Lately I’ve noticed that my belly button has an unpleasant odor—even after I’ve just showered! What’s going on?


What’s going on is that your navel might need a little more TLC than just soaping up in the shower. Belly-button “fuzz” is such a given, especially if you’ve got an “innie,” that you probably remove it automatically without thinking. But belly buttons collect more than the lint from our clothing. The navel is actually a scar–“vestigial plumbing” left from when we got nourishment from our mothers. When the stump of a newborn’s umbilical cord falls off, the area heals into a recess with folds and dips, an ideal hangout for microorganisms that naturally live on the skin. While those microorganisms include bacteria—more than 60 different kinds, in fact—bacterial infections in navels are not common. However, navel crevices are a perfect habitat for yeasts, molds and fungi, which do have musty smells. Yeast, for example, has a distinctive odor similar to that of stale beer or stale bread. Other signs of yeast infection include itchiness, the area being sensitive to touch and the inside folds and recesses of the navel feeling slippery. Add sweat, lotions, the natural shedding of skin cells, everyday dirt and dust, and you can see why your belly button needs more attention than just soaping up in the shower. These tips should help…

  • When you shower or bathe, gently massage whatever body cleanser you use into all the crevices and rinse thoroughly. Make sure to pat dry thoroughly once you’re done showering.
  • If you still notice an unpleasant odor even after a thorough washing, try irrigating your navel with a solution of ¼ to ½ teaspoon of salt dissolved in one cup of warm water…or gently massage a thin paste of salt and warm water into your navel. Be gentle! (And that means, don’t head for the Q-tips.)
  • If repeating the steps above for a few days doesn’t solve the odor problem…or if the area is painful…there is a colored discharge…the area is red…feels warm to the touch…and/or there is swelling present, it’s best to get it checked by your doctor.