Sweat is something we are all familiar with. Sweat is the body’s mechanism to cool itself down. The average person has over 2.6 million sweat glands. There are two different types of sweat glands; the majority of sweat glands on your body are eccrine, these are the glands you have on your forehead, on your hands and on your feet. The eccrine glands are active from birth, and produce sweat free of proteins and fatty acids. The apocrine glands are in your arm pits and in your genital area. The apocrine glands usually end in hair follicles and become active during puberty. The sweat produced by the apocrine glands contains proteins and fatty acids. So remember eccrine glands contain no protein or fatty acids but the apocrine glands do.
Sweat has no odor, the familiar unpleasant odor is caused by bacteria that live on our skin and hair. These bacteria metabolize the proteins and fatty acids from our apocrine sweat, causing body odor (BO). This means that we are the ones who possess the bacteria that give off the BO. The sweat is just the catalyst! So we literally cannot “fake the funk” we can simply mask it.
Don’t sweat it! It can be a tad bit confusing when it comes to the difference between deodorants and antiperspirants. I used to actually use those terms interchangeably. But they are indeed different and serve different purposes. A deodorant deals with the smell by neutralizing it and by killing the bacteria that metabolize the proteins and fatty acids. Antiperspirants on the other hand, try to prevent sweating by blocking the pores using aluminum. Without sweat, the bacteria cannot metabolize proteins and fatty acids that cause body odor. Many antiperspirants have a deodorant component included. This is what could attribute to the interchangeable use of both terms.
On a more technical level; Antiperspirants work by clogging, closing, or blocking the pores with aluminum salts in order to prevent the release of sweat, effectively changing the function of the body. Antiperspirants are considered to be drugs because they affect the physiology of the body. It is amazing that something that we use on a daily basis is considered to change the physiology of our bodies and we do not pay it too much attention. The aluminum salts will block up sweat glands over time so that they do not function properly.
Deodorants typically contain parabens. Parabens provide protection against micro-organisms for an extended period of time. In the last decade the particular paraben ingredient in deodorants has become controversial because parabens interfere with glandular activity and hormone production. Various studies have shown that most of these parabens have been the causes of skin allergies and as well as endocrine malfunctions.
When looking for an antiperspirant or deodorant it is best to go with paraben free, or those that do not contain aluminum. Over-the-counter products labeled as “natural deodorant crystal” containing the chemical potassium alum and have gained a new found popularity as an alternative health product.