from thriving in the area.
Reviewed and updated on 12 August 2018.