Thursday, January 7, 2010

Deodorants and Antiperspirants

When people learn how body odor works, the first question they usually ask is how they can stop it. The first line of defense is bathing, which reduces your sweaty residue, leaving bacteria with a whole lot less to lunch on. However, soap and water won’t kill the bacteria itself, which is a more-or-less permanent resident on your body.

Another popular tactic is to use deodorant or antiperspirant, which you usually apply to bacteria’s favorite dining spot—the underarms. These two products work differently. Deodorants mask body odor (which should rightly be called bacteria odor) with a different smell. They may also contain powders that absorb moisture and chemicals that can kill some of the bacteria. Because you can never completely eradicate the bacteria, deodorant is really a population-control tactic.

Antiperspirants may include musky perfumes and germicides like deodorants, but they also have an aluminum-based chemical that temporarily blocks sweat glands. To be labeled an antiperspirant, clinical tests must show that the product actually works. This involves rather amusing studies that put a number of people in very hot rooms and get lab technicians to collect the resulting sweat. The rule of thumb is that a basic antiperspirant must reduce underarm sweating by 20 percent in most people. A highpowered antiperspirant (one with “maximum” or similar language on the label) must hit the 30-percent mark. Prescription antiperspirants can reduce sweating even more.

Now that you understand the science of your armpit, you’re ready to learn about a significant drawback to antiperspirants: They only work on the comparatively harmless eccrine glands. So while antiperspirants do decrease the amount of wetness (which does slow down your armpit bacteria), they can’t suppress the strong-smelling apocrine glands. So, after an hour at the gym, you’ll still smell like, well, yourself.

Finally, it’s important to address one of the very real risks of antiperspirants. No, it’s not breast cancer or Alzheimer’s disease, despite what you might have read in imaginative email chain letters. For the record, aluminum, the key ingredient in antiperspirants, is the third most common element on our planet, and it’s found in food, air, and over-the-counter medications like antacids, all of which provide more aluminum than you can absorb from an antiperspirant through your skin. Furthermore, the amount of waste your sweat glands excrete is small, so there’s no reason to think that slowing down a few sweat glands can increase the level of toxins in your blood.

The real danger of antiperspirants is staining. That’s because the aluminum can react with your sweat to create an embarrassing yellowish stain on your favorite clothes. If this is a problem, apply your antiperspirant and walk around shirtless until it dries. Or consider switching to deodorant.

Deodorants and antiperspirants are simple ways to deal with ordinary sweat, but if you suffer from excessive sweating, you may need the help of the medical community. Your doctor can determine if your sweating is linked to another problem, such as thyroid disease, or if it’s just genetic bad luck (in which case you have a range of treatment options, from stronger antiperspirants to underarm Botox injections and surgery). Lastly, look out for body-odor changes. For example, suddenly sweet body odor may hint at diabetes, or it could just be the result of a change in diet. If in doubt, have it checked.

Source of Information : Oreilly - Your Body Missing Manual

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