No one wants to be the smelly kid. Once adolescence hits, gym class and sunny days become stressful. In an effort to avoid smelliness, over 90% of adolescents and adults in the US use some type of deodorant or antiperspirant to manage their body odor. It’s so pervasive that using a deodorant is just what you do. In fact, a recent study said that about 78% of people don’t genetically need a deodorant, but use one anyway.
Sweat itself does not smell. We might think otherwise because we smell the most when we sweat a lot. But in reality, it’s the bacteria in the armpit that makes us stinky. These bacteria break down the lipids and amino acids found in your (non-smelly) sweat and turn it into substances that have that distinct smell that we call body odor.
The governing approaches to solving our body odor problem have been growing in adoption over the last several decades, along with our increasingly robust hygiene routines. Two popular BO-fighting methods reign supreme in the market: kill bacteria via a standard deodorant (containing ingredients like triclosan), or block our sweat glands AND kill bacteria (via an antiperspirant containing ingredients like aluminum).
However, the medical community has started to uncover some potentially frightening side effects that come with such extensive use of deodorants and antiperspirants. While research is early, it’s had a dramatic impact on the public and has started to make a “hippie” lifestyle look a lot smarter.
The other piece of research coming from the academic community is a more profound understanding of the microbiome, the bacterial community that exists in and on our body. Some are even calling it the newest organ system because of the vast impact it is proving to have on our health. This includes serious things like life threatening c diff, to the less serious but socially damaging body odor.
In fact, this research might completely change how we approach something like body odor, and make our current approaches look barbaric in comparison (think: lead in lipstick for the ladies of the 17th century).