Skin

18 January 2013

Deodorants: Do we really need them?

New research shows that more than 75% of people with a particular version of a gene don't produce under-arm odour but use deodorant anyway.

New research shows that more than 75% of people with a particular version of a gene don't produce under-arm odour but use deodorant anyway.

The study was based on a sample of 6 495 women who are part of the wider Children of the 90s study at the University of Bristol. The researchers found that about two per cent (117 out of 6 495) of mothers carry a rare version of a particular gene (ABCC11), which means they don't produce any under-arm odour.

While about 5% of people who produce an odour do not use deodorant, more than a fifth (26 out of 117) of those who don't produce an odour do not use deodorant, a statistically highly significant difference. However, 78%of people who do not produce odour, still use deodorant on all or most days.

Some people produce no odour

Speaking about the novel finding, the lead author Professor Ian Day said, "An important finding of this study relates to those individuals who, according to their genotype, do not produce under-arm odour. One quarter of these individuals must consciously or subconsciously recognise that they do not produce odour and do not use deodorant, whereas most odour producers do use deodorant. However, three quarters of those who do not produce an odour regularly use deodorants; we believe that these people simply follow socio-cultural norms. This contrasts with the situation in North East Asia, where most people do not need to use deodorant - and they don't."

"These findings have some potential for using genetics in the choice of personal hygiene products. A simple gene test might strengthen self-awareness and save some unnecessary purchases and chemical exposures for non-odour producers," the first author of the paper, Dr Santiago Rodriguez added.

What the study found

The authors highlight that people who carry this rare genetic variant are also more likely to have dry (rather than sticky) ear wax and that checking ear wax is a good indicator of whether or not a person produces under-arm odour.

Previous studies have shown that there is a link between a genetic variant located in the ABCC11 gene and under-arm odour. Sweat glands produce sweat which, combined with bacteria, result in under-arm odour. The production of odour depends on the existence of an active ABCC11 gene. However, the ABCC11 gene is known to be inactive in some people.

This study looked for the first time at deodorant usage in relation to ABCC11 genotype and also in comparison with other factors such as age, background and general household hygiene. At the individual level, the influence of ABCC11 genotype was much stronger than the other factors. The statistical support for the ABCC11 finding was extremely strong – the random chance of getting the same answer was less than one in a million million million odds.

(EurekAlert, January 2013)

Read More:

Scent of a human

 

Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Ask the Expert

Skin expert

Dr Suretha Kannenberg holds a degree in Medicine and a Masters in Dermatology from the University of Stellenbosch.

She currently runs a dermatology practice in Cape Town’s northern suburbs and her specialities include eczema, childhood skin conditions and acne.

She also has a passion for enhancing natural beauty through cosmetic procedures.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules