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How to Eliminate the Unpleasant Odor that Comes with Aging

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As we age, our bodies go through various changes, both internally and externally. One common change that many individuals experience is an alteration in body odor. There is a misconception that older people have a distinct and unpleasant smell, often referred to as “old people smell.” In this article, we will explore the truth behind this phenomenon and provide practical solutions for managing and eliminating the odor.

What Causes the “Old People Smell”?

The “old people smell” is not a result of poor hygiene or lack of cleanliness. Instead, it is a natural component of body odor that becomes more pronounced with age. The primary cause of this scent is a chemical compound known as nonenal. Nonenal is produced when omega-7 unsaturated fatty acids on the skin degrade through oxidation. As we age, our bodies produce more fatty acids, and hormonal changes can also contribute to the production of nonenal.

The Science Behind Aging and Body Odor

Research published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology has shown a direct association between aging and an increase in 2-nonenal, the specific compound responsible for the “old people smell.” Around the age of 40, both men and women experience changes in their skin’s production of fatty acids. As the skin’s natural antioxidant defenses deteriorate, more fatty acids are produced, leading to a faster oxidation process and the production of 2-nonenal.

Managing and Minimizing Nonenal Odor

While it may not be possible to completely eliminate nonenal odor, there are steps that can be taken to minimize its impact. Adopting a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the intensity of the smell. Regular exercise, clean eating, stress reduction, and limiting tobacco and alcohol intake can all contribute to a healthier body and potentially reduce body odor.

Drinking plenty of water is also beneficial, as it can help dilute the fatty acids responsible for the odor. Additionally, some anecdotal evidence suggests that certain natural remedies, such as Japanese persimmon extract and green tea, may help break down the compounds responsible for the smell and dissipate it more quickly.

Proper Personal Hygiene Practices

Maintaining good personal hygiene is essential for overall well-being and can help minimize the impact of nonenal odor. Regular bathing or showering using mild, fragrance-free soaps can help remove the odor-causing compounds from the skin. It is important to note that traditional soaps in the United States may not effectively eliminate or neutralize nonenal, as they are designed to target other types of body odor.

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Specialized Products for Managing Nonenal Odor

In recent years, some companies have developed specialized products designed to address nonenal odor specifically. These products often contain ingredients such as persimmon extract and green tea, which have been shown to break down the compounds responsible for the odor. They are available in various forms, including bar soaps, body washes, and fabric sprays. Using these products in conjunction with proper personal hygiene practices can help manage nonenal odor effectively.

Creating a Fresh Living Environment

In addition to personal hygiene, creating a fresh living environment can help minimize the impact of nonenal odor. Regularly airing out living areas by opening windows and using ventilation can help remove stale air and reduce the concentration of odor-causing compounds. Washing clothing and bedding regularly, using laundry supplements designed to fight stains and cut grease, can also help minimize the odor.

Seeking Professional Assistance

For older adults who may struggle with maintaining proper personal hygiene and a clean living environment, in-home care can be a valuable resource. In-home caregivers can provide assistance with bathing, dressing, and household cleaning, ensuring that seniors receive the care they need to maintain good hygiene and minimize the impact of nonenal odor.

Embracing the Natural Process of Aging

It is important to remember that the “old people smell” is a natural part of the aging process and should not be a source of shame or embarrassment. It is a scent that many individuals associate with fond memories of their grandparents and parents. By promoting open discussions about age-related changes like nonenal, we can reduce the stigma surrounding aging and ensure that individuals have the information and resources they need to embrace the natural process of getting older.


While the “old people smell” may be a common occurrence as we age, it is not indicative of poor hygiene or lack of cleanliness. Understanding the science behind this odor and implementing proper hygiene practices can help manage and minimize its impact. Embracing the natural process of aging and seeking professional assistance when needed can contribute to a healthier and more comfortable lifestyle. By dispelling misconceptions and fostering open conversations, we can create a more inclusive and understanding society for individuals of all ages.

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