The history of deodorant

A cleaning story that concerns us closely, especially at this time of year: the history of deodorant! The instinct to cover the most "pungent" smells of the body is very ancient, let's say that it accompanies us from the birth of humanity. Technically, the "sweaty armpit" does not depend on sweat in itself, but on the bacteria that propagate in the damp environment and whicih are the cause of the bad smell. In any case, since it is impossible not to sweat, the efforts of artisans and perfumers from around the world have served to devise a thousand and one systems to cover the smell of sweat. 

In Ancient Egypt, for example, they used cinnamon or alum, and fragrant spices as a deodorant. In ancient China they used alum or salt, a practice that became common in certain parts of Asia. Salt is in fact known for its antibacterial properties, and this explains the deodorising effect! During the Middle Ages hygiene suffered a severe blow: from the bathroom reserved for the guest praised by the Greeks and Romans to abstaining from contact with water, if not very, very rarely . An "odorous" problem, to which the inhabitants of the “dark ages” got round by sewing perfumed and soaked parcels of essential oils in the inner part of the clothes. From the 12th to the 13th century, hot and cold baths returned to be more or less a common practice in all social classes. After a period in which the cleansing of the body was associated more with a purifying ablution (the monks used to wash themselves on Saturdays, in view of Sunday) than to a practice of hygiene, in this age the respect and attention to the corporeality are considered quite important. Skin cleansing and cosmetic ornamentation return to a have a close relationship with social practices.


But while bathing is back in fashion in the Western world, there is no trace of deodorant. The turning point will take place in the eighteenth century, when it was discovered that the sweat glands produced sweat, and that the bacteria played a key role in the associated smell. 
Knowing that bacterial growth therefore needed moisture and heat, they looked for compounds that would limit moisture and act directly on bacteria.  The early pioneers applied ammonia dyes under the armpits, which unfortunately caused skin inflammation. After other generations of "non deodorized" people, in the nineteenth century the first commercial deodorant was created: its name was "mum", based on zinc, produced in Philadelphia, United States.  It was a paste to spread under the armpits, sticky and rubbery but quite effective. The brand that produced it, "mum", which would derive from the nickname given to the inventor's nurse (who, surprisingly, remained unknown!). Then it moved on to Procter & Gamble in 2001.  Today we can't imagine having to spread a sticky paste before going out for an aperitif, because Helen Barnett Diserens contributed to make our lives more comfortable. In 1940, inspired by a ballpoint pen, he created the first ball deodorant using a compound based on aluminum chloride.

It became so popular that about 80% of the deodorants sold in the world were of this type. A few years later, the first spray-on deodorants were marketed, but now they are produced differently. 
In fact, they hid a trap made of polluting volatile substances, banned at the beginning of the new millennium. Today, deodorant is an integral part of our hygienic routine, with a recent tendency to replace chemical compounds with natural substances. Any type of deodorant is fine, in fact, to have the desired effects, it is enough to associate it with a correct daily hygiene, with the choice of wearing breathable fabrics, especially during this hot season, and choose a healthy diet. And we're all clean, deodorized, scented!