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A Brief History Of Deodorants

December 03, 2010

People have been concerned with deodorising for many thousands of years. Ancient techniques have included covering up with heavy scents, shaving underarm hair, putting perfumed fat on your head and using natural salts.

Deodorants are Ancient History

The Egyptians didn't use deodorant as we do now, their methods were a little less convenient and some were even downright weird. They would take a scented bath followed by the application onto the underarm of scented oils to cover up bad smells. It was discovered that the removal of underarm hair lessened body odour, when combined with frequent washing and application of heavy scents. Scientists recognised much later that shaving worked because it limited the growth of bacteria in the armpit area (smelly bacteria being the cause of body odour). The Egyptians also put perfumed fat on their heads. As the fat melted it would give off a pleasing scent.

Natural Deodorants Rock

A technique used throughout Asia was (and still is) the application of mineral salts to the armpit; an extremely effective technique that killed off bacteria growing under the arm and prevented bad smells. These body-odour banishing mineral salts now form the basis of many modern natural deodorants, thanks to their long-held reputation as being an effective and safe deodoriser.

Not Keen on Keeping Clean

However personal hygiene and deodorant wasn't very high on the agenda in England back in the days of the Vikings. It is said that an English Cleric John Wallingford complained that the Viking ‘combed their hair every day, bathed every Saturday and regularly changing their clothes, to enable them to undermine the virtue of married English women and even seduce the daughters of nobles to be their mistresses’*. The super hygienic Viking’s bath every Saturday sounds very unhygienic by modern standards so we can only imagine how smelly everyone else was! You might be thinking, ‘it’s like some people in history didn’t like being clean’...well funny you should be thinking that. French Emperor Napoleon, was famously said to have written the following words to his wife Josephine, “J’arrive. Ne te lave pas”. Translated this means “I’ll be home soon. Don’t wash”!

Modern Deodorant

Deodorant in its current commercial form has only existed a hundred years or so, and since the invention of this first official ‘deodorant’ it has evolved and improved tremendously. This first deodorant was MUM invented in 1888 and was a cream that was applied using fingertips, the manufacturers of MUM also invented the roll-on applicator some years later after being inspired by the Ball-Point pen. The first Antiperspirant was EverDry introduced in 1903. EverDry was so acidic that it ate through clothing and even modern Antiperspirants are known to damage clothes by leaving permanent yellow stains in the armpit area.

The Invention of Aerosole and Stick Forms of Antiperspirants and Deodorants

In the 1950s, aerosol antiperspirants and deodorants containing aluminum zirconium and chlorofluorocarbon propellants (CFC’s) appeared on the market. These aerosol deodorants were extremely popular and accounted for over 80% of all deodorant sales. However, in 1977 the FDA banned the use of aluminum zirconium because there were major health concerns about the effect of this agent when inhaled. The Environmental Protection Agency discouraged the use of chlorofluorocarbon propellants because of their effect on the Ozone layer. Alternative ingredients were quickly found, but even now there is still a lot of speculation and discussion over the safety of such deodorants and antiperspirants.

In the late 1970’s the stick form of deodorants and antiperspirants gained popularity and while creams, sprays, roll-ons and powders are still available, sticks remain the most popular even now.

Modern Natural Deodorants

Natural deodorants have gained popularity over the years as a safe and environmentally sound alternative to chemical deodorants. Natural deodorants are made from the same mineral salts as used in ancient times throughout Asia, but are formulated using modern technologies and come in a variety of practical and easy to apply styles. The salt in the deodorant stops odour from forming, by inhibiting the growth of bacteria rather than clogging the pores with chemicals to inhibit the natural act of sweating. Crystal Spring’s Salt of the Earth deodorants are effective for 24 hours, unscented and leave no embarrassing white marks on your clothes. They’re environmentally friendly with no CFC’s and are not tested on animals.

* Ian Riddler. Two Late Saxon Combs from the Longmarket Excavations. Canterbury's Archaeology 1989/1990, The 14th Annual Report of Canterbury Archaeological Trust Ltd. Accessed 5/15/99.


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