05 July 2008

How do you smell?

So here's an interesting, yet highly personal fact: I don't wear antiperspirant.

You might have two thoughts now:
  1. Ew.
  2. Why is that interesting?
Let me fill you in: I do wear deodorant. I stopped wearing antiperspirant a few months ago after finally reaching a point of paranoia about Aluminum Chloride, Aluminum Chlorohydrate and the newest generation ingredient, Aluminum Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex Glycine. These are a few of the many possibilities that companies can put in antiperspirant to make it work. Over the past decade or so, there's been news about whether antiperspirant contributes to Alzheimer's Disease. There's no definitive answer, but following the debate led me to question what antiperspirant is doing to me. In the end, I decided that it isn't worth the risk.

I also started thinking about the environmental impact of the ingredients. Most of the ingredients are synthetically manufactured. That worried me. And while cake is also synthetically manufactured, there are studies about how it's not that great for you either.

I thought about chemicals like proylene glycol washing down the drain in the shower and I got concerned. Then I started thinking about the "One Person" effect. I thought that maybe it would matter if I chose not to excrete a lifetime of those chemicals into the water supply. I went looking for alternatives. A natural skin-care product dealer told me that the rock crystals aren't that effective, so I decided to stick with a basic deodorant that had as many naturally-occurring ingredients as I could find.

Yes, I initially sweated more. But after a couple of weeks, not as much as I expected. I discovered a funny thing about our bodies and how they function: certain things are meant to happen; they happen for a reason. Sweat is one of those things. After a little while it appeared that my body got used to not having to work as hard to get things out that way. It slowed down; I returned to a less-remarkable amount of armpit sweat. I wasn't sad about this unexpected effect.

Two other things happened that I didn't expect (the interesting bits). I stopped getting stains in my shirts. I think most of us have come across a white or light-coloured shirt and decided that we couldn't wear it anymore because of the faint yellow stain -- "sweat stains", as they're commonly called. Well, did you know that it isn't just sweat that causes these stains? It's actually the chemical reaction between your sweat and the antiperspirant. No antiperspirant, no sweat stains, no need to get rid of that nice shirt because it's too embarrassing to wear. I have yet to see a stain on any new shirts since I made the switch.

The biggie: I don't get sick as much. Those who know me know that I am always sick; I always have a cold coming on. I have never been able to explain it other than to call it my poor immune system. Sometimes I blamed it on not eating well. But, no word of a lie, I have not had a full-blown, knock-me-out cold since I stopped wearing antiperspirant. I'm loathe to call it a placebo effect, because I wasn't expecting it. But if antiperspirant prevents one method of excreting toxins, then it makes sense to me that the build-up while they try to exit another way would contribute to toxins and germs having a negative effect on my body.

That's hardly conclusive scientific proof, but would anyone else like to offer a reasonable explanation? Because, if you don't believe that, suddenly having a tolerance/immunity to rhinovirus after 28+ years seems equally implausible.

*As a final note: I do own antiperspirant and will wear it on the rare occasion when I can't get away with any sweating. Like prom.


tousquireste said...

what's the deo you're using? i'd like to know; i've tried a few alternatives and haven't had much luck with them...

minako said...

I have two that I like, One is a roll-on from JASON. I like it better for sleeveless shirts. The other is Alba, and even thoguh it's a stick, it's doesn't have propylene glycol in it. The down side is that if you apply too much, it gets sticky, so I prefer is with sleeves, so the shirt absorbs any extra. Both are available in low- or unscented.

Anonymous said...

Since you asked for a reasonable explanation about your situation: here it is. The factors affecting your health are far too numerous to be singled down to your armpits and what you choose to put there. So the reason you’re not sick as much anymore…has everything to do with everything else in your life that has been altered since you began using deodorant instead of the ….what’s it called again? Oh…I think I’m forgetting….wait…where am I? OH right…responding to your post. Right….instead of the antiperspirant.

Sweat isn't made up of "toxins". It's mostly water combined with sodium and chloride and a little bit of potassium. Armpit sweat specifically contains these things, plus some fatty acids and proteins (which gives it the yellowish colour). This means that all sweat, regardless of whether or not it mixes with antiperspirant, has the ability to produce those gross yellow marks (which I agree, we all kind of hate). Perhaps, since you are sweating less, it's not building up as quickly on your shirts and not marking them. Yet. Give it time. It'll happen.

Additionally...sweating isn't the primary way that rid our body of toxins. It’s not even really ANY way of ridding our body of toxins. It's our body's major cooling system, which puts on our air-conditioning for things as relaxing as metabolism or as stressful as exercise. If you sweat too much and your body loses too much of the good stuff that you sweat out (water and salt (sodium, chloride and potassium....not "toxins") then you can obviously become dehydrated which can lead to circulatory problems, kidney failure and heat stroke. Furthermore, the reason sweat smells isn’t because of the actual sweat. Pure sweat is odorless. It begins to stink when it mixes with all the germs and bacteria on your skin and in your hair- the proteins metabolize and presto: BO.

Seems to me that the lack of antiperspirant in your life has nothing to do with the fact that you aren't sick as much. Sweating is good from a body temperature regulation perspective, and seemingly not so good from a keeping the good stuff you need so that you don't die of kidney failure or circulatory problems perspective. Perhaps you should look elsewhere...to the hundreds of other factors that have changed over your life since you nixed the antiperspirant. Look at things which are controlled by you such as physical activity, or not controlled by you like...lets say the weather or the terrible "toxins" in the air that you're breathing right now…or the germs slugging around on your mouse/keyboard… which may or may not be made of a substance that is linked to stroke or cancer or diabetes or oily anal discharge or elephantitis or headaches or grumpiness (I think that’s the scientific term)..

