Is deodorant essential? Experts offer their opinions. Putting deodorant on daily, like brushing your teeth or washing your face, is one of those crucial hygiene rituals.
However, dermatology experts believe that personal and cultural preferences are more likely to influence your decision than any potential medical necessity.
“People have strong odor preferences and sensitivities. “People have used perfumes (or) colognes to mask odor since the beginning of time,” said Dr. Nina Botto, an associate professor of dermatology at the University of California, San Francisco. “But it’s not like flossing your teeth, where there’s evidence that you’ll live longer if you floss regularly.”
“Because body odor is not universally accepted in our society, making deodorant a part of your daily hygiene routine is important,” said Dr. Joshua Zeichner, an associate professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, via email. “There’s also a stigma associated with sweat-soaked clothing, pushing antiperspirants into daily skincare routines.”
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According to Zeichner, deodorants neutralize body odor, while antiperspirants reduce wetness on the skin. Both are frequently available in a single product.
Despite the widely accepted reasons for wearing deodorant, natural body odor is only sometimes considered unpleasant by everyone.
Napoleon is infamously said to have written to his wife, Joséphine Bonaparte, ahead of his return from a military campaign, that he would be home in three days and that she shouldn’t wash before then, according to Tristram Wyatt, a senior research fellow in the department of biology at the University of Oxford, in “Smelling Your Way to Love,” the December 6 episode of CNN’s podcast “Chasing Life with Dr. Sanjay Gupta.”
Arguments for and against using an antiperspirant or deodorant
Sweat serves a purpose.
“We sweat to help regulate our body temperature,” Zeichner explained. “However, in some cases, we go above and beyond what is required.” Pathologic sweating, or hyperhidrosis, is the medical term for this. Sweat itself has no odor. However, bacteria on the skin degrade sweat, resulting in a foul odor.”
If you must use antiperspirant products, for this reason, apply them in the evening, according to Zeichner. “Because we sweat less at night, they can more effectively form a plug within the sweat gland if applied before bed.”
If you’re thinking about giving up deodorants or antiperspirants due to concerns about potentially harmful ingredients or rumors that using such products causes cancer, know that those claims haven’t been scientifically proven, according to CNN’s experts. The research on whether there is a causal relationship between cancer and the use of non-asbestos talcum powder products has also been inconclusive.
“The use of inorganic ingredients like aluminum salts in cosmetics and personal care products has been a concern for producers and consumers,” said Dr. Amanda Doyle, a board-certified dermatologist at the Russak Dermatology Clinic who works with Russak. “Although aluminum is used to treat hyperhidrosis, some people are concerned about its role in breast cancer, breast cysts, and Alzheimer’s disease.”
Managing without deodorant
Not using deodorant or antiperspirant products can have advantages and disadvantages depending on how you and others perceive your natural body odor.
“If you don’t use deodorant or antiperspirant, you may develop a stronger odor over time,” Doyle explained. “When you discontinue use (such products) and sweat more, you create a breeding ground for bacterial and fungal overgrowth, which can cause odor to become stronger.”