OCT 03, 2016 3:10 PM PDT

How Harmful are Deodorants to Your Body?

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Despite the most adamant testament to the contrary, we all smell (though some more pungent than others). Body odor is simply a natural part of being a mammal. But though sweat is usually blamed for body odor, sweat itself is odorless. The cause of unpleasant odors result from the skin bacteria metabolizing the sweat into compounds that have scents. Thus how we smell depends on many factors: how much sweat is produced, the types of bacteria living on our skin, the foods we eat, and the medications we take.

And so, deodorants and antiperspirants to the rescue! But how do these work? As it turns out, deodorants kill odor by wiping out the bacteria that lives in the armpits. No bacteria, no smell. Antiperspirants, by contrast, eliminate the sweat that bacteria feast on by plugging up sweat glands with aluminum salts. In this case, no sweat, no bacteria, no smell.

Although there are rumors that antiperspirants lead to cancer, there are no scientific findings that back up these claims. But this has yet to stop the rising popularity of all-natural deodorants and antiperspirants that may be less effective than the chemical versions. Watch the video to learn more!
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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