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How Advertisers Convinced Americans They Smelled Bad (smithsonianmag.com)
180 points by e1ven on Aug 8, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 143 comments



The best[1] advertising is the kind that informs people that a solution to their very real problems exists.

The worst[1] advertising is the kind that convinces you you have a problem you don't really have. It aims to make unhappy with what you have or who are when you would otherwise have been content.

Sometimes it seems to me like our society gets shaped more by the worst kinds of advertising than the best.

[1] By best and worst, I mean most beneficial to the person/people viewing the advertisement. An advertiser or deodorant executive would probably have a different opinion on the matter.


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While I agree with your point, you seem to be suggesting that you'd put this example on the worst side of things. I'd say that everyone smelling bad is a problem and I'm really glad somebody solved that problem.


Or do you think that way because you've always assumed it was a problem? It isn't until our most insecure moments of adolescence that we really start sweating enough to require deodorants. What better time to strike at insecurities to sell a product for life? And after all these years, it certainly is a reinforcing loop. for example, you don't see ads trying to convince you that body odor is an issue - that's assumed.

Not that I disagree with you, I think that the mix of increased population density in cities combined with chemistry made it all but inevitable. But the cynic in me finds the idea of self propagating ad campaigns brilliant.


People have been using scented fragrances to cover up both body odor and other odors for thousands of years. I don't believe they had advertising convincing them they smelled bad.

Certainly, the idea of what smells "good" and "bad" is subjective, but as history proves out, I think our societal aversion to odors is 1. deeply seeded and 2. probably practical - if you smell bad, you are likely dirty (and need to wash up)


After hearing the US abandoned chemical weapons based on the odor of feces and rot because 'not all cultures share the same aversion to those smells" I was surprised to read the following quote in Marcus Aurelius's Meditations:

Art thou angry with him whose armpits stink ? art thou angry with him whose mouth smells foul ? What good will this anger do thee ? He has such a mouth, he has such arm- pits: it is necessary that such an emanation must come from such things: but the man has reason, it will be said, and he is able, if he takes pains, to discover wherein he offends; I wish thee well of thy discovery. Well then, and thou hast reason: by thy rational faculty stir up his rational faculty; show him his error, admonish him. For if he listens, thou wilt cure him, and there is no need of anger.


i recall reading about a letter from napolean to josephine on his way back from some war. he told her to stop bathing, I'm on my way home. when it comes to cultural context, i guess anything goes...


There are quite a few baths and bathtubs in Homer, poems written a cool 3 millenia or so before TV.


People didn't have access to convenient running warm water and soap as much back then either.


> Or do you think that way because you've always assumed it was a problem?

It really is a problem, one people tried to solve long before we had modern advertising. Try going somewhere that deodorant hasn't really caught on yet (e.g. India).


The question, I think, isn't whether someone from a culture influenced by the deodorant ads will find the smell of body odor offensive.

The question is whether we would find it offensive if no one had told us that our body odor was repulsive.

I could honestly go either way on this. I've seen plenty of evidence that people's reaction to odors is quite context dependent. I remember someone ruining a popular brand of cheese-flavored chip at my old office when they realized that when you asked someone to smell of chip bag with their eyes closed (and without them knowing what you would put in front of them) they'd recoil in disgust. It turns out some kinds of cheese smells indistinguishably like vomit.


It isn't until our most insecure moments of adolescence that we really start sweating there anyway. It's a function of puberty.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apocrine_sweat_gland


Puberty is the major reason that adolescence is so awkward and makes us insecure. If you're prone to believe in conspiracies, it's the perfect time to convince people they need a product to make them feel better about themselves.

Come to think of it, why do teenagers like Facebook again?


I think the self propagating ad campaigns are brilliant as well, but I also consider it a problem. Even if I don't care about anyone else, I'd personally rather not smell bad, as I have to be near myself all the time.


You don't notice your own smell. I shower every morning and after a workout, but I don't use 'oder' enhancing products and people have commented that I smell nice. But, it's also possible to stink without noticing it. I think this has a lot to do with diet as I have read that a lot of what people consider 'bad' smells are actually signs that something is wrong with you.


Eventually, you do notice your own smell.


It event doesn't require all that much. Sweat while doing some physical work, wait 12 hours without changing clothes and then do some physical work and sweat again. You'll smell to yourself like your fat uncle when he fixes the plumbing. Body odour changes so if you are younger than 30 or older than 50 you expeirience may vary.


I don't wear deodorant, I usually have no need for it. I've asked girlfriends and friends, nobody ever notices anything smelly. I do well at my job. The only time I'm excessively sweaty and smelly is when I work out. I would bet this is the case for a good percentage of the population, it's just that most people don't realize it, because they've been told they need it since the 4th grade, and never went a day without it since...


As someone especially sensitive to smell I applaude your decision to not wear smelly deodorant.

In the same token, you should know that while other people might not detect your BO, I certainly can and will. But I won't mention it - I'll just get my desk moved to the other side of the office and generally try to avoid you entirely.

Just hope that people like me are never in a position to influence your life - because your BO can and will play a factor to those people.


Of the people I've met that claim to have sensitive noses, they seem to usually complain about artificial scents, like too much cologne, "deodorant" or after shave.

The only times I've heard them complain about smelly BO was when everyone else could too and the person in question should have had wiggly smell lines draw around them if they were in a comic.


> As someone especially sensitive to smell I applaude your decision to not wear smelly deodorant.

One of the problems I noticed when I decided to start using scent free products is that it is extraordinarily difficult to find deodorants or products that are truly scent free. I have found that even most of the ones marked as "scent free" or sensitive have a slight odor to them.


