Deodorants and antiperspirants are the quiet heroes of modern urban society, allowing us all to get along in tight spaces. In today's DNews report, Trace Dominguez and Jackie Koppell celebrate the work of these humbly endeavoring chemical compounds.
First off, you might be surprised to find out that the first deodorant was patented way back in 1888. It was called Mum and was fundamentally different from previous oils and perfumes designed to mask body odor. Those didn't work then, they don't work now, and someone really needs to get this message to America's body spray enthusiasts.
Anyway: The first deodorants used substances like zinc oxide to control bacterial growth, because that's where the real problem is. A good percentage of what we call body odor is caused by bacteria, which expel strong-smelling chemicals when they feed on the fatty acids and protein byproducts in our sweat. Reduce the bacteria, and you reduce the smell.
RELATED: Why Can't We Smell Things When It's Cold?
Antiperspirants come at the problem from a different vector by using alcohol and aluminum chloride to inhibit perspiration in the first place. The tricky part is that antiperspirants mostly work with one type of sweat gland, while bacteria tend to feed on the stuff coming out of a different kind of sweat gland. As such, most modern deodorant products actually combine deodorant and antiperspirant.
The potential downside is that both of these types of chemical compounds can potentially mess with your body's microbiome, particularly the various microorganisms that live on the skin. A recent study in in the journal Peer J found that regular deodorant users were radically altering their armpit microbiome.
"Using antiperspirant and deodorant completely rearranges the microbial ecosystem of your skin," says one researcher in the study announcement. "And we have no idea what effect, if any, that has on our skin and on our health. Is it beneficial? Is it detrimental?"
Clearly, more research is needed ©. Trace and Jackie have additional details in the video, or for related developments, click on over to our fearless investigative report: What Are Pheromones & Can They Help You Get Laid?
-- Glenn McDonald
SmithsonianMag: How Advertisers Convinced Americans They Smelled Bad
NCBI: Antiperspirant use and the risk of breast cancer
Peer J: The effect of habitual and experimental antiperspirant and deodorant product use on the armpit microbiome