An instruction manual for deodorant use

deodorantFor all our sakes, please pass this on to the teenagers and young adults in your life!

Antiperspirants are designed to prevent you from sweating under your arms and, unless you are taking part in active sports or it is sweltering hot, they do the job quite well.

Notice that I said prevent. That implies that you apply the antiperspirant before you sweat. It does not erase sweat that is already there.

Deodorants – the ones that do not also contain an anti-perspirant – do not remove odors, despite their name. They only try to reduce that odor by preventing bacterial breakdown that causes it (according to Wikipedia, the source of all knowledge), and to cover it up with a different, usually unpleasant, odor.

That means that spraying either one – deodorant or anti-perspirant – under your arms in the middle of a lesson at school will not do you any good. Spraying it on the train won’t help either. Neither will it help in an airplane. With apologies to lovers of Dr. Seuss: “Not in a box, not with a fox, not in a house, not with a mouse.”

If you smell of body odor, it’s already too late! All you’re doing by re-spraying yourself is compounding the problem. Now you don’t just smell of body odor, you smell of body odor plus cheap perfume. Not only  that, where before only people in your immediate vicinity might have been bothered by your smell, now everyone in the classroom/train/airplane is affected, and probably incubating cancer in their lungs as a result of breathing in those tiny chemical particles.

This whole phenomenon is a result of some brilliant advertising. Some brands now sell “body spray” that smells just like deodorant. You spray it all over your body, either under or on top of your clothing. Somehow you’ve all bought into the idea that

  1. you stink and
  2. you need to douse yourself in this stuff hourly to cover up the stink.

The problem is that the new stink is worse than the old stink!

Here’s what you need to do instead:

  1. Take a shower. Assuming you wash well under your arms with soap or shower gel, you won’t stink when you get out of the shower.
  2. Dry yourself off well, especially under your arms.
  3. Immediately apply your anti-perspirant (not just deodorant), just under your arms. (It’s pointless to spray it on the rest of your body.) Don’t overdo it; more does not mean it’s more effective. Do this in the bathroom or your bedroom so no one else needs to share the moment.

That’s it. You don’t need to apply more until the next morning. Then, if you check under your arms in the morning and you smell, don’t apply more antiperspirant; take another shower first!

Do not carry your deodorant around. Do not assault our senses on a daily basis with your misguided consumerism. Resist the advertisers’ power.

If you really must put on a scent – and I can’t imagine why this would be necessary – follow these instructions:

Girls: a small dab of quality perfume behind each ear, just once in a given day. No one should even notice it except if they lean in to give you a kiss.

Boys: a few drops of quality aftershave on your face, also just once in a given day. Again, no one should even notice it except when they lean in to give you a kiss.

But really you shouldn’t need it at all. Everybody and every body has a distinct smell, even when freshly washed. Your smell is your smell and anyone you get intimate with has to like your natural, distinct smell. If they don’t, they won’t stick around long, and no amount of deodorant is going to change that.

Does this bother you as much as it does me? Or am I overreacting when the guy across the aisle in the train pulls out a bottle of deodorant and douses himself?


  • Rosie @Eco-Gites of Lenault

    October 13, 2014 at 10:16 am

    I am so with you on this!! My two boys are just reaching the age that they need to sort out what is, as yet, just slight body odour. I have ABSOLUTELY banned any smelly aerosols from the house as the smell makes me feel ill. Small amount of low scented antiperspirant deodorant in the morning after washing is what I want them to do for all our noses’ sakes! I will get them to read this article – thank you 🙂

  • rachel75

    October 13, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    It’s awful to walk into that smell in a school classroom. They spray it when all their peers are right there! Drives me nuts! Let me know how they react when they read it, or ask them to post a comment! Thanks!


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