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May 20, 2006

Using Less Deodorant

I have never heard that the wars of the future will be fought over Aluminum Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex GLY, so perhaps this is less important than saving water when using the dishwasher. Nonetheless, at one point in the recent past I became curious about just how much deodorant you were supposed to put on.

I looked at the package and it didn't say anything about it (and neither did the FAQ on the website). Which figures--the companies making deodorant have no real incentive to make you use less of their product, and absent any information I suspect most of us would err on the side of over-application. But of course they would need to have some amount in mind when testing the stuff to see if it works.

I also had a vague theory that your body would tend to get used to a certain amount of deodorant and could adapt to less or more. Add in my baseline fear that my deodorant is destroying my lymph nodes, or something, I decided to do a little experiment on myself.

My morning ritual at the time consisted of applying deodorant in 3 "shoofs", where a shoof is one up-and-down stroke (or a down-and-up stroke). I resolved to notch this down, a half-shoof per week, until I started to smell funny. I actually got down to a single stroke (one half shoof) without any noticeable effect on my co-workers. I contemplated going completely roughrider (perhaps years of deodorant use had made the effects permanent, like Obelix falling in the cauldron of magic potion) but instead I decided to call the number on the package, which in my case was 1-866-DEGREE1.

I wound up talking to a very nice young lady who said, yes, they did have guidance on such things, and she would check. She came back a short time and told me that it was one shoof (well, she didn't use that term), up-and-then-down to be precise. My ongoing deprivation experiment had actually left me at half that level, but it was a bit tricky because sometimes I would line up the stick wrong, or I wouldn't really get traction right away, leaving me with the uncomfortable feeling that some significant part of my armpit was unprotected. The "one shoof" method that she recommended allowed you to establish a good solid stick-to-skin bond on the upstroke, leaving you in position for a nice uniform application on the downstroke (she also confessed that before the had taken this job, she had put about 10 shoofs on each time). So that's what I do, but your mileage, as they say, may vary.

Posted by AdamBa at May 20, 2006 09:57 PM

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Is there a slide deck that goes along with this post?

Posted by: Robert Banghart at May 21, 2006 07:07 AM

Well, that was an interesting read and sure answered my own questions on just how much is enough!

Posted by: A. Nonymus at May 21, 2006 10:17 AM

You should continue the experiment to its logical conclusion: using none at all. I did about the same thing 15 years ago, experimenting with less and less, until I eventually stopped altogether. If anyone has ever noticed in all the years between, they've never said anything. Some, very few, people probably do need it, but I'd guess it's mostly just plain old fear that makes most of us do it. At least for us office worker types who don't really sweat much.

This little Slate article was a bit amusing, too: http://www.slate.com/id/95549/ (and I waste way too much time on Sunday morning browsing, obviously).

Posted by: DonD at May 21, 2006 12:12 PM

I'm disappointed you did not do the obvious thing and perform a real double-blind controlled experiment. On your left pit, use the normal 3 shoofs. On the right, use one shoof (or less). At the end of the day, ask some randomly selected individuals to smell each armpit and tell you which one is stinkier. Repeat this enough times to be statistically significant. Maybe vary the armpit to account for any stinkiness difference between your left and right side.

You'll either get a PhD thesis, or get arrested. Maybe both if you are lucky.

Posted by: John Vert at May 21, 2006 06:41 PM

John, you are right. I hereby convene the International Association of Deodorant Experimentation and nominate myself as Founder, Grand Poobah, and Hallway Monitor. My first task as head of I.A.D.E. is to dispatch you to do the experiment you described. Let me know how it goes...

- adam

Posted by: Adam Barr at May 22, 2006 12:37 PM