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The Science of Antiperspirants: How Do They Keep Your Underarms Fresh and Dry?

by Style Team
31 Jul 2017 | 2:10 PM

Sweating is a natural bodily process that helps keep us cool, maintains sodium levels, and all the other things they taught us in elementary. What they didn't teach us back then was how much of a pain it was to deal with. We had to learn that reality for ourselves, at the expense of several embarrassing chapters in our pre-teen years.

Fortunately, deodorants and antiperspirants were just a grocery trip away and solved all of our problems. But, what are we actually putting on our pits that help us get through the day without turning into human faucets? Let's go through the science to better understand how this vital part of our morning routine works.

Deodorants  Antiperspirants
The first thing we need to get out of the way is that deodorants and antiperspirants aren't the same thing. An easy way to remember the difference is that deodorants stop our sweat from stinking by either killing the bacteria, or neutralizing the smell they emit. Antiperspirants, on the other hand, stop us from sweating altogether.

Knowing this is important if we're going to properly plan for a night out. Wearing a white shirt on a date, for example, would require us to use antiperspirants to avoid yellow stains. It's these little details that can make or break our game, and we need to have the best tools at our disposal.

It's All About the Ingredients 
When science first decided to take up the fight against body odor, it figured that the best way to do so was to address the source of the smell - the bacteria. Some deos try to outright kill bacteria, while others absorb moisture to lessen the germs. There's no real way to eradicate all bacteria, and the most they can do is play population control.

The secret of antiperspirants lies in the ingredients, the most common of which are aluminum ions. The first attempts at this formula were aluminum chloride and aluminum chlorohydrate. These chemicals worked well enough, but they were irritating to the skin and aggravated razor burns - a serious problem for guys that need to shave their pits.

Fortunately, these problems were addressed with the use of aluminum zirconium compounds that were more soothing to the skin.

The molecules of these elements enter the pores and have added proteins that allow them to swell when coming into contact with moisture. This causes the sweat ducts to swell and eventually close, building a dam that keeps our sweat from even reaching the skin in the first place.

The actual formula of these elements is important, as it balances the scale between effectiveness and side effects. The fact that the number of cases documenting such side effects is near zero speaks to the effectiveness of the formulas being used out there.

How and When to Apply
Now that we have this information under our belts, we have a decision to make - which works best for us? This depends on how well we know our bodies, and what we need for the day. The most important thing we need to find out about ourselves is whether we're light or heavy sweaters.

If you're one of the latter, then you should know how to make the most out of your antiperspirants. The first rule to remember when using antiperspirants is to never use them right after a shower. The ingredients react to moisture, and they may not stick to the skin to do their work if they activate too soon because of wet skin. Make sure to dry up before an application.

Scientists suggest the best time to use antiperspirants is before going to bed. This is because sweating is limited during sleep, which allows sweat glands to better absorb the active ingredients. Of course, spritzing a little antiperspirant on your way out for work also won't hurt. This way, you get to stay fresh the whole day - even after the commute.

Antiperspirants are sometimes the only weapons that can help some guys on their everyday adventures, and the more we all know about them the better.