Why does my skin smell in sunlight?

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Offline thedoc

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Why does my skin smell in sunlight?
« on: 09/06/2014 17:30:01 »
Vincent asked the Naked Scientists:
I just would like to know whether The Naked Scientist could shed some light on the reason why my skin has a peculiar smell when it is exposed to the sun. I have looked for skin smell/odour/odor sun" on Google (in several languages), Google Scholar, Web of Science and Scopus, to no avail.

I'm a dark-haired white male, with a skin a bit more tanned than the average. I don't have a strong BO at all. When my skin is exposed to sunlight that is intense enough to make it sweat a bit, it then produces a peculiar smell. It doesn't smell bad; the sent is not sweaty nor musky.

I don't know whether the smell directly comes from some volatile compounds that my skin produces when exposed to the sun or is due to the action of the sun on my skin's sweat.

I have talked about that to other people, but no one seems to be subject to the production of that smell. However, I have a very good sense of smell (definitely above the average) and it may be possible that everyone produces that smell, but a good sense of smell is required to perceive it.

I hope that you can help me understanding this phenomenon.
Many thanks in advance for your input !

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 18/07/2014 21:35:47 by chris »


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Re: Why does my skin smell in sunlight?
« Reply #1 on: 11/07/2016 17:04:48 »
Hello, while I realize I'm answering a two year old post, it still was one of the first google results when I too looked for information about sun-skin-smells.  I too am white male (around 40 years old), and I always get a peculiar smell after sunbathing. I actually enjoy the smell, and it accentuates if I first breathe out (slowly) moist air onto the skin, before breathing it in/smelling it. It's not as I keep doing this all the time, but I do notice it sometimes.

I remember this also from when I was a kid, in school when we had sport hours outside in the late spring on a sunny day (like when playing the local equivalent of baseboll), when I noticed the smell. Then I erroneously connected the smell to getting sand on my hands or similar, and thought it actually was the sand that smelled, but I still remember the smell sensation then and now 30 years later also have the same smell. I don't at this time know if other people think this sun-smell of mine is pleasant or not, I guess I will have to ask somebody some time.

I have no actual answer to the question though, what might cause this smell.  I do work as a medical doctor, but have never learned anything that could cause this smell. Other than facts like sun-on-skin-creating-d-vitamin-out-of-cholesterol, but I'd be a bit surprised if that had anything to do with the smell...

Just for your (or anybody's) information.