The belly button is a funny little feature. It’s the first scar you ever got, but these days, it doesn’t seem to do much. You might even forget it’s there. But what if it has a knack for collecting lint? Rightfully so, you might wonder how it happens. It’s even worse when it starts to get stinky. Instead of trying to cover it up, get to the root of the problem. Smelly belly button lint actually points to a problem – so don’t ignore it.
What Causes Belly Button Lint?
Lint, fluff, gunk – whatever you call it, it exists. Experts speculate that abdominal hair is at play. The hair traps fibers from cotton clothing and compacts it in the navel, creating a felt-like substance. Essentially, the belly button is being crafty without your help.
More abdominal hair equals more belly button lint. This explains why it’s most common in males, but women can get it, too.1
Why Does It Smell?
The belly button is the perfect hiding spot for dust, oil, dead skin, and bacteria. Anybody can start stinking, so do pay attention.
1. Poor Hygiene
The belly button is no different than other parts of the body. When lint, oil, and skin cells join forces, it’s bound to be smelly. Sweat can also mix with bacteria on the skin and release an odor.2
All of this can get trapped in the tiny space of a belly button. It’s a solid reason to practice good hygiene and take regular showers, especially after sweating.
2. Skin Infection
Belly buttons house thousands of diverse bacteria. If an infection develops, it certainly won’t smell like a field of flowers! Redness, itching, pain, and bleeding may also show up. A yeast infection of the skin is also possible. To avoid an outbreak, practice good hygiene and be gentle with the belly button. Damaged skin will only increase the risk of infection.3
Sebaceous cysts are hard closed sacs under the skin. They’re filled with oily cheese-like material and usually show up on the face, neck, and trunk. It’s possible to have one in or near the belly button. Typically, sebaceous cysts aren’t painful. But when they become inflamed or infected, a foul-smelling substance can drain from the cyst. Visit a doctor as soon as possible for treatment.4
How To Clean Belly Button Lint
1. Warm Salt Water
This simple remedy is fool-proof. Salt is a natural, cheap disinfectant that can be found in your own pantry. The warmth of the water will also dissolve belly button dirt and gunk.
- Mix 1 teaspoon of salt with ½ cup of warm water.
- Stir until dissolved.
- Dip a cotton ball into the mixture.
- Gently cleanse the area.
- Pour the remaining water over the belly button.
2. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil will swipe away dirt, lint, and everything in between. It’ll also break down debris while moisturizing the skin.5
- With a clean cotton swab, pick up a tiny amount of coconut oil.
- Carefully cleanse the belly button.
- Never re-dip the dirty end.
- Use the other side or a new cotton swab.
3. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is one of the most powerful anti-microbial remedies. On the skin, both viruses and bacteria won’t stand a chance. However, it’s very strong, so be sure to dilute it first.6
- Add 2 to 3 drops of tea tree oil to 1 tablespoon of carrier oil.
- Mix it well.
- Dip a cotton swab into the mixture and clean the navel.
Be gentle when cleaning your belly button. Damaging the skin will only make things worse! If you have redness or other painful symptoms, visit your doctor.
|↑1||Steinhauser, Georg. “The nature of navel fluff.” Medical hypotheses 72, no. 6 (2009): 623-625.|
|↑2||Sweat. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑3||Hulcr, Jiri, Andrew M. Latimer, Jessica B. Henley, Nina R. Rountree, Noah Fierer, Andrea Lucky, Margaret D. Lowman, and Robert R. Dunn. “A jungle in there: bacteria in belly buttons are highly diverse, but predictable.” PLoS One 7, no. 11 (2012): e47712.|
|↑4||Sebaceous cyst. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑5||Verallo-Rowell, Vermén M., Stephanie S. Katalbas, and Julia P. Pangasinan. “Natural (Mineral, Vegetable, Coconut, Essential) Oils and Contact Dermatitis.” Current allergy and asthma reports 16, no. 7 (2016): 1-11.|
|↑6||Pazyar, Nader, Reza Yaghoobi, Nooshin Bagherani, and Afshin Kazerouni. “A review of applications of tea tree oil in dermatology.” International journal of dermatology 52, no. 7 (2013): 784-790.|