Deodorants Have Been Used For Centuries

Roundup: Talking About History

Body odour was once an inevitable part of life, but thanks to a mystery inventor, modern society smells a lot nicer.

In 1881, an unidentified man in Philadelphia made the first antiperspirant to be sold commercially, known as "Mum".

The product was originally sold through his nurse and made with zinc, but later deodorants changed to aluminium chloride after complaints of skin irritation. It was originally sold as a cream in a jar.

Helen Barnett, an employee, was inspired by the invention of the ballpoint pen to suggest a roll-on applicator, which was introduced in 1952. The use of aerosol to apply deodorant did not begin until the 1960s.

The original Mum brand has many competitors but is still going strong. Procter & Gamble spokesman Simon Prentice said the company sold about 850,000 units of Mum deodorant in New Zealand each year.

Historical records show attempts to create deodorants as far back as the ancient Sumerians.

Auckland University technology historian Dr Ruth Barton said deodorants had been used for centuries in different forms.

For instance, perfumes were commonly used to mask body odours.

"Deodorants and then antiperspirants to roll onto one's body are more recent. We [in the West] are more offended by body odours."

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