That 'old person smell' can be rooted down to science

Old person smell (OPS) has been scientifically proven to be a part of the natural process of ageing.

According to Science, people become smellier as they age
© unsplash
According to Science, people become smellier as they age

According to a study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, older people emit a smell that is characteristic of their old age, colloquially referred to as 'old person smell.'

Discover our latest podcast

An odour that is particular to older people

Though not the nicest thing to say about old folks, there is no denying that a very particular smell can be detected when entering a retirement home. It's this kind of fusty odour that doesn't quite smell bad in itself, but definitely leaves an impression as soon as you come in contact with it.

The study explains that people produce a chemical compound called 2-nonenal which is something that comes about when omega-7 fatty acids on the skin break down through oxidization. As you get older, your skin starts producing more of these fatty acids as the body's natural anti-oxidant defences deteriorate passed the age of 40.

And the reason why this smell becomes even more evident in older people is that this chemical compound that we all produce is not water-soluble, meaning that washing yourself won't necessarily make that much of a difference.

So, the older we get the more fatty acids we produce as our natural defences go down, and since they are not water soluble, personal hygiene does not directly impact this effect.

Are there any ways around this smell?

The one thing you should know is that this is completely normal as is the natural process of ageing. However, there are definitely some things you can do to reduce the production of fatty acids.

Generally speaking, a healthier lifestyle will favour you in the long run, has also been proven to help in the reduction of the body's production of fatty acids. So, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet and drinking lots of water will contribute in producing less of these acids and—as a result—minimize the OPS that you will inevitably emit.

The reason why you're always late can be rooted down to science The reason why you're always late can be rooted down to science