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I’m Paranoid That My Sweat Smells Like Weed

Although science says I’m more right than crazy

With the advent of legal marijuana in California, I’ve rediscovered my love for smoking it — especially before going to the movies. Or when I need to deep clean my apartment. Or if I worked out four times in a week, and therefore, deem myself worthy of a cheat day. Or just to unwind some days when I get home from work.

Or anytime, really.

But with my newfound love for smoking my weed has come another discovery: Smoking weed makes my body odor smell like ganja.

Now, admittedly, I normally smell like a damp sock filled with bleu cheese after going to the gym. But several weeks ago, I noticed a stench that was neither damp sock nor bleu cheese. Nope, it was unmistakably the distinct nodes of weed.

Upon further review, science (almost entirely) proves my nose right: Smoking weed, much like drinking alcohol, does affect one’s body odor.

It’s not the sweat itself, though, that’s causing the stench. Generally speaking, that’s a major misperception — i.e., sweat is odorless; it’s the bajillions of microorganisms on your skin that produces your specific smellprint. Those microorganisms, collectively known as your skin microbiome, literally feed on your sweat, and the byproduct is odor. And since your skin microbiome is affected by the foods, liquids and substances you ingest, it only stands that weed would have a similar effect on your skin, and in turn, your BO.

“We know the things you eat and ingest certainly affect the way your sweat smells,” says Julie Horvath, a professor at North Carolina Central University and an expert in evolutionary genomics. “So if you smoke weed, or ingest it in some other way, it exudes from your body in many different ways, [including through your pores]. I’d presume then [marijuana] would impact your microbes, and therefore, the way you smell.”

Past studies have shown that walking through a smoke-filled room has an observable effect on a person’s microbiome and body odor, Horvath adds. And a 2014 study by researchers in Germany finds that cannabis consumption is detectable through body odor. Some have even posited that the weed BO effect is particularly strong among people who exercise often. The theory, according to Justin Fischedick, a biochemistry researcher at Washington State University, is that THC and other active compounds in marijuana are fat soluble, and stored in your fat cells. Those compounds then get excreted when you’re exercising.

All of which adds up to one simple truth: Weed makes your BO dank.