What's the difference between deodorant and antiperspirant?


Announcer: Welcome to Stuff You Should Know from howstuffworks.com.

Josh Clark: Howdy, welcome to the podcast. Chuck Bryant, Josh Clark here. This is Josh; that's Chuck.

Chuck Bryant: Hi.

Josh Clark: Hi, Chuck, how are you doing?

Chuck Bryant: I'm doing well Josh but I - something stinks.

Josh Clark: That's not me, Chuck. That's actually Michael Wax. Do you play poker?

Chuck Bryant: Occasionally but not really.

Josh Clark: Are you familiar with Michael Wax?

Chuck Bryant: No.

Josh Clark: He is a professional poker player. He's a big guy; 440 lbs and he was recently ejected from the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City for an unpleasant smell basically.

Chuck Bryant: Wow.

Josh Clark: Like I said, he's a big guy. He'd been playing 17 hours straight so apparently he was on a roll -

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: - but I guess he also failed to shower in between. I don't know. I guess they didn't comp a room for him or anything for, you know a half hour or anything like that, but yeah, Mr. Wax was ejected. No word on his winnings or anything like that but -

Chuck Bryant: Well, I hope it was enough to buy some soap and deodorant at least.

Josh Clark: I imagine so. I imagine so. And, you know, if you were close enough to Mr. Wax you'd probably think this is, you know, it's body odor, it smells like any body odor I've smelled but were you to really get up under there and you had a really good sent like maybe you were a professional sniffer for a perfume company or whatever, you would notice that he has a very distinct, what is called an odor type and all of us apparently have a unique odor type. Do you know much about odor types?

Chuck Bryant: Well, I know that we do all have one and it's genetically based and -

Josh Clark: And it can be also environmental, too.

Chuck Bryant: Right, like what you eat.

Josh Clark: Yeah, so, basically there was one study in 2006 that found that vegetarians emit a more pleasant body odor than meat eaters.

Chuck Bryant: Right, they smell like broccoli and we smell like steak.

Josh Clark: Which, that's gross. I would rather smell like steak any day of the week.

Josh Clark: Right, me too.

Chuck Bryant: There is another study in '95 that found that a pregnant woman's body odor was actually a combination of the mother's and the fetus' body odor smell.

Josh Clark: Wow, that's fascinating.

Chuck Bryant: And based on my own personal observations, as unscientific as it may be, I've concluded Chuck that your body odor is based on your love of hot rod racing and those delicious morning smoothies you make.

Josh Clark: Yeah, well, you know Josh, based on my findings; I've found that you smell like a mix of circus peanuts and old footballs.

Chuck Bryant: And desperation.

Josh Clark: And desperation. It's a strange combination. But it works.

Chuck Bryant: The thing is we do have our own specific odor types. We don't know precisely what makes what and I don't think any has really been cataloged yet. Look for that in the future when somebody ends up with a lot of excessive funding but we do have a couple of theories of why we smell. There is this anthropologist named Louis Leaky and he postulated that we actually smell, evolutionarily speaking, to ward off predators, which is something we had to deal with before. You don't so much anymore unless you're a lion tamer or hillbilly, that kind of thing. So, now it's just kind of offensive to a degree. Right. So, what do you do?

Josh Clark: Well, I would use deodorant or I would use antiperspirant.

Chuck Bryant: Aren't they the same thing?

Josh Clark: Well -

Chuck Bryant: Why would you even go so far as to say both, I mean, it's the same thing, right?

Josh Clark: Well, they're not the same thing.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, okay.

Josh Clark: I think anyone that pays attention in the supermarket or the pharmacy knows that there's antiperspirant and there's deodorant. That is true. I just thought they were different spellings.

Chuck Bryant: No.

Josh Clark: Well, what's the difference?

Chuck Bryant: Well, one keeps you from sweating and actually stops you from sweating and one is just a perfume to mask odor.

Josh Clark: Okay. [Inaudible].

Chuck Bryant: That's the easy answer.

Josh Clark: Do you know that your body odor doesn't actually emanate from your glands, from your sweat? Do you know where your smell actually comes from?

Chuck Bryant: It has something to do with bacteria, I know that.

