Few people like to admit it because it makes them sound ageist, but most people have encountered old-person scent at least once. If you happen to be one of the few who haven’t, or if you believe it’s a myth, there’s actually some scientific basis behind it. The slightly sour smell is actually caused by a fatty acid called palmitoleic acid. We all have it in our bodies, as a part of aging, our bodies begin to secrete more of it. The compound itself has little to no scent, but when excreted over the surface of the body, bacteria comes in contact with it and begins breaking it down. That decomposition process emits an odor that most people liken to a stuffy, stale or sour smell.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not caused by lack of hygiene or poor cleanliness. And it doesn’t affect everyone. Researchers are still learning about why this fatty acid ramps up production in old age and what, if anything, can be done to prevent the tell-tale smell aside from covering it up with cologne. Until that time, try to keep your skin healthy and clean since like perspiration, it is exposure to bacteria that causes an odor, not the secretion itself.