Powder-fresh underarms are a cultural construct, man.
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?
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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.