Deodorants – Do we need them?

Using deodorants on a regular basis might be increasingly considered a cultural norm but, according to a new research study, as many as 78 percent of those who use them on all or most days need not do so at all. Researchers have found that these individuals are carriers of a version of a particular gene named ABCC11, which means they don’t produce any underarm odour.

The ABCC11 gene is known to have a strong link with underarm odour. Research has shown that 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. New research, published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, sought to assess the scale of deodorant usage in relation to genotype. Carried out on a sample of 6,495 women, who were part of a wider study at University of Bristol, it was found that 78 percent of people who do not produce odour still use deodorants regularly. Around 5 percent of people who produce odour do not use deodorant and around a fifth of those who don’t produce an odour do not use deodorant. Among the 6,495 in the sample, around two percent, or 117 women, were found to be carriers of the gene.

The study also explored another important aspect. Apart from checking deodorant usage in relation to genotype, researchers sought to ascertain the strength of the link between the ABCC11 gene and body odour. They looked into various factors like age, background and household hygiene but found that the influence of the ABCC11 gene was the strongest.

According to the authors, there are a large number of individuals who do not need deodorants but nonetheless purchase then and thus expose themselves to chemicals. ‘These individuals could avoid the chemical exposure and the dermatological and other health risks and costs involved, without social disadvantage, write the authors. They state that carriers of the ABCC11 gene tend to have dry (as opposed to sticky) ear wax. Thus, claim the researchers, all one need do is check one’s ear wax before buying a deodorant.




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