I am not part of that percentage of the population. I sweat easily, and it definitely doesn't smell like roses.

I'd rather people err on the side of not smelling like an armpit.


Unfortunately, I am not in that part of the population. I sweat quite a bit, always, and it does smell. It's quite obvious if I forgot to use an antiperspirant one day.


Am I missing the sarcasm here?

Asking your friends if you smell is like asking them if you're fat.

Good luck getting anything close to an honest answer, particularly when you clearly believe otherwise.


I don't think my friends would have a problem giving me a truthful answer if I said, "hey, I'm doing an experiment this week; I need you to tell me if I smell or not".


Right...

Just like the last time you encountered body odor or anything else annoying in public and immediately, openly confronted the person about it, exactly as you would have if they had approached and questioned you with a "doing an experiment disclaimer".


No, most people I know would give an honest answer, since they'd be the ones to suffer from it and it's easily fixable (as opposed to being fat).


hahaha, I think you underestimate the level of crassness, frankness, and rudeness my friends and I have with each other.


I don't think so.

It's pretty typical for crass, frank, rudeness applied to on subject to be completely acceptable while speaking freely on another could easily end a friendship.


People (taken as a whole) thinking our natural smell is "bad" is the direct result of advertising (well originally, the advertisers have so dominated society's collective mind we now aide them through peer pressure, etc).

This "problem" is constructed and would not exist without a profit motive.


> People (taken as a whole) thinking our natural smell is "bad" is the direct result of advertising

I am of the same opinion. It is also mostly an American or Western phenomenon. People in other countries, it seems, don't mind they way sweat smells as much, or at least don't consider it so offensive.


If it wasn't for advertising, I never would have known that "previously loved" diamonds are inferior to blood diamonds. Or that man-made chemically pure diamonds are frauds and only mined diamonds have any value.


Don't forget that buying a diamond engagement ring has been a tradition dating back to before "your favorite historical figure from over two hundred years ago's" time.

Or is it five hundred years? I forget.


This is a good article on that phenomenon:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1982/02/have-you...


James Webb Young is a copywriting legend. You should read his ads to realize how problem focused ads work better than benefit focused ads.

You first have to raise the problem before you list your solution and benefits.

His full page ad: "Curve of a Woman’s Arm"

http://books.google.co.in/books?id=YC6YKYyHVKwC&pg=PA30&...

(If the above long link doesn't work, go to books.google.com and search for the book "The 100 Greatest Advertisements: Who Wrote Them and what They Did" - the ad is on page 30.)


Doesn't work (page limit exceeded), but this one does: http://books.google.co.in/books?id=YC6YKYyHVKwC&lpg=PA30...

Google books has a link button (6th icon from the left, looks like a chain link). It took me a while to spot it, even when looking for it.


Do you know what the bigger story is here?

You can purchase a mineral salt-rock crystal (it's a smooth solid peace of salt, about as cheap as it gets) "de-odorant" that you wet and apply, it leaves nothing behind except an undetectable amount of salt on the skin. That is ... no chemicals, no fragrances, nothing but salt.

That salt kills-off the bacteria that are responsible for odor (through various means, directly and indirectly).

After a week or two of this, you're done. Your sweat lessens, and becomes clear and odorless.

No more deodorant is required after this. Just shower and apply some soap to your skin.

The bigger story here is that advertisers have convinced you that their more expensive "formulas" are required, and there are no good alternatives.

Their products are specifically designed not to kill-off the bacteria, and hence to keep you purchasing the product.

They do this because you can't make money selling a $1 peace of salt-rock that lasts the customer a life-time.


> no chemicals, no fragrances, nothing but salt.

The "rock crystal" you're using contains either potassium alum or ammonium alum, both of which are both chemicals (so for that matter is water and everything else).

And FYI, aluminium chlorohydrate (one of the "harsh chemicals" that Crystal-brand deodorant claims not to contain) is also a salt, and indeed used in water purification just like the alums. I believe that aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex gly is also a salt (or rather contains a salt), but I'm not certain.

All the major antiperspirants and deodorants are aluminum-based.

> After a week or two of this, you're done. Your sweat lessens, and becomes clear and odorless. > No more deodorant is required after this. Just shower and apply some soap to your skin.

This is not a claim that Crystal makes. They specifically indicate that their rock lasts about a year. They don't even claim that it has antiperspirant qualities, just deodorant qualities.

There is no magic salt that you can rub on your skin for a week that stops you from sweating and smelling indefinitely.

> Their products are specifically designed not to kill the bacteria, and hence to keep you purchasing the product.

This is ridiculous conspiracy theory. Their products are designed to stop people from smelling. No one is sitting around twisting their mustache and creating deodorants and antiperspirants that specifically protect underarm bacteria.

You're also covered in bacteria. Even if Crystal managed to kill all the bacteria under your arms, it would be back the next day. If sanitizing your underarms was sufficient to get rid of odor and sweat indefinitely, then a big iodine swab would do the job faster and even cheaper.


> This is not a claim that Crystal makes.

They make several claims.

It's also a claim I've made based on personal experience with both "mineral salt crystals" (alum - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alum) and regular deodorant, and knowing the ingredients in both and how those ingredients affect bacteria.

> even if Crystal managed to kill all the bacteria under your arms, it would be back the next day.

One killed off all odor causing bacteria after a few weeks (I no longer have to use it, maybe once a week). The other just kept it masked even after YEARS of use. I'll let you guess which one that was.

