For thousands of years, humans have been using various forms of deodorant to help cover body odor. But how did we go from using spices and herbs to modern deodorant?
THE ORIGINS OF DEODORANT
Early humans were, understandably, not concerned with how they smelled. They had more important things to worry about - like survival. Funnily enough, anthropologists believe body odor may have actually helped them do just that, working to repulse potential predators and keep them from feasting on humans. As humans developed into more complex social creatures, we began to worry about our stink and turned to some pretty surprising tactics to banish B.O.
Ancient Egyptians were the first to attempt to mask B.O. They relied heavily on perfumed baths and aromatic oils, but also invented other, less appealing, methods of odor control. Women would often place a dollop of scented wax on top of their heads and allow it to melt throughout the day, spreading the scent as it liquified. Egyptians also tried porridge as deodorant… we aren’t sure how effective this was, but it sounds like a surefire path to pit stains.
BANISHING B.O. IN THE MODERN ERA
The first commercial deodorant, Mum, was patented by a U.S. inventor in Philadelphia in 1888. This deodorant was a paste and was applied to the underarms, but didn’t do much to absorb wetness. Deodorant continued to develop and progress, eventually leading to the invention of the first antiperspirant deodorant in 1903 by Everdry. This antiperspirant contained aluminum chloride in a liquid form that was dabbed onto a cotton ball and wiped onto the skin. But the acidity of the aluminum chloride caused burning and irritation under the arms.
Mum was eventually bought by Bristol-Myers in 1931. An inventor for the company, Helen Barnett Diserens, developed an underarm applicator for deodorant, based on the new ball point pen at the time - the first roll-on deodorant applicator. Bristol-Myers began marketing this roll-on product in 1952 under the name Ban Roll-On.
The first aerosol deodorant came onto the market in the early 1960’s in the form of Gillette’s Right Guard, quickly becoming a popular alternative to creams and sticks. But in the late 1970’s, the FDA banned the main ingredient in aerosols, aluminum zirconium, because of the long-term health risks of inhaling the chemicals. This, combined with environmental concerns over damage to the ozone layer, led to a rapid decline in popularity of aerosol deodorant.