Deodorant or Deodor-not?

Social norms determine whether people without body odor still wear deodorant

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) It's time to pull out the deodorant when body odor creeps up. But some may have a gene that doesn't cause them to produce any smells. Most will still take precautions to protect the nose.

Depending on the culture, people wear deodorant even when they may not have to, according to a recently published study.

The findings showed that people without a body odor gene could avoid the skin, chemical and other health risks linked with deodorant usage while saving cash at the same time, researchers said.

"Talk to a dermatologist about non-irritating skin products."

Body odor is genetic. Variations in the 'rs17822931' gene cause body odor and are linked to the kind of earwax people can have as well.

The aim of the study, led by Santiago Rodriguez, from the MRC Centre for Causal Analyses in Translational Epidemiology and the University of Bristol in the UK, was to see how well deodorants work on individuals with and without the body odor trait.

More than 14,500 pregnant women residing in Avon, United Kingdom were recruited in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) study, covering families' long-term health. The women were tested for the 'rs17822931' gene.

Both mothers and their partners, who were often the fathers of their children, ranked their deodorant usage during pregnancy and eight months after their children were born.

Researchers found that about 95 percent of Europeans with the odorous gene used deodorant.

At the same time, individuals without the body odor gene were five times less likely to use deodorant than those with the gene.

Yet about 79 percent of white Europeans who did not have the odorous gene, and thus did not produce underarm body odor, still used deodorant.

About 78 percent of mothers and 80 percent of fathers who don't produce body odor still used deodorant at least once per week.

"The lower frequency of deodorant usage in this group of individuals therefore reflects the lack of need for deodorant usage, a substantially socially determined behavior," researchers wrote in their report.

In other countries, researchers reported that less than 1 percent of individuals in northeast Asia had the gene for body odor. In total though, only 7 percent of the population there overall used deodorant.

Researchers said that cultural and social norms majorly impact deodorant usage.

"In this instance, it is likely that deodorant usage is not widely adopted because there is, for much of the East Asia population, no need for it. The opposite is true in European populations," researchers said.

The study was published online January 17 in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology. No conflicts of interest were reported.

The UK Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, and the University of Bristol supported the study.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 20, 2013
Last Updated:
January 30, 2013