> No one is sitting around twisting their mustache and creating deodorants and antiperspirants that specifically protect underarm bacteria.

No, they just don't put the same amount of alum in their products to make it effective. Their game is to mask the odor, and not to prevent it from happening again. LTV of customer is the #1 metric in business.

> a big iodine swab would do the job faster and even cheaper.

Never tried it. But if it works for you, use it.


> They make several claims.

But notably not that one. And their claims specifically contradict yours.

> It's also a claim I've made based on personal experience with both "mineral salt crystals" (alum - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alum) and regular deodorant, and knowing the ingredients in both and how those ingredients affect bacteria.

You can make whatever claims you want. That doesn't make them valid. Lots of people have "personal experiences" with homeopathic medicine and are convinced of its efficacy. That doesn't mean they're correct.

I also question how much you actually know about how the ingredients in various deodorants affect bacteria.

> One killed off all odor causing bacteria after a few weeks (I no longer have to use it, maybe once a week).

No, it didn't. Are you really under the belief that those "odor causing bacteria" existed only on your armpits? That they don't exist on the skin around your armpits, or you know, all over your body? That they couldn't and wouldn't simply spread back to your armpits if you managed to kill them off there?

I also hate to break the news to you, but there's a pretty good chance that you're smelly and just don't know it, because over the course of "a few weeks", you trained yourself not to notice it.

> No, they just don't put the same amount of alum in their products to make it effective.

Many of them don't use alum at all, because other ingredients are known to work better, especially for people who also want antiperspirant effects.

> Their game is to mask the odor

Masking the odor would mean covering up. Alum, aluminium chlorohydrate, and aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex gly don't have any significant smell of their own. Indeed, you can buy unscented deodorants from the major manufacturers, and they are exactly as effective as the scented ones.


You seem to be replacing my own experience, and that of the people that alum rocks have worked for, with your own lack of it.?

> with homeopathic medicine and are convinced of its efficacy. That doesn't mean they're correct.

I don't see how that's even remotely a valid comparison. There is nothing homeopathic about alum crystals.

> That they couldn't and wouldn't simply spread back to your armpits if you managed to kill them off there?

Then why didn't they spread and colonize the next day, as you have claimed they would? Ohh, you've already explained that away.

My skin is not my armpits. The other areas don't have the same temperature, humidity, and sweat. Those areas don't have and breed bacteria like armpits do. And it takes time for the bacteria to spread, multiply, and get below the surface. Once you've eliminated an area, it's going to be a while, regardless of the small amounts of bacteria on other areas.

> Indeed, you can buy unscented deodorants from the major manufacturers, and they are exactly as effective as the scented ones.

I have no idea what you're trying to convince me of. That I'm a crazy homeopathic guy with no sense of smell, covered in massive colonies of armpit-smelling highly-mobile bacteria that spreads like a fire? You might as well claim I'm a paid shill for the product.


> You seem to be replacing my own experience, and that of the people that alum rocks have worked for, with your own lack of it.?

No, I'm saying that your claims are so outlandish that even the manufacturers of alum rocks don't support them.

> I don't see how that's even remotely a valid comparison. There is nothing homeopathic about alum crystals.

Maybe it'd be clearer if I used the word placebo.

> Then why didn't they spread and colonize the next day, as you have claimed they would? Ohh, you've already explained that away.

They do, which is why a good scrubbing with antibacterial soap doesn't make them disappear forever.

> My skin is not my armpits. The other areas don't have the same temperature, humidity, and sweat. Those areas don't have and breed bacteria like armpits do. And it takes time for the bacteria to spread, multiply, and get below the surface. Once you've eliminated an area, it's going to be a while, regardless of the small amounts of bacteria on other areas.

You drastically underestimate how much bacteria is on the rest of your body, and how quickly those bacteria spread and multiply.


> Maybe it'd be clearer if I used the word placebo.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potassium_alum

Potassium alum is an astringent/styptic and antiseptic. For this reason, it can be used as a natural deodorant by inhibiting the growth of the bacteria responsible for body odor.

> http://www.thecrystal.com/crystal_insights.cfm

How Does Crystal Body Deodorant Work? Odor is caused by bacteria that form on the body. Natural mineral salts form a barrier on the skin that creates a very unfriendly environment for these bacteria.

> You drastically underestimate...

All I have to say is try it for yourself.

Unless you think you're an expert on under-arm bacteria and odor... Which is odd concidering you work for Microsoft.


The placebo effect I refer to is not the short-term deodorizing behavior. It's the antiperspirant effect and especially the long-term effects that you're claiming. These are not supported by the company manufacturing the product, and I'm not aware of any evidence for these effects aside from your claims. If you have some evidence that doesn't involve blindly trusting you, then by all means share it.


Mate, you're off base here. I use one of these crystals, and they work for me. I had tried everything, and I used to smell bad by the end of the day, on multi day camping trips I would be brutal.

A friend of mine was raving about the crystal ("smell my armpits, they are odorless", etc etc) so I tried it....after a few days, voila, odors gone. I'll start smelling some by noon the next day if I don't shower, but otherwise I'm good.

Placebo you say...well, it's a damn good one, because it has fooled not only me, but my close friends who always used to playfully razz me.

However, it seems not to work for everyone, or at least, some people I know who've tried it say it didn't work for them.


I'm not saying that the crystal is ineffective as a deodorant. I'm saying that it does not have the properties that powertower is claiming. Namely, short-term ("a few weeks") use does not have long-term ("a lifetime") antibacterial and antiperspirant effects.

