Birth of the deodorant industry


37 Responses to “Birth of the deodorant industry”

  1. tvugly says:

    “How Advertisers Convinced Americans They Smelled Bad”

    Have you smelled an American lately? They can still smell pretty bad.

    • ian_b says:

      Google “why do ____” for pretty much any nationality, ethnicity, race and you’ll see  an autocomplete suggestion for “smell”. Apparently the world is not only full of smelly people, but those who think they’re the exception.

      • Jonathan Roberts says:

        Everyone smells, but people smell differently depending on a number of factors, such as what food you eat. In Taiwan, people told me that they could smell a white person in a crowd, because the milk products they consume make their sweat smell sour.

  2. Funk Daddy says:

    Eat right an exercise and you won’t have a funk until you are old and grey. Outdoor exercise especially works.

    • RedShirt77 says:

       Showers are also a big help.  Most of the stick is about old souring sweat and not about the perspiration of the last few minutes.

      • colin gardner says:

        so what? shower every few minutes before you start to smell? I know if I forget my deodorant I smell like fine aged Wisconsin Cheddar by the end of a workday ( And I don’t work in a Wisconsin cheddar factory), it ain’t because I don’t shower either as I do so twice most days. 

        It may be true that people used to put up with body odor, and those may have been better, simpler times, but they must have stank like crazy.

        • RedShirt77 says:

           Maybe I am a freak, but I have found that without a layer of petro chemicals on my pits My sweat takes a few days to sour.

          A little cologne can actually keep me smelling good even when really sweaty and even  if I haven’t had a shower in more than a day or two.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      There are a few people who smell like rancid bacon grease or rotten eggs when they sweat, but most people just smell sweaty.  I don’t find it offensive.

  3. snow says:

    The same thing was done with bad breath.

    • Theranthrope says:

      Because bad breath was also a figment of some ad copywriters imagination? …or because the development of chemistry had, until that point, not been sufficient to come up with counters to these minor personal-hygiene issues? 

      …but I suppose it’s easier to think that the hygiene-industrial-complex formulated some elaborate, many-layered, conspiracy to hoodwink consumers to buy products that they don’t need, rather than dealing the the reality that, bro… you stink.

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        The ‘bad’ part is subjective. Although it’s clear that some parts of some people have been considered malodorous as far back as oral history can take us, it’s probable that EVERYTHING EXCEPT MINT SMELLS BAD is a recent meme.

  4. Sean Lally says:

    Try washing your pits with Hibiclens.  Won’t smell for days.  Pretty amazing.  Kills the odor causing bacteria.

    • RedShirt77 says:

       I think a lack of healthy bacteria is why so many people have to use this junk in the first place.  people kill the bacteria off with a mix of chemicals and then the sweat just spoils on them.  I haven’t used anything but soap for about 20 years.  I get compliments on how I smell.

    • Yeah, but you’re washing your pits with hibiclens. 

  5. Christopher says:

    Without deodorants the expression “Opinions are like armpits: everybody’s got a couple, and some of them stink” would have to be changed to “Opinions are like armpits: everybody’s got a couple, and all of them stink.”

    Admittedly I know some people who already believe the latter applies to all opinions but their own. They don’t think their pits stink either.

  6. Question is, did people then consider stinky people stinky? If so, this may be the most blessed ad copy ever written.

  7. saggy says:

    She ripped her

    glittering gown

    Couldn’t face another

    show, no

    Her deodorant had let

    her down

    She should have used


  8. ChicagoD says:

    I wonder if people did not believe that they were stinky, or if a certain amount of stink was inevitable barring an invention like this and people just tried to minimize it as best they could.

    Also, I wonder before the profusion of different ethnic foods whether people in particular locations tended to have more similar smells. If everyone ate a head of garlic a day, garlic coming through your pores might not be as striking as it might be now.

    • Christopher says:

      I’ve wondered this myself, although clearly the invention of perfume predates the invention of deodorant by, well, millenia as far as I can tell. I guess people have almost always known they were stinky and the ones who could afford to do so have tried various methods to cover it up since they didn’t know how to prevent it in the first place.

      The 18th century as a great period for covering up comes to mind. See Jonathan Swift’s The Lady’s Dressing Room, which is just one example of how Swift was fascinated by how disgusting our bodies are, and how much effort we put into covering up that fact.

