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Everything you wanted to know about smells

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Deodorants and Antiperspirants

Dr. Karl Laden

05.09.09, 00:11

The use of specific commercial products to control underarm odor and wetness began about 100 years ago. However attempts to control body odor goes back thousands of years. We know the ancient Greeks and Romans used perfumes and other odiferous materials to cover unpleasant body odors. Over 2,000 years ago, in a treatise on personal hygiene & grooming, the ancient Roman Ovid wrote, "Quam paene admonui ne trux caper iret in alas" which freely translates to "How nearly did I warn you that no rude goat find its way beneath your arms". 

Underarm antiperspirant and deodorant products now represent a multi-billion dollar industry. Deodorant products work to prevent (or mask) underarm odors while antiperspirants control the amount of wetness (sweat) delivered to the skin surface. In almost all cases, antiperspirant products also control underarm odor. The simplest way to determine if a product is a deodorant or antiperspirant is to read the label. All deodorant products are labeled as deodorants. However some antiperspirants are also labeled as deodorants. If a product contains a chemical ingredient beginning with the name Aluminum or Zirconium, it is almost always an antiperspirant.

Both underarm odor and wetness begin with 2 different types of sweat glands located under the arms. The first type are called an eccrine sweat glands. These glands are responsible for most of the wetness we notice when sweating. Their function is to help cool the body during physical exertion or hot weather. The sweat produced is essentially like dilute salt water and is odorless.

The second type of sweat glands are called apocrine glands. Compared to eccrine sweat glands they produce very small quantities of fluid but a very different type of excretion. Apocrine sweat is a milky fluid that contains proteins and other organic substances. Apocrine sweat is also essentially odorless when it is excreted. However when bacteria on the skin surface decompose the materials in this sweat. unpleasant body odors are formed.

To control wetness, antiperspirants work by interfering with the amount of sweat delivered to the skin surface. They do this by forming small obstructions in the duct that delivers sweat to the skin surface. Typically antiperspirants reduce the total amount of underarm sweat between 30-50%. Since these products are used only under the arms, this reduction in sweat does not interfere with the overall cooling function of sweating. The chemicals that cause this blockage are certain aluminum and zirconium salts.

To control odor, deodorants work by inhibiting the breakdown of apocrine sweat by bacteria. They usually do this with antimicrobial agents that kill the bacteria that are responsible for generating the offensive odors. The reason most antiperspirants are also deodorants is that the same chemicals that cause blockage of sweat ducts are also antimicrobial agents capable of inhibiting the bacteria responsible for odor generation.
 
read more about body odor, or get into the SmellWell forum and ask our specalists about deodorants.
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