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Monday, September 10, 2012

A History Of Deodorant: From Ancient Egypt To ‘Sure’

(Flickr/Clean Wal-Mart)

Most of us probably haven’t given much thought to the humble deodorant that’s sitting in the medicine cabinet. But as science journalist Sarah Everts found, deodorants and  antiperspirants have had a complicated and fascinating history.

For instance, ancient Egyptians had perfumes that were specifically focused on covering the stink of humans. But formulas to block odor have only been in wide use for a little over a century, Everts told Here & Now‘s Sacha Pfeiffer, and we have advertising agencies to thank.

And the early formulas had problems: they irritated sensitive skin, and often discolored or even ate through clothing. In an article for Smithsonian magazine, Everts writes about how advertising made antiperspirants mainstream.

Sarah Everts also says that she finds the dichotomy of attitudes towards sweat fascinating: humans are embarrassed by sweat, but at the same time participate in activities that encourage sweat production such as going to the gym and sweat lodges.

Guest:


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  • Sylvia

    It all came about because “sweat” was related to being working class. Semiotically, not sweating indicates a life of leisure, as do long fingernails, being rich enough to afford a protein diet to be slim, and having the time to develop a tan.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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