Josh Clark: It does. So, you've got two kinds of sweat glands. One is the ecrean gland and it just excretes salt and water and there's no smell to that. The other is the apocrine gland and this one actually is in charge of carrying fat and protein secretions from your cells. I didn't even know my cells secreted fats and proteins, it's gross, but it carries it through these glands or these ducts to the glands and then out onto your skin where there's plenty of native flora, which is another name for bacteria and your smell is actually the bacteria chowing down on these fats and proteins.

Chuck Bryant: That is so gnarly I can't even hardly get through this podcast, but yeah.

Josh Clark: And of course you've got the most - both of these types of sweat glands under your arm in the axillary area.

Chuck Bryant: Exactly. The armpit as everyone knows is generally where the stink comes from.

Josh Clark: Right, which is why we very infrequently put deodorant, or as Chuck calls it, antiperspirant on the back of your neck. That'd just be weird, although it would have a similar effect I imagine. It's just nobody's neck smells all that bad.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: So, do you know much of the history of deodorants and antiperspirant?

Chuck Bryant: Well, I know that it kind of started in the 1950s in the United States at least.

Josh Clark: Well, it became a social taboo to smell in the 50s.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: You watch Madman?

Chuck Bryant: Well, I was just gonna bring that up.

Josh Clark: Let's hear it because I don't watch it.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, it's one of my favorite new shows. I'm kind of late to it but I've been watching it on the On Demand feature and there was an episode that dealt with antiperspirant spray and this is in 1960s when the show is set, and how they sold it to you - I think they said you're not afraid of to get close or don't be afraid to get close, which recalls, get a closer from Arid Extra Dry was the deodorant that used that.

Josh Clark: Get a little closer.

Chuck Bryant: So, it's interesting that what they're implying is, with a lot of advertising, is sex. Get a little closer, don't be afraid to get close to your husband and I just think - I mean, the show in general is really neat that in the 1950s and 60s when the advertising boom really started is where - I mean, a lot of the things that we have today and social taboos, like, they were told to us by these ad men in New York in the 1950s and 60s and people bought into it and all these years later, you know, you don't want to stink because you want to get a little closer.

Josh Clark: Exactly, and conversely, if you do stink, you should be afraid to get closer, right?

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: So, it's really paid off. In 2006, just antiperspirants and deodorants accounted for $2.5 billion in sales. I mean, think about it, they're $4 tops for anything that you find at the grocery store and it turns out I have developed a theory about deodorant and antiperspirant sales.

Chuck Bryant: I can't wait to hear this.

Josh Clark: So, there are three big things on the horizon that I think are going to cause the deodorant and antiperspirant market to fluctuate. You want to hear?

Chuck Bryant: I'd love to.

Josh Clark: Okay. So, the first is baby boomers. It turns out that in your 50s, right, in the 50s to the 60s range, deodorant use kind of falls off, you don't need it quite as much.

Chuck Bryant: You don't need it or you're not bothered by your smell?

Josh Clark: Either way, people in their 50s start to use less deodorant than they did when they were younger. That actually affects the market and we've got a bunch of baby boomers who are hitting 50, 60, 70 now -

Chuck Bryant: Just walking around stinking.

Josh Clark: Pretty much. Have you smelled your parents lately?

Chuck Bryant: I try to keep my nose away from there.

Josh Clark: Precisely. Precisely, right. So, with all this huge aging population going on right now, I predict that the deodorant and antiperspirant market will decline because of that, but, but, are you ready -

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: - I also predict that market will be helped by global warming.

Chuck Bryant: I see where you're headed here.

Josh Clark: Because summer sales for - ours - just the biggest, bulkiest season for deodorants and antiperspirants, with climate change, we're going to have longer, hotter summers, right, and hence the deodorants and antiperspirant will soldier on. They'll be able to bounce back from that discrepancy and the third thing I think will bump it up even further; bovine growth hormones. It's all over the place. It's in milk, it's in beef, I believe in chickens and it's causing early onset puberty in children.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, and I know that your glands that make you stink, for lack of a better word, they don't come around until you're, like, 10, 11, 12.

