The Capetown Glow? Deodorants/Antiperspirants: Don’t sweat it!

Capetown, #TheDream (Beaut of an aerial via Lonely Planet images)


Soooo, I arrived in stunning Capetown Friday last. After my usual last minute arrival to Dublin airport, I realised I’d forgotten to pack deodorant.

I decided not to sweat the small stuff and off I toddled to buy some before boarding. While I now have you all in the palm of my hand after that engrossing tail of a near-miss, I’m going to speak about that most exciting of topics: sweating, deodorants and antiperspirants!

With regard to personal hygiene, we’ve come a long way since times medieval, when bathing was viewed either as a debaucherous act or as an invite to the devil to take up residence in your body! Posies of flowers dangled around your nose were an absolute requisite before braving a crowd.


(Image via Pinterest)


Now, we live in a world where many are afforded the privilege of access to clean water every day. After washing, deodorants and antiperspirants are applied to keep us fresh-from-the-shower fresh throughout the day.

But how exactly do the deodorants and antiperspirants we slather on so obliviously every day work and are there alternatives?

Underarm odour results from secretions of apocrine sweat glands, which are found in the armpits, groin, and breasts. This type of sweat gland secretes an oily substance that bacteria living on our skin break down into fatty acids. The process culminates in the emission of a noxious odour. This is where the oft-advised hack of applying alcohol hand sanitiser to armpits comes into play; it eliminates the unpleasant smell by eliminating the bacteria. Those with stronger body odour have larger and more industrious apocrine glands; the tendency can be familial.

A deodorant does not prevent wetness; it merely masks odour, whereas an antiperspirant impedes sweat production at the outset. The two are frequently combined. The active ingredient in most antiperspirants is aluminium, which blocks pores so that sweat cannot pass through and reach the skin.

The medical term is for problem body odour (B.O.) is bromhidrosis, with emphasis on the bro since horses sweat, men perspire and ladies glow natch.


Hyperhidrosis is a condition characterised by the excessive production of sweat, disproportionate to the amount required for the purposes of body temperature regulation.

Bromhidrosis (problem B.O.) usually responds to deodorants/antiperspirants and antibacterial agents.

If you suffer from problem B.O., observe the following:

  • Curtail your intake of alcohol and foods that exacerbate the odour, including spicy foods, onions and garlic. Increasing your intake of greens should help!
  • Keep as clean and dry as possible so as not to give the bacteria responsible for the problem a breeding ground conducive to industrious odour production!
  • Remove hair from the offending areas which, again, will discourage growth of bacteria.
  • Ensure your armpits are completely dry before applying deodorants/antiperspirants. Use a blowdryer on a cool setting if necessary.
  • Try potent deodorants/antiperspirants from reputable brands, e.g. Mitchum.
  • Wear natural (as opposed to man-made) fibres, such as cotton or silk. These permit your skin to breathe, thereby allowing your sweat to evaporate faster so as not to linger and allow odour-producing bacteria to thrive.

If excessive sweating- hyperhidrosis-  is your issue, try the above, and also:

  • Try buying an over the counter high strength Aluminium Chloride antiperspirant and apply it at night time. This works by blocking your sweat glands for up to a few days.
  • Failing this, it’s probably best to see your doctor regarding more specialised management such as referral for botox injections, iontophoresis (a procedure that involves sending mild electrical currents through water and into the skin) and to outrule an underlying cause.


A quick word on ‘natural’ deodorant alternatives. As you are probably aware, there are a few small studies in existence linking the aluminium and parabens(parabens being the most widely used preservatives in cosmetics) contained in deodorants to breast cancer. While this link was dispelled by several reputable camps including Cancer Research UK, interest in alternative deodorants has subsequently blossomed.

Options include sticks of mineral salts which prevent bacteria multiplying and ingredients which have deodorising and/or antiperspirant properties, e.g. the Dr. Hauschka Sage Mint Deodorant which contains sage which is anti-bacterial and astringent (i.e. sweat pore-shrinking), while the mint imparts a long-lasting fresh scent. Expand your horizons the next time you’re pottering around your pharmacy or health food shop!

And whatever your choice…


(image via


My name is Michelle and I’m a Dublin-based GP (family doctor). Life is short: take the minimalist approach to maximise your health!

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