If you use it in the morning and it makes you smell better for the rest of the day, then yes, that's the expected effect (and I'm happy that it works for you). If you use it for a couple of weeks and then think you're smell- and sweat-free for years, then you're delusional.


> Namely, short-term ("a few weeks") use does not have long-term ("a lifetime") antibacterial and antiperspirant effects.

There are a couple of sentences that I didn't do a very good job with delivering here, but you're reading into it too much.

I don't claim that 1) it has any type of significant antiperspirant effect (just that it did seem to help a little via perhaps a secondary effect) and 2) it has long term effects after you completely stop using it (just that now I don't need to use it as consistently as before).

Maybe I was a bit overzealous delivering some of that in a few posts here.

My only real claim is that it works for me, and others, better than the regular stuff.

You should try it.


> I don't claim that ... 2) it has long term effects after you completely stop using it (just that now I don't need to use it as consistently as before).

Well, no.

You said..

> After a week or two of this, you're done. Your sweat lessens, and becomes clear and odorless.

> No more deodorant is required after this. Just shower and apply some soap to your skin.

You're quite clear in claiming that after a few weeks of the salt rock, you don't need to use it, or any other.

That said, I use this stuff too because my armpit skin is sensitive to certain deodorants and gets red and itchy if I use them. So I switch to the crystal brand for a few weeks, and it works, but it definitely does not confer any more effect than any other deodorant. I have to apply it daily, like any other.


If you read the posts right after it, you'll notice I've clarified it a few times. Not that the original statement is false for me.

Personally, I don't need to use the alum-salts anymore. Once the bacteria is "gone" (okay... reduced to the lower, natural levels), it's just a matter of using soap and nothing else for me. It's a sign of good health, but your results may vary.

The notion that bacteria #s comes back (in a few days) to the same over-realized levels that you've grown over the previous 20+ years is ridiculous. You have natural balanced levels and types, that get augmented over time via lack of proper management.

Once you kill off the extras, those #s get back to lower natural levels which are manageable by other means (soap during shower). As long as you manage those #s, they stay leveled.

Maybe we're just different. Maybe we're in different environments. Etc.


> Then why didn't they spread and colonize the next day, as you have claimed they would?

They do. Armpits are smelly because the sweat glands there excrete bacterial nutrients designed to feed smelly bacteria. Aluminum compounds plug the outlet of the sweat glands, choking off the supply of nutrients. The plugs last for days.

> Once you've eliminated an area, it's going to be a while, regardless of the small amounts of bacteria on other areas.

The other areas have 1 million bacteria per square centimeter that are easily spread, and a population doubling time of around 20 minutes in a favorable area like a damp armpit. Run the numbers on geometric growth at that rate. Even if you reduce bacterial density by 99.99%, they will be back in a few hours.


Mine haven't been back for some time; I better let them know they're late!


But I heard it will interfere with my time cube and magnetic bodysuit.


If you drop that piece of salt rock it breaks, as does the container holding it. Even if you don't drop it, it doesn't last forever, nor does sweat become "odorless" after "a week or two" of using it. (I've used Crystal off and on).

My suspicion is that you just aren't prone to sweat very much, or can't smell yourself. Did you notice that the salt rock itself smells bad once you've ever used it, whereas sticks don't?

I'm willing to concede the possibility that it works as you describe for you, but your experience isn't universal. It didn't work that way at all for me; I went back to mostly using the sticks because the salt rock didn't work very well.

Though when you say "just shower and apply some soap to your skin", that could work if you were using a deodorant soap. :-)


> Did you notice that the salt rock itself smells bad once you've ever used it, whereas sticks don't?

Never. You would always put it under a stream before (to moisten up a layer) and after you use it (to clean it). And only after you've showered and washed with soap first.

It sounds to me like people are not using it correctly and consistently, are mixing it with regular deodorant, or have very extensive bacterial colonies on skin and transdermally.


It sounds to me like people are not using it correctly and consistently, are mixing it with regular deodorant, or have very extensive bacterial colonies on skin and transdermally.

AKA no true Scotsman. You are doing a great job of speaking in patterns used by advocates of homeopathy and spiritualism.


Sorry, but incorrect usage resulting in diminished or no effect is not a true Scotsman fallacy component. Or do you claim that antibiotics are also homeopathy and spiritualism?

Similar, claims of does not work under all conditions are not the hallmark of a true Scotsman fallacy, otherwise tylenol should be considered homeopathy and spiritualism, since it doesn't work for certain types of pain, or certain levels of pain.

Incorrect accusations of fallacy indicate personal vendetta. What is your problem?


Or do you claim that antibiotics are also homeopathy and spiritualism?

Non sequitur/strawman/slippery slope.

What is your problem?

Ad hominem.

Did you read the rest of the thread? I'll concede that my specific quotation does not, in isolation, appear to be a "No True Scotsmen" fallacy, but considered with the rest of the crystalline deodorant alternative thread, and with spritualist arguments in the form of "It doesn't work if you have unrepented sin/if you don't pray hard enough/maybe you need to fast longer/maybe it's just not God's will", my comment makes more sense.


> in the form of "It doesn't work if you have unrepented sin/if you don't pray hard enough/maybe you need to fast longer/maybe it's just not God's will"

You might be confusing that I've said you have to do 1, 2, 3 while using this product, for random, mystical, steps.

The reason you wash up first is because the alum salts have no effect on the odor substances/chemicals already on your skin (and what permeated below the surface).

The reason you use the product consistently is because it takes time for the salts to kill-off the bacteria (to permeate in and below the skin) and to help eliminate the odor.

