Odor has provided an evolutive advantage to many species, including humans. Certain species of mammals, such as the skunk to the Tasmanian devil produce a foul-smelling spray to deter their enemies. Anthropologist Louis Leakey says that our ancestors' smell was “so rank that hungry predators recoiled, allowing our unappetizing species to flourish” (1).
The first human populations were unaware of their own smell. However, as these populations grew, humans became more conscious of their own scent. Early Egyptians made concoctions using cassia, cinnamon, lemongrass, lily and myrrh. In ancient Greece and Rome, the use of scented oils was common after the daily bath.
The culture of smell (or, more precisely, not smelling) has progressed since the days of the Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. Today, a quick visit to the supermarket is enough to observe the cornucopia of deodorants, antiperspirants, perfumes and soaps created for the sole purpose of eradicating your bodily smell... and keeping you clean.
Every civilization has its take of hiding your own smell. Philip Mercier (c 1689-1760), The Sense of Smell (1744-47). Wikimedia Commons.
If you're one of those who still can't decide what deodorant brand to purchase, we're providing a handy guide on body odor products. We'll explain what's the difference between a deodorant and an antiperspirant, and how does each type of product react with your body.
The Science of Smell
How does body odor work? The reason why humans smell isn't sweat. As a matter of fact, sweat rarely stinks. The culprit of body odor is bacteria, or more specifically, the collective group of microorganisms that live on the human body.
The sweat secreted under your armpits, for example, is produced by two types of glands: apocrine and eccrine glands. Eccrine glands secrete a trick, fat and protein rich compound while apocrine glands release a watery, salty liquid. Whenever you work out or sweat profusely after a very stressful business meeting, the bacteria inhabiting your skin will immediately chomp on the compounds produced by your sweat glands.
Aromaflor’s Lavender Mist Natural Deodorant doesn’t kill the healthy bacteria on your armpits.
According to Gavin Thomas, a microbiologist from the University of York, people are very sensitive to sweat (2). Understanding how sensitive the human nose is may explain why human smell may have completed such an important function to our ancestors. Body odor nowadays is perceived very differently, as it is no longer necessary for the survival of the species.
Antiperspirants vs. Deodorants
So, what's the difference? Deodorants protect exclusively against odor, and nothing more. Commercial deodorant solids use bacteria-fighting agents such as triclosan, in combination with a wide range of salts. Everything else is fragrance. Antiperspirants, on the other hand, are a more complicated story.
Antiperspirants have two functions: to protect against odor and block the sweat glands from secreting any more sweat. This is achieved by using aluminum salts and other metals. The early days of commercial antiperspirants featured aluminum chloride, a compound which made deodorants highly acidic and left the users with a stinging sensation. (3)
The first step in keeping your armpits clean and odor-free: soap.
Antiperspirants nowadays are nowhere near as dangerous and uncomfortable, but still contain an aluminum compound. Gerald McEwen, vice president at the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association, says that “antiperspirants act like tiny little plugs” (1).
Does blocking the pores have any negative effects on your health? The scientific community had not proven any connection between Alzheimer's disease or certain types of cancer with constant antiperspirant use. Although antiperspirants have been deemed safe (4), some people are not comfortable with the idea of using pore-blocking chemicals and have sought for other solutions, such as natural deodorants.
Using the Best Deodorant
Although regular commercial deodorants don't block your pores, they may contain other substances (such as ethanol or other antimicrobial agents) that slay bacteria. A 2016 study (5) shows that traditional products may alter your skin's ecosystem and intensify your body odor. Natural deodorants help keep the ecosystem living under your armpits safe and healthy, while covering any foul smells.
Before switching up to a natural deodorant, exfoliate your armpits with Aromaflor’s Detoxifying Jade Mask.
If you've already made the decision of switching up your deodorant for a natural one, consider that the natural versions may include coconut oil and tea tree oil, essential oils such as lavender or palo santo and naturally absorbent ingredients like arrowroot. Because of these ingredients, don't expect the same results as with your regular deodorant.
You'll actually need a couple of days for your body to get used to it. When making the switch to natural deodorant, you'll learn along the way that it isn't as smooth. Your body takes some time and requires the following steps:
- Clean and exfoliate gently to get rid of bacteria and dead skin cells.
- Dry out excess moisture.
- Let your skin breathe.
- Warm up your deodorant before applying. Body heat makes the natural formula spread easier.
- Less is more.
- You only need a little for an effective, long-lasting effect.
Aromaflor’s line of all natural deodorants don’t contain any aluminum, salts or parabens that will kill the healthy bacteria on your skin.
- Anthony Ramirez. "All About Deodorants, the Success of Sweet Smell". New York Times, 1990: https://www.nytimes.com/1990/08/12/business/all-about-deodorants-the-success-of-sweet-smell.html
- Hunter Oatman-Stanford. "A Brief History of Body Odor". The Week, 2016: https://theweek.com/articles/614722/brief-history-body-odor
- Bethany Brookshire. "Explainer: The Science Behind Body Odor. Science News for Students, 2019: https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/article/explainer-bacteria-behind-your-bo
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