Josh Clark: Until about the time you hit puberty.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: If puberty starts at age eight all of a sudden now, thanks to drinking regular milk, than you're going to need deodorant soon so that will expand the market, the younger market for deodorant and antiperspirant companies. These are just some theories, some ramblings I come up with. They come to me in my sleep, that kind of thing.

Chuck Bryant: Right, I wake up thinking about deodorant all the time, too.

Josh Clark: Yeah, so do I. It's more market stuff that I think of but in this case, it was applied to deodorant. So, Chuck, maybe we should get a little more specific like, how does deodorant work versus how does this antiperspirant you keep talking about work?

Chuck Bryant: Well, I know deodorants don't keep you from sweating so all they can do is - you apply it to your axilla, is that right?

Josh Clark: Um-hum, your armpit.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, your armpit.

Josh Clark: Sure. And that just masks the smell. It's a perfume.

Chuck Bryant: To an extent.

Josh Clark: Fill me in.

Chuck Bryant: So, basically, it also - most deodorants today include an ingredient that actually kills the bacteria.

Josh Clark: Tricalacine?

Chuck Bryant: Yes.

Josh Clark: Yes.

Chuck Bryant: So, you've got that native flora on your underarms, on the skin, and your cells are still carrying the fats and proteins or the - the fats and proteins from your cells are still being carried to your skin, there's no bacteria there to eat them, hence, no smell.

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: Right. And they also include perfumes, too, but what about antiperspirants?

Josh Clark: Well, the antiperspirant actually plugs the glands with things like aluminum and zirconium which is kind of scary if you think about it and it keeps the sweat from ever being produced in theory.

Chuck Bryant: In theory.

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: Yes. So, antiperspirants don't let you sweat at all.

Josh Clark: Well, if they're affective.

Chuck Bryant: So, I was doing a little research, a little extra research for this article and there's this 1990 New York Times article by a guy named Anthony Ramirez that he came across. It's awesome. And he was talking a little bit about the history of antiperspirants. The first patented one ever was called Ever Dry and it came onto the market and it came onto the market in 1903. You had to apply it using a swab to the armpit and it was acidic that it actually ate through clothing and people were putting this on their underarms so it's progressed quite a bit so far.

Josh Clark: Yeah, and I know that it still - there's a lot of controversy over the use of aluminum in products.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, it could pose some health benefits and actually, deodorants and antiperspirants are considered over-the-counter drugs and are regulated by the FDA.

Josh Clark: Right, that's crazy.

Chuck Bryant: And possibly in part because of the potential health hazards like what -

Josh Clark: Well, potentially, it could be linked to cancer. I think most people have heard that aluminum deodorants can be linked to cancer.

Chuck Bryant: Um-hum. By causing DNA mutation!

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: Right. And then there's another one that's a little weirder, right?

Josh Clark: Oh, the kidney disease?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Yeah. So, like, I think 2002, 2005, something like that, all of a sudden this warning label pops up on deodorants and it says, "Ask your doctor about kidney disease," or something like that and it just came out of nowhere and there was never any really good explanation for it but it turns out that aluminum can also cause kidney poisoning, right?

Chuck Bryant: Right. Or if you have impaired kidney functioning, it can send you over the edge.

Josh Clark: Yeah. So, it's possible all sorts of bad things could happen to you which is why, from my understanding, 11 percent of the population doesn't use - American population I should say - doesn't use deodorant or uses an off-brand, which leads me to wonder, what is an off-brand deodorant and why would you use it? Like, do you have, like, a friend down the street who whips it for ya? Why not just go get it at the store?

Chuck Bryant: Well, I think maybe what they mean by off-brand, I might be wrong, is maybe some of these all natural deodorants that you find -

Josh Clark: No, those are included. They have made such headway into this market that the niche market, like, Tom's of Maine, you mean?

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: Has actually expanded; their huge players.

Chuck Bryant: So, what they mean literally are these hippies that make up their own -

Josh Clark: I guess so.

Chuck Bryant: - own deodorant.

Josh Clark: Although hippies aren't necessarily known to use deodorant, let alone go to the trouble of making their own.

Chuck Bryant: No.

Josh Clark: That's a question for another day.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: The question for today, which I advise you go check out on howstuffworks.com, is what's the difference between deodorant and antiperspirant?

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