The science that banishes ‘sweat’

or what’s wrong with ‘sweat’?

By Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

I look at the array of deodorants in my local supermarket and I’m intrigued by the lengths the industrial scientists have gone to banish smell of sweat, and any hint of its existence. And I’m reminded of the old adage: horses sweat, men perspire and ladies ‘glow’.


A gentle glow is all that’s allowed for the fairer sex.

Of course such a saying could only apply to a limited few, because during the time of the birth of that saying working class people did most of the sweating while the idle rich did very little to bring up any sort of glow, except perhaps on a hunt. The lower class and the areas they lived in did reek of body odour, but as everyone reeked pretty much the same as their neighbour, the need to cover a natural body smell was non-existent.

The business of ‘sweat’

Nowadays banishing sweat is big business, despite air conditioning and our sedentary lifestyles.  The chances of our shaved and pampered underarms ever working up a real sweat is just about zilch unless we’re at the gym, or a bundle of nerves prior to giving a speech or presentation. So why the preoccupation with a natural scent?

Deodorants were first brought out as a way of minimising the smell associated with sweat. Some people do smell when their underarms perspire. It’s to do with the bacteria that grows in warm, wet places, and some people grow bacteria quicker than others. Men particularly.

Disguising the appearance of sweat

Then the industry moved on to antiperspirants aimed at stopping us sweating altogether (or at least appearing not to sweat. Now the scientists really got in on the job, combining concoctions of chemicals that disguise the smell of even the sweatiest of men (include national sportspeople in that group). Perspiration running down your face was okay as long as your underarms remained dry. LOL.


Oh no – the ‘no-no’ patch

Now we have gone one further – the scientists have invented a deodorant/antiperspirant that stops your sweat yellowing your white or black tee shirts.

Avoiding sweat discoloration

I was intrigued to find that Nivea had put out a deodorant/antiperspirant/clothing protector all in one. How could this work, I wondered so I proceded to investigate this, as best I could without being a super-scientist.

First I discovered that they had cleverly disguised where the ingredients were listed. You have to lift a tab indicated by a minute instruction that just about needs a microscope to detect it. I peeled back the label and there they were. What you put on your skin is:

  • Aluminium chlorohydrate isoceteth-20
  • Paraffinum Liquidium
  • Butylene Glycol
  • Glyceryl Isostearate
  • Laureth-7 Citrate,
  • Parfum
  • Palmitamidopropyltrimorium Chloride
  • Propylene Glysol
  • PEG-150 Distearate
  • Lialool
  • Limonene
  • Geraniol

Exploring the ingredients that banish sweat

If you’re like me and all that sounds like gobbledygook, here’s what each of those ingredients do (in lay-woman’s speak). Unless otherwise stated information comes from Wikipedia, which I trust to validate it’s articles.

Aluminium chlorohydrate (isoceteth-20) is one of the most common active ingredients in commercial antiperspirants. The Food and Drug Administration considers the use of aluminium chlorohydrate in antiperspirants to be safe and it is permitted in concentrations up to 25%.

There have, however, been studies that have linked long-term use of antiperspirants to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. The trouble is by the time the disease is apparent there is no way of reversing the effects or repudiating the cause.

“Personal care products are potential contributors to the body burden in aluminium and newer evidence has shown that more aluminium is deposited in the outer regions than the inner regions of the breast. But whether differences in the distribution of aluminium are related to higher incidence of tumours in the outer upper region of the breast remains unknown.” – Exley C., Charles L.M., Barr L., Martin C., Polwart A., Darbre P.D. (September 2007). “Aluminium in human breast tissue”. Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry 101 (9): 1344–6

Paraffinum Liquidum – Parafin wax. Common applications for paraffin wax include lubrication, electrical insulation, and candles. It’s sometimes confused with another petroleum product sometimes called paraffin oil. In Labs paraffin wax is used to impregnate tissue, which shows its potential use in deodorants – it gets in to skin!

Butylene Glycol (or Butanediol) Manufacturers of skin care products use butylene glycol because it can take moisture from the air and retain it. In areas like underarms this is useful when you are trying to ‘absorb sweat’.

“In sensitive individuals, butylene glycol may be irritating to the skin, eyes, and or nasal passages, but it is the least potentially irritating of all the glycols. In addition, since this ingredient is in so many of the products we apply on our skin every day, the concern is that over time, our exposure may be adding up to something that could be potentially harmful to the health of the skin and body. So far, however, scientific studies have shown no harmful effects from the ingredient at current levels and exposures. In fact, this glycol has not been linked to any organ-specific toxicity and is not considered to be carcinogenic, unlike ethylene glycol.” From Ann Marie Gianni’s website.

Glyceryl Isostearate – This chemical is classifed as an emollient. So having taken out moisture with the previous ingredient, this ingredient is added to soften and smooth the skin and prevent it potentially drying out and becoming itchy.

Laureth-7 Citrate is found in eczema and damaged skin treatments. So what is it doing in a deodorant/antiperspirant? Are the manufacturers covering their bases in case another ingredient causes damage?

Palmitamidopropyltrimorium Chloride – Not found in any website I tried, including the US National Institute of standards and technology. Maybe this is the secret ingredient Nivea mentions in its marketing video? Try clicking this link and then selecting How it Works

Propylene Glycol – Basically it lowers the freezing point of any water it’s mixed with. “In general, glycols are non-corrosive, have very low volatility and very low toxicity (however, ethylene glycol is very toxic to humans and many animals).” Wikipedia.

PEG-150 Distearate is a simple thickener often added to shampoos. Wikipedia

The smell ingredients:

Parfum – perfume is unstated

Lialool – is a naturally occurring terpene (a component of plant resin) chemical found in many flowers and spice plants with many commercial applications, the majority of which based on its pleasant scent (floral, with a touch of spiciness). Wikipedia

Limonene is a colourless liquid that has a strong smell of oranges. It is also a terpene. Research into terpenes has found that many of them possess qualities that make them ideal active ingredients as part of natural agricultural pesticides. Wikipedia

Geraniol – is the primary part of rose oil, palmarosa oil, and citronella oil (Java type). It also occurs in small quantities in geranium, lemon, and many other essential oils.

So there you have it 12 ingredients working hard to to keep your armpits sweat free, fragrant and avoiding yellowing of your clothes.

Natural deodorants work with sweat

There are many essential oils, that, combined with a carrier oil, can make your underarms fragrant, but they won’t last for more than a few hours. Our expectation that we can shower in the morning, add a layer of chemicals and party to the small hours odour-free has led to a giant pharmaceutical business. Of course that expectation has been nurtured by that industry because there are mega-bucks to be made.

Much less costly is using a wash cloth to rinse off sweat at breaks during our day and applying talcum, baking soda or even cornflour combined with a few drops of our favourite essential oil. But that recipe doesn’t come with images of glamorous models dancing, arms up exposing hair-free armpits. And it doesn’t make any money for anyone except what you save personally by doing it.

By Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author

One thought on “The science that banishes ‘sweat’

  1. Thanks. Very interesting!

    I always have the thought that using talcum powder will be closing the pores and

    wondering if that does any harm.



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