If you're going to attribute your better overall health to your lack of antiperspirant, then I will do the same and attribute my generally good health to my use of antiperspirant… Except I know better than to draw such a naïve conclusion.

Tricky said...

Whoa, whoa, whoa, brave Anonymous,

Though you might have good points, I didn't care. You were a jerk, saying jerky things, in a long- winded and jerky manner.

In the future, phrasing comments in such a way as to *avoid* coming off as an overly-caffienated jerk with something to prove is a more efficient way to win friends and influence people. Getting your gitch all in a bunch over an internet blog is not.

minako said...

In future, please sign all comments.

And try to refrain from condescension.

I may be naïve, but at least I don't come across as an asshole in blog comments.

Anonymous said...

Whether there is scientific rationale for whatever buddy said, whether the anecdotal evidence is merely indicative of some placebo effect from other lifestyle changes, there was some weight to what she said about the very real environmental concerns raised by chemicals in our oh-so-disposable consumer products. Just because we must wear certain hygiene products in order to survive in polite and civil society, that does not mean that we should not consider an alternative that may be more environmentally friendly. Right or wrong, it is about the process, the making sense of someone’s life without having the luxury of all the answers.

And I remain convinced that the internet has made cowards of us all even while it has apparently empowered some people into posting some of the most incredibly brave and angry comments I have ever seen, heard or read. Reading the comments on articles from CBC or CTV websites for example, I am blown away by how angry people are when they post. I do not mean angry but full fledged rage and these people take everything literally and personally. Forget such concepts as nuance or context. There is no conversation or even communication anymore but blunt bludgeoning in which everyone is ideologically convinced that they are morally right and must win the argument by the extremity of their anger, viciousness of attack, or force of their will. Is it a symptom of a society that it suffers from such a powerful ideological hegemony that the only place people feel “safe” to participate in the public discourse is the internet? Sarcasm, which buddy used liberally in his (?) post, is also anger but an intellectual form of anger and that post definitely had an edge to it. As the new Batman film’s Joker character thematically posits, why so serious (or angry)?

Yeah, I read this thing every now and again and it is a guilty pleasure (sorry) … it would be a shame if anything changed because of one post from someone who was so internet brave as to not even leave their name … life is not a test in which you must make 100% every time and it is more than al‘right’ if you are ‘wrong’ from time to time – empirically or otherwise …


Anonymous said...

When I woke up this morning, I wondered if the response I posted came across as an angry jerk on the internet that has an opinion about everything. Apparently it did, and I apologize for that.

1.) I couldn’t agree with you more about considering alternative consumer products that may be more environmentally friendly. I don’t do as much as I could to help out our planet, but I have an enormous amount of respect for those who do. If they didn’t, no one would, and although I probably won’t be around to see any of the majorly crappy consequences to the planet, the thought that humanity will eventually have the self-destruct button pressed on it is somewhat unnerving. So: kudos to making a difference one person (or product) at a time.

2.) My real beef has to do with “scientific” reports, linking certain things to certain diseases. Many (not all) of these reports drive me insane. Firstly, who are the studies done by? Large companies who have excessive amounts of money to spend because they are selling the products they produce these “studies” on? That in itself would be enough to make me apprehensive. Secondly, specific details of the studies are frequently not provided, and if they are, many people don’t think critically or attempt to interpret the results in any way. For example, if a certain chemical “may” be “linked” to a certain disease, what exactly does that mean? And do the people reading the study stop to think about what that means? I’m not saying that in regards to antiperspirant, there is absolutely no chance whatsoever that it may be linked to Alzheimer’s. I’m just saying…how probable is this “may” and strongly is it “linked”? Do we really have enough details to make an educated decision?

Minako’s final comment about the antiperspirant causing her previously negative health problems seems to parallel that entirely too familiar method of rationale- a rationale that appears in many interpretations of “scientific health studies”: X could perhaps maybe possibly somehow be connected to Y which obviously means X IS connected to Y. If a few other possibilities had only been considered and the same conclusion had been reached, my gitch would have stayed nice and straight because the decision process would have demonstrated a critical engagement with the topic.

The purpose of my response was to induce some judicious thought on everyone’s part. My sarcasm develops when we are not as informed as we could be when painting a particular picture, and especially when other people are listening to our partial picture and potentially making more uninformed decisions based on the original partial picture. This is not to say that the original partial picture is necessarily wrong. It just means that there are at least a few other sides worth considering and addressing when speaking publically about a particular issue.

Being blunt and even outspoken is, admittedly, not always the best approach. But it is sometimes a way to produce results. If a little bit of sarcasm leads an individual to be more informed and critical the next time they share particular ideas in a public or even private forum, then it may be possible that the sardonic dude on the internet has been more than just a cowardly asshole.


Tricky said...

Well, I for one, appreciate your coming out and explaining yourself.

However, there are almost always more efficient ways of inducing judicious thought than your previous approach. The evidence you gave us in terms of presenting your opinion supplied us with fairly uncontroversial reasons to reach the conclusion that you were a jerk. Sarcasm and sardonicism are poor accompaniments to good reasons, and it's hard to be any sort of authority when you're outspoken to the point of alienating others. And you would have done well to pay attention to Minako's qualifier - she said that her experience was hardly conclusive scientific proof. She did not, at any point, mistake correlation for causation.

I sincerely thank you for coming back and explaining yourself.