The science behind deodorant and antiperspirants

19/05/2020 — By Alexandra Julian

The science behind deodorant and antiperspirants

We take a look at the chemicals used in traditional deodorants and antiperspirants, and explain how natural deodorants prevent body odour.


Why do we sweat?

Perspiring or sweating plays a vital role in maintaining normal health because it helps our bodies:

  • eliminate toxins
  • maintain the balance of salt levels
  • regulate the body temperature

On average we lose around one or two pints of liquid a day through our skin. Generally, this evaporates very quickly, and our skin and clothes don't appear to be damp. If we exert ourselves by exercising, then you are probably aware that you perspire more. Increased perspiration also happens through the release of adrenaline due to fear or worry, or when you are in an environment that is too warm for the body.

Interestingly, perspiration is almost odourless when it's fresh, but when it stays on the skin it develops the well-known sweaty odour that we can now control with deodorant or antiperspirant. This smell is created by bacteria that breed in the warm, moist and nutrient-rich conditions created by perspiration.

Aloe Vera & Prebiotics Deodorant 75ml

Aloe Vera & Prebiotics Deodorant 75ml

Refreshing Aloe Vera deodorant for all skin types



What's the difference between antiperspirants and deodorants?

It is a common misconception that antiperspirants and deodorants are the same thing.

Antiperspirants: Stop you from perspiring or sweating.

Deodorants: Stop the bacteria in your perspiration from smelling, often by killing the bacteria or neutralising the smell.


The history of deodorant

The use of sweet smelling plants and herbs goes back thousands of years. Some of these plant materials were very highly prized – of the three precious gifts apparently presented to the infant Jesus by the Wise Men, two were perfumes – Frankincense and Myrrh


" The use of sweet smelling plants and herbs goes back thousands of years. "


In more recent times, those who could afford to carried with them a small, specially prepared bouquet of herbs and flowers called a 'nosegay'. The first commercial deodorant was launched in 1888.

Nowadays we can do more than simply masking a bad smell. We can use deodorants to remove the cause of the smell too.

Green People for Men - No. 9 Mint & Prebiotics Deodorant 75ml

Green People for Men - No. 9 Mint & Prebiotics Deodorant 75ml

Minty roll-on men's deodorant for all skin types



The science behind deodorant

With our increasing knowledge of microbiology and a greater understanding of how some smells are caused it was only a matter of time before scientists entered the battle against body odour.

Scientists figured out that the best approach would be to prevent these bacteria from breeding, thereby having a deodorising action. The first commercial deodorant was launched in 1888. Unfortunately, in the quest for ever stronger and more effective deodorants, stronger and more powerful chemicals started to be used.


The science behind antiperspirants

Antiperspirants are based on ingredients such as aluminium chloride, aluminium chlorohydrate and aluminium zirconium trichlorohydrate. These aluminium ions form a temporary blockage in the sweat ducts, stopping the flow of sweat to the skin’s surface.

Most antiperspirants contain ingredients which react with protein molecules present in perspiration and swell to form a gel-like substance. For these to be effective, their molecular size needs to be small enough to allow them to enter skin pores so that when they swell and turn to a gel, they effectively block the pores and prevent sweat from being secreted.


What’s the alternative to chemical deodorants?

We use a naturally occurring mineral salt called Potassium alum in our natural and organic deodorants. Though it may sound like a chemical, this is in fact a very safe and natural substance. Read more about the benefits of organic deodorant.

Alunite is an abundant earth mineral and forms about 8% of the earth’s crust, along with other forms of alum. It is also found in small quantities in many of the foods we eat, and is considered as very safe in personal care and other external uses.

Although Potassium alum does contain some aluminium, it is bonded into a molecule that is physically too large to penetrate the skin. That means that this ingredient remains on the surface of the skin and will not block pores nor cause skin irritation in the same way that the aluminium salts mentioned in connection with antiperspirants can.

Potassium alum acts as a coagulant on the skin, binding onto proteins and other nutrients and thereby reducing the ability of bacteria to reproduce. It is not such a powerful antibacterial as some synthetic substances, but when applied regularly to freshly washed skin it is remarkably effective.

Oy! Deodorant 75ml

Oy! Deodorant 75ml

Natural deodorant for kids & teens, with Orange & Vanilla scent




Zinc ricinoleate in deodorants

Another interesting ingredient is Zinc ricinoleate. This is the zinc salt of Ricinoleic acid, extracted from the seeds of the castor oil plant. Zinc ricinoleate does not inhibit normal perspiration, and will not interfere with the natural flora of the skin.

Instead, it ‘fixes’ the odours produced by bacterial decomposition in sweat so that they cannot be released into the atmosphere and cause the characteristic sweaty smell.

Have you got a question about deodorants or antiperspirants? Our team of advisers can help with any questions you may have about choosing a natural deodorant. Please call us on 01403 740350.