The reason you don't use regular deodorant while you use this is because it just makes it so much harder for it to make the proper and consistent contact with the skin.

The reason why it doesn't work so quickly if the person has massive bacteria colonies, or dosn't give it a proper go, etc, well, you should be able to figure that one out yourself.

At no point is spirituality, god, or homeopathy claimed here.

You can read about alum salts on wikipedia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potassium_alum

Potassium alum is an astringent/styptic and antiseptic. For this reason, it can be used as a natural deodorant by inhibiting the growth of the bacteria responsible for body odor.

They are already an ingredient in the deodorants that you use, and have known effects.

With one of these "crystals", mineral rocks, stones, whatever you want to call it, you're getting the above in it's more potent amount.


Or do you claim that antibiotics are also homeopathy and spiritualism?

Non sequitur/strawman/slippery slope.

Nope. Not a non-sequitur because it also fits the themes of: a) items which must be used as directed otherwise results are lessened or negated, b) affect bacteria in relation to the human body and c) could be claimed as magic/voodoo by your exact argument.

Not a strawman, because most other medical chemicals must be used as directed, and are not dismissed as homeopathy as a result of this. Your argument must be taken as given, not as you wish it to be applied.

Not a slippery slope, because I am not arguing we must take tylenol and antibiotics to be homeopathy if this crystaline deodorant is also homeopathy, nor am I arguing cascading results of one declaration of the other. A comparison of like things does not constitute a slippery slope.

* What is your problem?

Ad hominem.*

Again, no - and ad hominem attack would be for me to state "you have a problem with the deodorant, therefore your statements are wrong or untrustworthy". I did nothing of the sort. I merely asked why you have a problem with the stuff after otherwise dismantling your argument.

Did you read the rest of the thread? I'll concede that my specific quotation does not, in isolation, appear to be a "No True Scotsmen" fallacy, but considered with the rest of the crystalline deodorant alternative thread, and with spritualist arguments in the form of "It doesn't work if you have unrepented sin/if you don't pray hard enough/maybe you need to fast longer/maybe it's just not God's will", my comment makes more sense

By my reading the rest of the thread is by many other commenters, some state the stuff works for them, some state it doesn't. Some claim you have to use it right, and without things that are claimed to be confounding. They aren't religious arguments, they may be incorrect arguments, I don't have the understanding of it. Some commenters seem to be a bit more hand-wavey than others. Some simply state they only get results when the salts are applied to clean skin, and in absence of other product, and may take a couple weeks to become effective. That seems reasonable to me for a number of reasons.

Some of the claims that seem overzealous such as "never needs to be applied again" are a bit much, but that same guy later says "never needs to be applied again, maybe once a week". Such a statement could be religious addling, or could be the result of a non-native English speaker having a problem with correct phrasing or translating an idiom.

Point being, your claims are unwarranted, and are fairly judgmental in a way that is more "anti homeopathy/religious" than anything that is fact based. Your claims of religiosity only really work if you twist some of the stuff said hard, and pretend multiple posters are one person.


> It sounds to me like people are not using it correctly

Funny, you never hear about people using regular ol' conspiracy deodorant incorrectly.


Is this true? Any references? Experiences?


It's ammonium alum or potassium alum. Sometimes derisively called "hippie deodorant." It is not an antiperspirant. There are all sorts of alternatives that people use as deodorants, including lemon juice, baking soda, and tea oils.


The above is my personal experience, with absolute-zero story exaggeration. Though how long you'll need to apply the salt may vary (and how frequent you'll use it).

I don't have a preference for any brand (it's all the same) but here is what I have now: http://www.thecrystal.com/

You should be able to buy these in any good organic food and health store.


What's the mineral in "the crystal?" It's almost certainly an aluminum salt, but I can't find the active ingredient? The FAQ says "Do Crystal deodorants contain aluminum chlorohydrate or aluminum zirconium? No." That's a bit suspicious, as I think people would really want to know "does it contain aluminum?" and the answer is likely "yes."

BTW, you wrote "Your sweat lessens" with this product, but it does not. The FAQ stresses that it does not reduce sweat. "Crystal is not an antiperspirant. It is a deodorant ... Deodorants are generally considered cosmetic product because they simply control odor."


> I think people would really want to know "does it contain aluminum?" and the answer is likely "yes."

The answer is absolutely yes. They admit that it contains an alum, but don't specify which one. The "it's all natural because it's a salt" angle is BS, because aluminum chlorohydrate is also a salt.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potassium_alum

Though it's probably just 1 in a mixture of many salts.

Even if regular deodorant has this listed as an ingredient, it's quantity is questionable, and it's mixed in with other substances that prevent the alum from making full contact on the surface of the skin.

> Your sweat lessens" with this product, but it does not. The FAQ stresses that it does not reduce sweat.

It does a bit. But not to a significant effect. It's probably a secondary effect (clean pores, less sweat ... something like that).


Looks like Walgreens has it also.

Will be trying this. Less for the "all-natural" aspect than the annoying masking scents they put in standard deodorants that I can smell on myself.


I've got pretty sensitive skin and anti-persperant caused it to crack and even bleed. So I tried the rock salt/crystal kind of deodorant. My local supermarket carries it, should I ever run out, but I've had the same one for seven or eight years now. It works pretty well for me.

I also shave my underarms, which probably helps -- less surface area for bacteria to grow and sweat dries faster. If I'm wearing a tight shirt, I'll sometimes use baby powder in case I sweat, but in general it hasn't been a problem.

I bike to work occasionally, but usually change my shirt and wipe the sweat off with an alcohol wet-wipe. That helps as well.

