Deodorants: Do we really need them?

New research shows that more than 75 per cent of people with a particular version of a gene don't produce under-arm odour but use deodorant anyway.

The study was based on a sample of 6,495 women who are part of the wider Children of the 90s study at the University of Bristol. The researchers found that about two per cent (117 out of 6,495) of mothers carry a rare version of a particular gene (ABCC11), which means they don't produce any under-arm .

While about 5 per cent of people who produce an odour do not use , more than a fifth (26 out of 117) of those who don't produce an odour do not use deodorant, a statistically highly significant difference. However, 78 per cent of people who do not produce odour, still use deodorant on all or most days.

Speaking about the novel finding, published today in the , the lead author Professor Ian Day said:

'An important finding of this study relates to those individuals who, according to their genotype, do not produce under-arm odour. One quarter of these individuals must consciously or subconsciously recognise that they do not produce odour and do not use deodorant, whereas most odour producers do use deodorant. However, three quarters of those who do not produce an odour regularly use deodorants; we believe that these people simply follow socio-cultural norms. This contrasts with the situation in North East Asia, where most people do not need to use deodorant and they don't.'

The first author of the paper, Dr Santiago Rodriguez added:

'These findings have some potential for using genetics in the choice of personal hygiene products. A simple might strengthen self-awareness and save some unnecessary purchases and chemical exposures for non-odour producers.'

The authors highlight that people who carry this rare variant are also more likely to have dry (rather than sticky) ear wax and that checking ear wax is a good indicator of whether or not a person produces under-arm odour.

Previous studies have shown that there is a link between a genetic variant located in the ABCC11 gene and under-arm odour. Sweat glands produce sweat which, combined with bacteria, result in under-arm odour. The production of odour depends on the existence of an active ABCC11 gene. However, the ABCC11 gene is known to be inactive in some people.

This study looked for the first time at deodorant usage in relation to ABCC11 genotype and also in comparison with other factors such as age, background and general household hygiene. At the individual level, the influence of ABCC11 was much stronger than the other factors. The statistical support for the ABCC11 finding was extremely strong – the random chance of getting the same answer was less than one in a million million million odds.

More information: 'Dependence of deodorant usage on ABCC11 genotype: scope for personalised genetics in personal hygiene' by Santiago Rodriguez et al is published today [17 January 2013] in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, (Nature Publishing), doi:10.1038/jid.2012.480

Related Stories

Drinking water from plastic pipes - is it harmful?

date Nov 08, 2011

Pipe-in-pipe systems are now commonly used to distribute water in many homes. The inner pipe for drinking water is made of a plastic called cross-linked polyethylene (PEX). Are these pipes harmful to health and do they affect ...

Malaria mosquitoes guided by bacteria

date Dec 08, 2010

The composition of our skin bacteria determines whether we are attractive to malaria mosquito. This insight should make it possible to develop an effective odor trap for mosquitoes.

Smell the love

date Aug 04, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Mandrills can use body odour to identify potential mates, researchers have found, in a study which lends new support to the theory that humans also have the ability to "sniff out" suitable ...

Recommended for you

The controversial stop-smoking drug Champix is safe

date 11 minutes ago

The controversial smoking cessation drug Champix has been linked to suicidal side-effects but, according to a leading Adelaide respiratory researcher, Champix is safe and can improve someone's chances of kicking the habit.

Clinical trial reduces stress of cancer caregivers

date 17 hours ago

Stem cell transplant is essential in the care of many blood cancers, but leaves patients requiring in-home care for months after. Frequently the role of caregiver falls to family or other committed members ...

Video: Debunking three common food myths

date 17 hours ago

You might have heard that microwaving your food is dangerous. Maybe your health nut friend told you that eating frozen veggies is less healthful than eating fresh ones. Is a glass of red wine really good ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Argiod
Jan 17, 2013
Being allergic to them, I don't use deodorants anyways. I find the simple process of taking a shower when I get up, and another before going to bed, and after any major exertion, keeps me fresh and clean. And has an added benefit; I find it much easier to find a sex partner when I'm not blocking my natural pheromones. That, with my ability to smell a woman's pheromones, I can tell pretty fast who's interested.
PeterD
Jan 18, 2013
Healthy people don't smell bad.I figured out how to be truly healthy many years ago, and have never used a deodorant since.
Q-Star
Jan 18, 2013
Healthy people don't smell bad.I figured out how to be truly healthy many years ago, and have never used a deodorant since.


Those around you might beg to differ,,,,, can we take a survey? Maybe that is why they call you "Stinky Petey".
PeterD
Jan 21, 2013
Healthy people don't smell bad.I figured out how to be truly healthy many years ago, and have never used a deodorant since.


Those around you might beg to differ,,,,, can we take a survey? Maybe that is why they call you "Stinky Petey".

What an idiot you are. If you where here, you could check for yourself, and I know you would detect no odor.
Q-Star
Jan 21, 2013
What an idiot you are. If you where here, you could check for yourself, and I know you would detect no odor.


If it's all the same to you, I'll pass. I'm not that much of an idiot,,,, but apparently you are to even suggest it.
NeptuneAD
Jan 21, 2013
I don't seem to have smelly sweat, but when I go out I still instinctively put on deodorant, probably because I would rather smell good than possibly stink.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.