How Can I Tell My Friend She Smells?


I have a very good friend that doesn’t shower regularly. Whenever we hang out, she usually smells like body odor and sweat. Is there a politically correct way to say something to her without hurting her feelings?


Dear D.,

Wow. That might be the trickiest question in the brief but distinguished history of

Your choices both have downsides. Either you stay mute on the matter and only see your friend at breezy outdoor cafes, or speak up and risk doing irreparable damage to the friendship.

She must just not know. I can’t imagine a girl shrugging her shoulders upon hearing that she smells!

It’s up to you to decide whether you think your relationship can sustain a discussion like this, and whether your intentions are purely altruistic. If you decide to proceed, I’d begin like this:

“I want to talk to you about something awkward. I debated whether I should say anything at all, but if it were me, I’d want to know. Sometimes it smells like you don’t shower frequently, and I was just wondering what kind of products you’re using.”

Next, assure her that you don’t want to hurt her feelings, and that her hygienic choices are obviously her own. If possible, steer the discussion toward daily routines and brands of soap and deodorant, etc. Maybe those patchouli-scented products from the health food store just aren’t doing the job!

One important caveat: avoid saying anything like, “I’m not the only one who’s noticed this,” or “we all talked about it, and…” That would only up her embarrassment. It may be true, but since you’re tackling this alone, you should speak only for yourself.

Another idea that might save her some mortification: pour all of this into a gentle, tactful email, and tell her she has the right to ignore it completely if that’s her wish.

Whew – good luck with that!

Graciously yours,


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