Why The One Product Everyone Uses Has Barely Changed In 4,000 Years, And How It’s Ruining Your Love Life

Deodorant is one of those things that we just assume we need. We habitually slap it on every morning, and race out of the house confident that our stinky, sweaty, foul bodies won’t be offending anyone today. And like many other modern cosmetics, we assume that what we’re using today is better than anything people used in the past, because progress. But all that shit is wrong. Deodorant has barely changed in 4,000 years, and it makes you a less attractive person. No joke.

Let’s jump right in.

1. Deodorant is totally just perfume.

Lets talk deodorant first (not anti-perspirant, which has a whole different and more recent history in America—including the fact that the first American anti-perspirants could actually burn through your clothes).

Deodorant is used to cover body odor, not fight perspiration. At its most basic, it’s a scent suspended in a semi-solid medium. Sometimes this medium also contains an anti-bacterial compound, like alcohol, and some kind of moisturizer. That’s what deodorant is.

4,000 years ago, people also used to cover their bodies in perfumes. Typically, the medium for these scents was oil back then, which is less typical today, but, still… it’s basically the same thing.

Basically the same thing. // credit: Shutterstock

The only thing that’s changed is the medium that holds this good smelling stuff—and the specific type of scent people like (it used to be Frankincense but now it’s “Extra Fresh Adventure“). At its most basic, deodorants and perfumes are still just good smelling stuff that you slather on your body. And the oils of yesterday were just as moisturizing as any lotion that’s included in deodorants now.

2. Anti-perspirant has been around for 2,000 years, at least.

But let’s speak to the anti-perspirant contingent too. Aluminum compounds, currently used in many anti-perspirants, were being used by the Romans back in 100 AD in the form of Alum. Alum was also well-known to the Greeks and Ancient Egyptians. It’s effective as an anti-perspirant because it has antibiotic properties and, as an astringent, it causes your armpit pores to tighten up, thus slowing or stopping sweat. Today it’s still used all over the world in its purest form, but in the U.S. it’s had to be marketed as something special in order for people to buy it. Meet the deodorant crystal.

Alum via Wiki Commons

That’s right, it’s just a mineral rock. Different kinds of aluminum compounds are used in nearly all anti-perspirants and they’re combined in a gelatinous, spreadable medium infused with scents just like those infused in oils previously.

There is almost zero difference in how anti-perspirants function today compared to how they functioned in antiquity. There is no time in recorded history that people weren’t using deodorants while calling them perfume, and alum has been used as an anti-perspirant for at least a millennia.

Also, for those who have heard otherwise, there’s no evidence alum or aluminum compounds used in anti-perspirants is toxic or causes cancer—and there never was.

3. Deodorant literally makes you less attractive.

It’s ironic that the very thing we all use to keep from repelling the opposite sex (or if you believe Axe’s advertising, attract them) is actually covering up every bit of natural chemical attraction your body produces. Yep, I’m talking about pheromones.

For over 30 years, multiple studies have revealed that human pheromones have a strong affect on nearly every aspect of courtship—they can have effects that range from how attractive we find someone to whether or not we’re in a good mood because of them. Pheromones also carry genetic information which we use to identify potential mates with whom we can reproduce.

In one study, the least attractive male member of the study group was found to be far more attractive once male pheromones were introduced into the equation.

By wearing deodorant, we mask these signals, ironically—technically—making us less attractive. Now I can hear you thinking, “But not bathing is gross.” Nobody is talking about not bathing, but the notion that we have to cover up every slight odor we produce is something that’s only really been around in the U.S. since around 1910, when advertisers convinced women that unless they used deodorant they’d never hook a man and get married.

via Flickr - Nesster
Forever alone courtesy of the advertising industry // credit: Nesster

I think we can all agree that prior to commercial deodorants as we know them today, people were getting along just fine in the marriage and baby-making categories.

So if we’re living in a nearly 100% deodorized world, the question remains: is The One right under your nose, when all you’re smelling is the Axe Effect? Thought Catalog Logo Mark

Ask me anything as long as it’s safe for all ages and just fantastically interesting.

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