  9. Donald Petersen says:

    I fess up: without deodorant, I do get stinky after a few sweaty hours.  I’ve had a girlfriend or two who claimed to enjoy the smell, but I don’t like it myself.  I’m not too proud to admit that for the last year or so, I’ve been using “Va-Va-Vanilla” scented Secret (yup, the “Strong Enough For A Man…” stuff), and I don’t care how many millennia of evolution I’m swimming against, I like smelling like a cupcake all the livelong day.

    • I, too, will happily admit that my pits smell bad without deodorant. Yes, I wash them with soap. Yes, I exercise and eat pretty healthy food, for the most part. Nevertheless, my pits stink sometimes. Not all the time. But often enough that deodorant seems like a good decision. 

      I have no idea whether other people can smell it or not. But I can smell it. And that’s enough. 

      Unlike Donald, though, I prefer the unscented deodorant. (Though, sometimes, I wear my husband’s “Active sport” scent.) 

      • bcsizemo says:

        I really wonder if there is some reason that some women prefer “men’s” scented deodorant and men the “women’s” scent.

        I like the mild ones, like clean, fresh, spring.  My wife has a tendency to go for the more male oriented ones. 

        Nothing like cuddling up to your spouse and having her smell more manly than you.

    • penguinchris says:

      I used to use women’s stuff, it seemed higher quality, the scents are better, and they don’t come off on your clothes (the selling point of many women’s varieties). The relatively new men’s Old Spice Fresh Collection ones are great though and I’d highly recommend trying those. I would be tempted to try an equivalent female variety though if they had different scents (I like some variety).

      Regarding part of @boingboing-7160c7db52df96e5fe196a6c9ce73f83:disqus ‘s comment though, after a few controversial articles on BB regarding usage of soap I decided to try going soap-free; I didn’t like not using shampoo on the hair and I use soap on my face and, uh, certain private areas but nowhere else on my body – including my armpits. 

      I believe this has reduced my general amount of smelliness (which I don’t think was particularly high to begin with) and fresh out of the shower my pits don’t smell. After a few hours (assuming I haven’t just been sitting at the computer) they do, though, without deodorant. I don’t think soap makes much of a difference either way in this particular regard.

  10. I find it kind of interesting that there is a large idea that if you don’t use deodorant, you will stink so bad everyone in the next county will notice. When I was nursing in a locked unit, we didn’t use deodorant for the patients. Folks didn’t get ripe until that last couple days before their bi weekly bath, unless they were sick or whatnot. (We’d argue them another bath in those cases. ) 

    For a normal person, without any of the unusual sweat smell problems medically, you won’t really stink unless you are seriously working hard, are sick, and it’s been awhile. Fresh laundry, and a shower really do take care of a lot of that. I don’t go around sticking my face in folks armpits to check, and unless it’s hit dead tauntaun level, I’d never notice. 

  11. kslaboca says:

    like cannot,
    is one word,
    not two.

  12. masamunecyrus says:

    I think surely people must have stunk back then, but you got used to it. Farmers get used to animal stink, for instance. Locals nearby stunk like you stunk because they ate similar food. Foreigners stunk more because you weren’t used to the smell.

    To some degree, this is still true, today. Go to a foreign country and see how people think you smell differently. Those of us from developed countries may be horrified at the stink of people from under-developed countries. And those from under-developed countries may think our artificial scent is unnatural and too strong.

  13. michael ellis says:

    Do I really have to point out that a Deodorant and an Antiperspirant are not the same thing?  Deodorants have been around since ancient Egypt. What do you think essential oils were used for? In fact all through ancient times right up until the 19th century people did what they could to cover up or avoid bad smells. They did this because they believed bad smells caused disease. The theory was called Miasma and was eventually disproved by the discovery of bacteria.  Antiperspirants blocked the sweat glans and made the skin unable to secrete sebum. Sebum is the bodies natural lubricant that bacteria love to feed on, it is this bacteria that causes underarms to smell.  So again boingboing publishes an inaccurate headline. It should have read Birth of the Antiperspirant industry.

  14. jheiss says:

    As the wikipedia article for deodorant points out, the stink is not the sweat itself but the byproducts of bacteria fermenting the sweat.  So I’ve just gone for wiping some hand sanitizer into my armpits every few days during hot weather to thin out the bacterial herd.  Seems to work great for eliminating stink, and there are no problems with it staining clothes.

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