Why Does My Belly Button Smell?

If you have recently noticed a smell coming from your belly button, you are likely eager to treat it as soon as possible. Your belly button is the mark on your body where your umbilical cord was attached before you were born.

Because of its shape and tiny skin folds, belly buttons can collect dirt, sweat, and bacteria. In fact, the average belly button contains about 67 types of bacteria. This buildup can lead to a smell and even infection. 

Your belly button may smell because of a hygiene need or an infection caused by bacteria or fungus. The belly button is also a commonly forgotten body part when it comes to washing.

This article will describe the possible causes of belly button smell and how to treat them.  

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Causes

When your belly button smells, it’s important to treat the cause as soon as possible. The cause may be simple, like a lack of hygiene, or more complicated such as a skin infection. 

Hygiene

Belly button odor is commonly caused by hygiene issues. When our bodies sweat, the bacteria on our skin breaks down the proteins into acids, which leads to body odor. 

When sweat, dirt, and dead skin cells collect in the belly button, they need to be removed with regular washing. It’s recommended that both teens and adults shower daily to remove the buildup of dirt and sweat. 

Cysts

It is possible to develop a cyst behind your belly button. If this cyst becomes infected, it can lead to pain, discharge, and a foul smell. 

A urachal cyst is a small sac of tissue that develops in the structure between the bladder and the belly button. This structure, known as the urachus, connects the bladder to the belly button in a developing fetus. It normally disappears before the baby is born but remains in some people. When an opening remains between the bladder and belly button, this is known as a urachal sinus. 

Many of us would never know that we still have a urachus unless it becomes infected. In addition to a smell, common symptoms include:

Because a urachal cyst carries a small risk of cancer, your healthcare provider may recommend surgically removing it once the infection has been treated. 

Candida

Candida is a type of yeast (or fungus) that can cause a fungal infection known as candidiasis. Candida normally lives on the skin without an issue. It can also be found inside the body in the mouth, throat, gut, and vagina. When Candida starts to grow at an out-of-control rate, an infection can occur and lead to a smell. Individuals with diabetes have an increased risk of developing candidiasis. 

Piercing

Any time there is a break or tear in your skin, there is a risk of infection. Belly button piercings can become infected with different types of bacteria like Staphylococcus or Streptococcus.

It’s estimated that about one-third of piercings in body parts other than the ear lobes become infected. In addition to a smell, symptoms of an infected belly button piercing include redness, pain, and discharge. 

If you have been considering a belly button piercing, go to a store or facility where the piercers always wash their hands with a germicidal soap, wear surgical gloves, and use sterilized instruments. 

Type of Odor

There are different types of body odors that could affect your belly button. If your belly button smells because of a hygiene need, the smell may be similar to the body odor that you would experience after sweating or not showering for a few days. 

Different types of yeast and bacteria can cause specific smells on the skin. Bacterial infection smells could be characterized as sulfur-like, sour, or cheesy. If you notice a distinct smell coming from your belly button, do your best to describe it to your healthcare provider. This will help with getting the right diagnosis and treatment. 

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If you have noticed an unusual smell coming from your belly button, start by gently washing it with an antibacterial soap. If your belly button continues to smell after washing, see your healthcare provider. It’s important to first determine the cause of the smell before going ahead with treatment. 

Treatment

Treatment of your belly button will depend on the cause of the smell. A hygiene need can be addressed with regular washing. Other possible treatments include:

  • Candida infection: Antifungal cream or powder
  • Bacterial infection: Antibiotic ointment
  • Infected cyst: Oral or topical antibiotics and possibly drain the cyst

How to Clean the Belly Button

Clean your belly button each day while in the shower. Use a wet, soapy washcloth to gently clean your belly button, massaging it to loosen any dirt. After your shower, be sure to dry your belly button so that it does not remain damp.

Avoid putting any lotions or creams into your belly button, as this could create a moist environment that promotes the buildup of bacteria or yeast. To clean a belly button piercing that is still healing, use a gentle soap, followed by a sterile saline solution. 

Summary 

When your belly button smells, it is usually because of a hygiene need or infection. The belly button contains several tiny skin folds that can trap sweat, dirt, dead skin cells, and bacteria. Possible infections include candidiasis, bacterial infections, or an infected urachal cyst. A lack of hygiene can be solved with gently washing your belly button every day. An infection should be diagnosed and treated by your healthcare provider. 

A Word From Verywell 

If you have noticed a smell coming from your belly button, you may feel embarrassed and tempted to ignore it. This is a normal response but it’s important to address the issue so that you can treat it and move on. Start by washing your belly button well. If the smell continues, talk with your healthcare provider. 

 Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can a smelly belly button be serious?

    Yes, a belly button that smells could be serious if the smell is caused by an infection. See your healthcare provider if you have noticed a new smell coming from your belly button. 

  • How long does it take an infected belly button to heal?

    The time it takes for a belly button infection to heal depends on the type of infection. Bacterial infections should be treated with antibiotic ointment or oral antibiotics, and fungal infections are treated with antifungal creams or powders.

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11 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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