Study: Some People Have Armpits That Never Smell; Most Still Use Deodorant

More

Powder-fresh underarms are a cultural construct, man.

RTR35QVPmain.png
Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

PROBLEM: Some people, who carry a certain mutation on a particular gene, have armpits that don't smell. Seriously. We've actually known that for a while now. But what researchers at the University of Bristol really wanted to know was: Do people with no odor nonetheless use deodorant?

METHODOLOGY: The researchers analyzed a large cohort of children and their parents, noting whether they had the underarm-odor-gene and their reported deodorant use.

RESULTS: Two percent of the women studied carried the genetic mutation that prevents their underarms from stinking. Yet 78 percent of those women were typical deodorant users.

Evidence was also found for "deodorant nonuse in the genotypically odorous": 4.7 percent of women and 13 percent of men who, "despite needing deodorant, never use it or use it less than once a week."

IMPLICATIONS: In some places, like northeast Asia, deodorant use is far less common, reportedly as low as 7 percent. The researchers explain that this may be because less than 1 percent of the northeast Asian population has the smelly armpit genotype -- there just isn't much need for this aspect of personal hygiene. But for the population studied here -- members of a UK cohort known as the "Children of the 90s" -- using deodorant is a cultural norm, potentially explaining why the non-smelly use it anyway.

The 22 percent who've disavowed the tyranny of deodorant, reason the authors, must "consciously or subconsciously recognize that they do not produce odor." If you're not sure where you fit in here, check your ears: The same genetic variant that protects against underarm odor also causes people to have dry, rather than sticky, earwax. If you're still not sure, "a simple gene test might strengthen self-awareness and save some unnecessary purchases and chemical exposures for non-odour producers," say the authors.

The full study, "Dependence of Deodorant Usage on ABCC11 Genotype: Scope for Personalized Genetics in Personal Hygeine" is published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Lindsay Abrams is an assistant editor at Salon and a former writer and producer for The Atlantic's Health Channel.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity

Video

Is Technology Making Us Better Storytellers?

The minds behind House of Cards and The Moth weigh in.

Video

A Short Film That Skewers Hollywood

A studio executive concocts an animated blockbuster. Who cares about the story?

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Video

What Is a Sandwich?

We're overthinking sandwiches, so you don't have to.

Video

Let's Talk About Not Smoking

Why does smoking maintain its allure? James Hamblin seeks the wisdom of a cool person.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Health

Just In