Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A Brief History of Deodorization

Battling bad smells has been a millenia-long battle for humanity. Fighting body odor specifically has been a battle against our very own human make-up. With the exception of those carrying the gene ABCC11 (which makes for no armpit smell), common amongst the populations of the Far East,  the vast majority of us of European, African, Central Asian and Native American descent have the sort of apocrine glands in the armpit and groin which secrete a sort of sweaty liquid that when mixed with surface bacteria develops body odor.[...]

The very interesting thing is not the invention of deodorant (and anti-perspirant, which debuted in the early 20th century based on aluminum chloride first marketed under the suggestive name Everdry) but the power of marketing. Women, American women in particular, were especially targeted in typically sexist campaigns which implied that their natural odor was repulsive to heterosexual men, therefore they had to rely on a deodorant or anti-perspirant in order to land the man of their dreams.

An advertisement from the Walter Thomson Archives, at the Duke University, proclaims in the very title "Within the Curve of a Woman's Arm. A frank discussion of a subject too often avoided." Including lines asking "Would you be absolutely sure of your daintiness?" and "Does excessive perspiration ruin your prettiest dresses?"

The agressive campaigns by the Odorono Company, giving their address as Ruth Miller, The Odorono Co., 719 Blair Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio, promised the "so simple, so easy, so sure" solution for that "problem", imaginary or real.

You can find the entire article on Fragrantica on this link.


  1. Miss Heliotrope08:20

    I got distracted by the idea of convincing my cat to wear scent. As Obelix says, those Romans are crazy...

    1. Hate to break this to you but there ARE actually people who put scent on their pets. And not the human kind of pets either. :/
      Crazy is an understatement.

  2. I had no idea of this history. Does explain many things though in the way the American tastes rather prefer anything over natural scents, which are perceived as "dirty." In perfumery, this explains everything to me, from the dislike of Kouros to fancying Clean as being synonym to sexy...

    1. I'm an American and most of it has to do with the Puritans and their obsession with the cleanliness is next to Godliness. Heaven forbid that you smell and look slovenly. We can thank the Puritans for giving us the idea that we should be ashamed of the human body and what it does.

    2. It's something to ponder about for sure. Thanks for your comment.

    3. Eldarwen

      I think this is it. The Puritan thinking does pervade aspects of American life (equation of marital fidelity for Presidents with ethical character in general being the most obvious coming to my mind) and it's very perceptible in perfume tastes. Of course not everyone comes from Puritan stock and there is no "American" as a single unit; the nation is made of hundreds of different threads into a single tapestry.


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