Also, natural fibers are your friend! I will get stinky if I wear a polyester or rayon shirt all day, but that happens even if I wear normal deodorant.


"I also shave my underarms, which probably helps". Interestingly, the Wikipedia article on this topic claims "Underarm hair wicks the moisture away from the skin and aids in keeping the skin dry enough to prevent or diminish bacterial colonization. The hair is less susceptible to bacterial growth and therefore is ideal for preventing the bacterial odor."


Interesting! I'm also a woman, so there's some social pressure to shave.


Have you tried a mild skin antiseptic cream? I've used Savlon for this in the past (cetrimide & chlorhexidine gluconate are the active ingredients, in a white vanishing cream base). Doesn't block pores, but is effective at killing most of the bacteria and is soothing if you have aggravated the skin there somehow.


No references, but in my family's experiences, it never works for some and it works great for others, but only as long as you use it. The day you forget, the stink comes right back.


Wouldn't you still need to prevent the sweat in the first place? I mean even if it doesn't smell it is still annoying and visible on shirts, etc.

And there is no reason to sell a 1 usd stone. You can properly sell it for 50.


Sweat doesn't inherently smell. The foods you eat affect how you smell, though not specifically because of your sweat. If you eat a lot of spicy food then your whole body will be releasing those aromas.


I think he's suggesting that the sweat is a problem whether it smells or not.


Ahhh, biologically it isn't - it's good to clean pores, keep you cool, etc..


Sweat on some parts of the body will keep you cool. Trapped inside a joint, not so much.


While sweat itself doesn't have much smell, stale sweat will smell due to bacteria. What you eat won't be able to change this.


I've tried using that in the past. It didn't work very well.


Ditto. I have used "Crystal" off and on and my experience has been that it doesn't reduce odor or sweating nearly as well as something like Speed Stick.


It's not meant to stop sweating.


Sure. You know that, I know that, and the manufacture of the product knows that. But "powertower" has alleged above that it does reduce sweating "as a secondary effect". By various vague and unlikely mechanisms.


Ah, I misread you; apologies. I'm sorry it doesn't work well for you. It's a godsend to me (sensitive to most other deodorants), but I do find that although it works for me, it doesn't last nearly as long. "all day", but just; if I have a long day I always wish I had a spare. The travel size ones are great though; and solid so you don't need to put them in the silly US "quart ziplock".


You have to apply it on clean/washed (after-shower) skin, not apply anything else, and use it consistently every day for a few weeks. It's also not an anti-perspirant. It just kills-off the bacteria. I suppose YMMV with how well it works for you, depending on what you're looking to get out of it, and how extensive the bacteria colonies are on the skin, and below the surface.


Did all that. It didn't stop sweating and at didn't stop body odour.


My experience with people who use these kinds of products is that they seem to have acclimated to their own odor. One can acclimate pretty quickly to nearly any odor no matter how foul, so it isn't all that surprising.

They still don't smell nice, but they don't seem to notice it.


Interesting. I might give that a try.

On a more conventional note, while we're recommending deodorants, this is hands down the best I have ever used: http://www.amazon.com/MenScience-12031-Advanced-Deodorant-2-...

That is the only deodorant I've ever encountered which can last me through 4 hours of chatting in a hot stuffy bar, which was truly a revelation to me, silly as that may sound. No association with the product other than as a customer.


The foundation to this is there is more profit to be made selling something magical with a big marketing budget, and therefore it's what gets mass exposure.


"They do this because you can't make money selling a $1 peace of salt-rock that lasts the customer a life-time."

Your preferred brand can't either, they sell it for $7.


I tried it once. It gave me a rash.


I hate to plug a book that I'm only 20% of the way in, but everyone here who is designing/selling a product would get a real kick out of Charles Duhigg's "The Power of Habit"

http://www.amazon.com/The-Power-Habit-Business-ebook/dp/B005...

(Duhigg is a NYT writer and that piece about how Target knew that a girl was pregnant before her father did was an excerpt from this book)

When I saw the HN headline I thought it might be referring to Febreze, a product that Duhigg devotes a chapter to. The sales strategy wasn't about convincing people that they stunk, but pitching Febreze as a product that you used after you cleaned a room, to associate it with the "reward" of a clean room.

Duhigg's book also touches on how Pepsodent became a breakthrough product partly because an ad-man convinced Americans they needed to battle the film that naturally covers their teeth.


Quite a few markets were created overnight. This is just one of them.

Another that comes to mind is bottled water. When soft drink company profits were declining, someone had the brilliant idea of just selling water. How would they get people to be gullible enough to buy rebottled tap water, though?

By telling people tap water was bad. It worked, very well.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Se12y9hSOM0


Sometimes tap water is bad. I lived in a house with extremely hard water, and it was basically undrinkable. Of course, I was generally buying water in gallon or 2.2 gallon containers at the time.

When I buy bottled water today, I want an unflavored drink that is healthy. In my view, what I am actually paying for is not water. I am paying for a disposable bottle, convenience, and usually cold. That's why I pay extra for the sport bottles with the better top. There was probably latent demand for this, but people didn't know they actually wanted it. In general, at least in the US, because of the abundance created over the last 30 years through the production of cheap manufactured goods and innumerable process improvements, people are more willing to pay for things they never would have before.

And also, I am glad they succeeded in selling deodorant. It is definitely a quality of life improvement, as I notice when I visit places where deodorant usage is not prevalent. I generally don't view marketing as adversarial like many people though. If something exists that will improve my life, I want to know about it.


