History Of Antiperspirants

Products to control sweating and body odour have been used for centuries. Before bathing became commonplace, people used heavy perfumes and powders to mask body odour. In the late nineteenth century, chemists developed products (soaps) that were able to prevent the formation of these body odours.

Early antiperspirants were sticky pastes that were applied to the axillary area or otherwise; the first such product to be trademarked in the United States was Mum in 1888. It was a waxy cream that was difficult to apply and very messy. A few years later, the first antiperspirant to use aluminum chloride was developed. Within 15 years, a variety of products were marketed in a number of different forms including creams, solids, pads, dabbers, roll-ons, and powders.

vintage advertising for antiperspirantsvintage secret anti-perspirant for women advertising

In the late 1950s, manufacturers began using aerosol technology to dispense personal care products such as perfumes and shaving creams. In the early 1960s, Gillette® introduced Right Guard®, the first aerosol antiperspirant. Aerosols became a popular way to dispense antiperspirants, by 1967, half the antiperspirants sold (in the USA) were aerosol sprays, and by the early 1970s, they accounted for 82% of all sales.

However, in late 1970s two technical issues arose which greatly impacted the popularity of these products:

  1. in 1977 aluminum zirconium complexes were banned by the FDA due to concerns about long term inhalation safety.
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  2. the use of chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) got strictly limited by the EPA shortly after, due to growing concerns that it may be involved in the disintegration of the ozone layer.

Although the cosmetic industry hastily tried to reformulate their products, consumers had lost confidence in aerosol antiperspirants. By 1977, sales of the CFC free versions dropped to only 50% of the market and under 30% in the mid-eighties. Today, some brands still offer antiperspirants in aerosol form, these account for a very small percentage of the total antiperspirant market.

Antiperspirants in roll-on (stick) form became increasingly popular. Consumers embraced sticks as an clean alternative to aerosols (market share 1985: approx. 35%). Today, roll-on sticks are still the most popular antiperspirant form, although many dermatologist recommend dropper bottles (better dosing and appliance).

roll-on sticks and sprays may cause antitranspirant rash

photo above | Roll-on sticks and sprays may cause an antiperspirant rash and inflammation of the skin because they induce people to apply far too much of the fluid.

Antiperspirants of the newest generation use exclusively dropping bottles. Still, many customers find these small dispensers quite uncomfortable because they are not as easy to use as roll-ons. With the industry still marketing their easy-to-use sticks aggressively, the sensible dropper bottle is fighting for its acceptance until today.

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