Deodorants are a key component in many personal hygiene regimens across the United States. However, despite its familiarity, the details surrounding this product can seem a bit mysterious. How does it work? How long has deodorant been used in the battle against foul-smelling sweat? What ingredients are typically used? What are the most popular types available on the market?
Before exploring these topics, it’s helpful to think about the human body and how it produces perspiration, otherwise known as sweat. When body temperature rises, sweat glands in the armpits, groin, and feet will produce sweat in order to lower the temperature back to normal.
Fresh perspiration is odorless. However, if sweat lingers on the body, bacteria can thrive in these warm, moist areas, sometimes producing an unpleasant smell.
Deodorants were developed to reduce or eliminate these disagreeable body odors, mainly in the underarm area. The body will still perspire, but deodorants work to reduce odors.
Antiperspirants are typically lumped into the “deodorant” category. Although the terms are often used interchangeably, they work very differently. Deodorants reduce unpleasant odors, while antiperspirants actually prevent sweat from forming.
The first official deodorant, called “Mum,” was released to the market in 1888. “Everdry,” the first patented antiperspirant, appeared in 1903. However, it was quite some time before these products became popular. Early deodorants and antiperspirants were messy and irritating to the skin. They often ruined clothing. Furthermore, many people did not believe that such a product was necessary.
Beginning in 1919, advertisers began targeting women, hoping to convince them of their great need to eliminate offensive body odors caused by sweat. These sales tactics worked, and the use of deodorants gained in popularity.
In the 1940s and ‘50s, deodorant usage increased exponentially. The first modern antiperspirant, “Stopette” spray, was patented in 1941. Gradually, these products became cleaner and easier to use. Also, milder solutions were manufactured to reduce skin irritation. During this time, the market also expanded to include products designed for men.
Most deodorants here in the United States are alcohol-based. Common active ingredients may include:
Antiperspirants typically contain aluminum-based compounds such as:
These aluminum salts temporarily block sweat glands, thereby reducing sweat production. Aluminum-based deodorants and antiperspirants have sparked controversy in recent years; some people believe that aluminum compounds in deodorants cause cancer. However, this claim has never been definitively proven by research.
Other additives may vary, depending on the nature of the product. Additional ingredients may include:
Deodorants come in many different forms. The most common types are stick deodorants, gels, aerosols, and roll-on liquids. Chemical-free, natural deodorants are also widely available.
Stick deodorants are also called solids. Solids are usually white with a dry, powdery feel when applied. Occasionally, they will leave a slight residue on clothing; buying an invisible solid will help combat this problem.
Gel deodorants are generally a clear, thick liquid. They may feel a bit sticky after applying but tend to dry clear.
When using an aerosol deodorant, the product is sprayed on the skin. It may feel slightly cool and wet at first, but will dry with a smooth, powdery finish.
Roll-on deodorants contain a liquid product inside. The applicator, reminiscent of the ballpoint pen, has a ball-tip. As the bottle is rolled over the armpit, the liquid slowly flows out, covering the area.
Natural, chemical-free deodorants are gaining in popularity. There are a multitude of products available on the market. These deodorants are generally free from aluminum salts, parabens, and other chemical compounds. These natural deodorants come in many forms, such as powders, liquids, sprays, creams, solids, and even stones or crystals. Possible ingredients may include baking soda, alum, essential oils, shea butter, beeswax, and many others.
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