Natural Deo Doesn't Stop The Sweat, But An Aluminum-Free Antiperspirant Is On The Horizon
If you've hopped on the natural deodorant bandwagon, you likely know this scenario well: You swipe on your stick, feeling fresh, only to notice your pits feeling a bit, uh, wet later on in the day. That's because a deodorant is not the same as antiperspirant—deodorant masks the smell or helps neutralize the bacteria strains that produce the odor (hence, de and odorant), while an antiperspirant clogs your sweat ducts to prevent the sweat (thus, anti and perspirant). Traditional options typically include aluminum salts to plug said sweat ducts, which has quite the hot debate.
Which brings us to the conflicting scenario above: Natural deodorants are not antiperspirants—meaning, you may still sweat up a storm. Even if you don't smell too ripe (sweat doesn't actually smell; it's the bacteria that releases pungent B.O.), many find those sweaty pits a bit unpleasant. It's a gripe the natural deo space is trying to overcome, to little avail, which causes many to go crawling back to their traditional antiperspirants, head hung low and arms glued to their sides.
Well, research is on the tail (pits?) of a new aluminum-free antiperspirant—using none other than your own sweat glands.
Stopping sweat with...sweat?
At the Virginia Tech Nature-Inspired Fluids and Interfaces Lab, their theory is as follows: If the sweat evaporates while it's still inside the sweat duct (i.e., before it flows out of the sweat glands and onto your skin), the sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, urea, and bicarbonates naturally present in sweat will crystallize and plug those ducts. The result? Dry, fresh pits, without potentially risky metals.
To test their theory, the team created an "artificial sweat duct," using pressurized gas to release synthetic sweat. They found that propylene glycol (a solvent that's highly attracted to water), could effectively evaporate the sweat—a gel-like plug formed inside the duct, creating a seal.
Now, if you're well versed in your beauty vocab, you're probably wondering: Isn't propylene glycol potentially irritating on skin? It's true—many traditional deos feature this ingredient, which has been found to cause allergic reactions in some and was even selected as the American Contact Dermatitis Society's "Allergen of the Year." However, plant-derived versions do exist (converted from glycerin rather than petroleum); while relatively new, they are thought to be not as irritating as their synthetic counterparts (not to mention, far eco-friendlier considering they nix petroleum). In fact, many natural deodorants use this type of propylene glycol already.
What this research means.
"Our research has discovered the most natural antiperspirant in existence: the minerals within the sweat itself!" says Jonathan Boreyko, Ph.D., associate professor of Virginia Tech and leader of the study, in a news release. "It is exciting to find that simply making the sweat evaporate faster can cause natural mineral plugs that have the potential of replacing metal-based products in the future."
The next step is to move away from artificial sweat glands and start testing the theory on human pits themselves. The team proposes stick applicators or wearable adhesives to test whether human sweat can, in fact, clog its own ducts before flowing out of the pores. It may be a while before these aluminum-free antiperspirants hit the market, but for those settling with their natural deo, you may have something less sweaty to look forward to.
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