It's only convenient because you aren't prepared. Sometimes there are good reasons to not be prepared, but if you're bringing a car or a backpack along, you have a place to store water. Also it's a bit odd how much Americans obsess over water being ice cold.


A carbon filter will pretty much fix that for you and give you bottle water quality.


Yeah, not so much. There's a huge difference between water from a brita pitcher and reverse osmosis-purified water from the water dispenser at the grocery store. The latter is basically indistinguishable from expensive Fiji water, and the former is basically indistinguishable from tap water (in my experience at least, and using LA tap water).


I think it might depend on your source of water, but most US tap water just needs a good carbon filter.


I've used PUR water filters for years. The filters don't indicate when they need to be changed, so I change them when they start filtering water slowly. In the past, when I lived in Los Angeles and Portland, filters would start filtering water slowly after a few months of use.

Now I live near Madison, Wisconsin, and I realized recently that my current filter has been in use for more than a year and it filters water just as quickly as the day I started using it. I contacted PUR to see if there might be something wrong with my dispenser, but the rep suggested that my city's water must be very clean.

So I learned that some cities have water that is much cleaner than others.


Honolulu has sweet-tasting tap water...


Quite a lot of places have tap water that tastes foul but is perfectly healthy - personally I think the water in London tastes disgusting compared to the water here in Edinburgh, but that's because I am used to the latter.

When I moved to Edinburgh from a small town in Moray that got its water from the Spey I thought Edinburgh tap water tasted disgusting.


I moved from Ireland to London last year, and personally found the water in London to be all but undrinkable.

Even when I moved back, I still hated the taste of tap water, and am now moving over to bottled water as regardless of anything else, it tastes so much better, therefore I drink more, which is good for me. Its disgraceful that I have to do this, but that's another argument.


Have you tried filtered water? I find it tastes much better than most bottled water.


Been there, done that. Its better, but still not good. I find it strange actually, as I smoke heavily and so would not expect to notice this as much as I do.


Which town in Moray if you don't mind saying?


Portknockie

[NB I can remember by father saying the water supply comes from the Spey - no idea whether this is true or not! Certainly tastes pretty good compared to most water supplies.]


I grew up in Buckie myself and can't disagree. Elsewhere I've actually increased my tap water consumption to drinking it exclusively, but via Brita jugs.


I wonder how many Buckie High alumni are on HN....


It makes me happy that there's a fair chance electronic music royalty Boards of Canada went there. They supposedly lived on the NE coast, and one of their ancient uncovered tracks is called Buckie High.



Uh... actually... Most city water (in the US) I've drunk tastes really bad. It's not just marketing.

So we buy filtered water in bulk (refill multi-gallon jugs). There are also filters you can put on the tap. I think it's wasteful to buy bottled water, so I avoid it.


Imo this is a bigger cultural issue than solely deodorant, though it's quite possible deodorant marketing had a role in creating it. I've noticed Americans tend to be more worried about perspiration than others who live in similar climates, to the extent of entirely avoiding outdoor activity in hot climates during the work day, lest they return from lunch break sweaty. In Greece people aren't really similarly worried about walking 5 blocks to grab lunch, even if it's hot out.


I wonder how much our attitude towards body odor changed because of advertising and how much was a direct result of indoor plumbing and urbanization.

Around the same time as some of these advertisements started, indoor plumbing was becoming popular. Until then it wasn't really practical to bathe every day.

Additionally, odor didn't matter as much if you worked on a farm, but urbanization meant Americans spent more time indoors in close proximity, where smell was more of a problem.


Also body odor is going to be less noticeable if everyone around you is smoking up a storm...


Possibly A/C also. A/C both makes it easier to avoid perspiration (which may make that more of a norm) and makes it more necessary because you no longer have fresh air from open windows.


Very cultural thing. I'd rather sit beside someone with a slight body odor than beside someone with a strong artificial deodorant perfume, especially when eating. Hope one day all these irrational and costly behaviors will go away. Another is shaving pubic hair, what a weird thing to do...


Why is that weird? I don't consider it any more or less weird than shaving your face, cutting your hair, trimming nose hairs, etc.


Well, it does make your cockstrom look bigger. But seriously, it's a jungle down there otherwise.

I'd be more concerned about circumcision, if you want to question social mores, since it's a much more permanent and painful cut than the surrounding hair.


Circumcision is something people do for either religious or medical reason, it has a long history behind it. It may be useless but at least it is not invented yesterday by the chemical or porn industry.

For the "jungle down", I think shaving it make boys and girls look like prepubescent kids, or some kid of caricature of kids. When I said weird I meant it because presence of pubic hair has been for a long time the marker of the beginning of sexual life.


I guess I didn't realize you were talking about scorched-earth-policy shaving rather than regular trimming. I agree that shaving it completely is unappealing, but I was not aware of that being common or trendy. Maybe some of them are doing it for medical reasons as well... ; )


One thing that surprised me about American TV is just how many adverts were for medical products. Every time I watch TV here I find out about another dozen or so problems I didn't know I had that need to be cured.


It didn't used to be like that.


yeah, even in my lifetime. Personally, I find it pretty amusing, because either they don't tell you what the drug does at all, just "ask your doctor about wonderfulonium!" with you know, pictures of happy people, or they do tell you what it does, the list off all the horrible things it can do to you.

It's funny; I moved out before Viagra came to market, and didn't watch much any commercial TV. Of course, I was bombarded, like everyone else, with spam and other online advertisements for viagra.

