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Why does my belly button smell? © Getty Images

Why does my belly button smell?

Published: 04th September, 2021 at 11:00
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GP Dr Nish Manek explains the (extremely gross) science behind stinky navels – and what you can do about the problem.

Your belly button has its own tiny, thriving ecosystem that may be home to more than 100 types of bacteria, according to one major analysis (although the average is around 60 types).


Why so many? Well, if you think about it, your navel is an attractive place for bacteria to hang out: comfortable folds of skin, not much air to whip them away – and they’re often undisturbed because we don’t always clean inside it regularly.

Most of the time they stay in low numbers. But if the bacteria are given a chance to multiply, they can get out of control. This is even more likely to happen if you have an ‘innie’, or if you have a piercing (the perfect cavity to house some unwanted guests). It’s the abundance of bacteria, along with the sweat, grime and fluff that can collect there, that could give your belly button a bit of a whiff.

But don’t worry – it’s easy to sort. A quick clean with soap during your normal shower can usually eliminate any odours. But don’t use moisturiser – aggressive cleaning and excess moisture can also encourage bacterial growth.

Next time you’re navel-gazing, imagine all the little organisms feasting in there and take a moment to send them packing.

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Dr Nish Manek is a GP in London. She completed her medical degree at Imperial College and was runner-up in the University of London Gold Medal. Manek has also developed teaching courses for Oxford Medical School, and has penned articles for The Guardian and Pulse magazine.


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