WATCH: Old person smell is really a thing and now it’s been scientifically proven

By Viwe Ndongeni-Ntlebi Time of article published Apr 5, 2021

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Have you ever wondered what the distinctive smell you get every time you get into an old age home? Scientists have confirmed that there’s an odour associated with ageing.

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

Truth is, “old people smell” - while arguably not the nicest or most respectful way to talk about our elders - is a real thing.

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 people smell.”

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 past 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.

Since the discovery of 2-noneal, several companies have started developing personal care products designed to mask the scent of older people, particularly in Japan. But there’s no evidence that these products do anything to target 2-nonenal.

If you’re concerned about age-related changes in your body odour, it will help to understand that body odour naturally changes as you age. For older people, this change in smell is likely due to an increase in levels of a compound called 2-nonenal.

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