But yeah, the first time I saw a viagra ad on television, I was visiting my parents, and I couldn't stop laughing. I mean, this was something advertised in spam, and thus something linked in my mind to dubious 'penis enlargement' pills, girls who "saw my profile online" and 419 scams. Not the sort of thing you expect to see on broadcast television. (I'm not casting aspersions on viagra the drug... just the marketing I had been exposed to associated it, in my mind, with dramatically... less legitimate products.)


What's interesting is that there are probably whole categories of commercials that don't air any more, crowded out by pharmaceuticals (and political ads).


I think a lot of it is the shifting demographics of TV watchers; in the '90s, everyone watched TV. Now, I think it's mostly the old and the average-to-poor, so it makes sense you want to advertise medical stuff, as that's probably the most you can squeeze out of both of those groups.

But yeah; I'm looking at ridiculous meatspace advertising opportunities for my own company (which targets technically skilled customers) and TV isn't even on the radar.

Now, if Netflix could figure out how to advertise things other than movies without pissing off their customer base? that'd be pretty great. I'd buy space on the inside of the DVD envelopes where they push other movies, if I could geographically target tightly enough, and if I could afford it.

The other interesting thing, I think, is that to a non-tv watcher, viagra, is inexorably linked to poorly-done scams and obviously-fake drugs. Because of how this product was marketed to me, I associate it with illegitimate and dangerous products. It seems there is an advertising lesson in that, as well, though I'm not sure what the lesson would be.


"I think a lot of it is the shifting demographics of TV watchers"

That's true, but I believe the pharma ads started because of a change in regulatory restrictions that allowed them to advertise.

If the demographics were different, cash-rich pharma would probably still use a ton of air time, it would just be ads for different target markets. Acne medications, ADHD meds, anti-depressants, smoking cessation drugs, etc.


> Instead, most people’s solution to body odor was to wash regularly and then to overwhelm any emerging stink with perfume.

Doesn't sound like they had to convince anyone they smelled bad, just that there was a new, more effective way to prevent it.

edit: My bad, read on and actually to an extent the headline is correct, so I withdraw my complaint.


Unfortunately that is still most peoples solution to the problem and they still stink to high heaven.

Lets see some marketers do some good in the world, get them to realize that BO smells bad, a gallon of perfume/cologne smells bad and BO and a gallon of perfume/cologne together makes you smell worse.


I'm just amazed at the amount of ad copy that they thought people were willing to read back then.


So successful advertising = playing on people's weaknesses?


In some cases, yes.


it presented “excessive perspiration” as an embarrassing medical ailment in need of a remedy.

I think the condition of "halitosis" was similarly invented.


I take it you've never worked closely with someone who had it.


Amen. Someone at my workplace has it--you can tell if they spoke in a room up to twenty minutes after they leave just by the smell.


This reminds me of Gillette or Keurig. Make a common product or need disposable. Why? Not to fill a need or create a new service/method for doing something. Just, because, that's why. Nickle and dime the consumer by preying on their laziness and putting a shiny package or vibrating handle on it...


That specific market story is even worse since cartridge razors and canned shaving creams or gels generally provide an inferior shave for the majority of men. The only major benefit is that they can be used without any skill or practice whatsoever and the modern version may shave a couple minutes off your morning shave.

On the other hand, a safety razor will last you a lifetime, replacement blades have been standardized for close to a century and even the "premium" brands cost less than $0.15/blade. A nice quality safety razor and wetshaving set can be had for about the price of 6 months of cartridge razor replacement blades, and beyond that, you can probably buy a lifetime supply of safety razor blades for around $200. Shaving cream will cost you about the same either way, so it's not a factor.


I happily use a safety razor, but I won't pretend that it's any more convenient or necessarily gives a better shave. I always found that my disposable or cartridge razors worked quite well, and shaving cream is of course a hell of a lot easier than whipping up the soap.

The convenience of a modern razor, including the fact that it's much easier to learn, makes it worthwhile. Everybody on HN is always talking about how they simplify their lives by throwing away everything except their macbook and a few day's worth of clothes or whatever; I think for most people the simplicity and ease of a disposable razor and a can of shaving cream beats saving a few bucks a year.


But whipping up the soap makes for a radically better shave in my experience even if you do use a modern razor (which I do).


> Shaving cream will cost you about the same either way, so it's not a factor.

It is the main factor. The prime reason wet-shaving works so well is the preparation (hot towel, lather), not the razor.

I'm writing from my own experience.


This reminds me of a fantastic radio show I used to listen to in Canada called the Age of Persuasion (http://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/age-persuasion-from-cbc-r...). Great read.


Through self experiment I found out that soap does nothing to remove armpit smell for me. It works just for 10 minutes and that is because most soap has some amount of perfume in it masking smell. Anti-perspirant on the other hand works very well. So I wonder who convinced us to wash parts of our body that are not covered in hydrophobic substances with soap? Since I stopped using it my skin is significantly less oily thus I don't need soap to remove it anymore.


Try our vintage all natural deodorant made with Coconut Oil, Baking Soda, Cornstarch, Beeswax and Melaleuca Oil. PitStik – Changing the way you stik your pit It WORKS!!! www.etsy.com/listing/104196499/2-pit-stik-all-natural-vintage-scentable ~~~~~* COMING SOON ~~~~~~* Our all natural milder deodorant for your junior or tween - twit-Stik!!


Another product which does similar advertising, but convinces their color of skin could be better is http://www.fairandlovely.in/

Guess even the name has a subtle meaning, be fair "and" you become lovely :)


I sat next to a guy on the bus today who made me realize that if somebody can invent a breath mint that lasts for 24 hours our society will be much better off. And that picture alone in an advertisement could sell a couple million.




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