Saturday, October 20, 2007

Damn The Man and His Ploys! Or, I hate buying deodorant

I will begin by saying that I am a very bad blogger and I just-plain FORGOT to take pictures for this entry. I had all good blog-journalistic intentions for my mission, thinking up fun and interesting things to say about my experience of shopping for deodorant, and completely forgot to take any photographs until I was in the check-out line -- at which point, it's a little awkward to say "I'm sorry, I forgot to do something" and run back to take surreptitious cell phone pictures of the deodorant aisle. I think that kind of thing might get you kicked out of your friendly neighborhood Red-And-White-Vaguely-Archery-Themed Big Box Retailer.

With that in mind, I would just like to say that shopping for deodorant can be a mind-numbingly frustrating experience. It makes you forget the things that are Really Important. Like taking pictures for your blog.

Okay, the thing about deodorant is that... well, let me back up. The thing about underarm stink is that there are actually two completely separate sources of the smell we associate with the Dread Monster Body Odor. The first Source of Stink is our own pheromone-y sweat, which our body produces in times of hormonal "high stress" like when we're having sex. There's really not much we can do about this source, unless we want to stop having sex. Or hormones. And really? Anybody who's that close to you shouldn't have a problem with that smell, or they have no business being that close to you in the first place.

The second Source of Stink is the bacteria that live in our armpit skin. Yeah, it's too gross to think about much. But the bacteria is what you're combating when you put on deodorant. Deodorant doesn't actually kill the bacteria, it just prevents the bacteria from producing odor as quickly as it normally would (this is why you smell by the end of the day, no matter how much deodorant you've put on in the morning). So, like all kinds of bacteria, eventually the little guys living in your armpits (ew) get used to your deodorant, and the product becomes less effective.

This usually happens when you're about two-thirds of the way through a stick. Deodorant companies know this. Don't think they don't! They totally package their product so you buy more than you can use before it stops being effective. And then you throw it away because it "doesn't work anymore," and you go out and give the deodorant companies more money. Deodorant is made by The Man!

The solution, of course, is to go out and buy a different kind of deodorant. The little bacterias get all confused and stop being stinky for a while, until you're about two-thirds of the way through the new stick -- and then you can switch back to your old deodorant, which you didn't throw away, thereby beating The Man at his own game.

So there I was in the deodorant aisle. Not only had my armpit bacteria gotten used to my current product, but I had also maybe dropped said product in the toilet. I could not remember which brand I currently use, except that it's blue and starts with an S (which could be Secret or Suave, you know). I started looking at everything that wasn't blue and/or started with an S, and there were still a LOT of options.

Okay, so I like Ban a lot. But there were no Unscented sticks to be found. And HI! I have sensitive skin and I'm not putting fragrance on it. And also? Why in the world would I want to smell like Powder Fresh or Summer Rain or Baby Puppy Fuzz or something like that? It's not any better than smelling like Underarm Bacteria, and Underarm Bacteria is what my underarms actually smell like! I want the Dread Monster Body Odor to go away, not to morph into the Dread Monster Some Other Kind of Chemically-Manufactured Odor.

The Degree section had the same problem. Too smelly. Am I strange for thinking that a product whose sole function is to make smell go away shouldn't smell?

The Dove section looked particularly attractive. But, at $3.44 for one (or a two-pack for $7 -- do retailers think we're actually stupid enough to pay MORE for two wrapped together than we would for two individually packaged? When we know the product will stop working when we're two-thirds of the way through the first one?), it's not the best deal. There are less expensive options out there. AND! There is a new Dove product, called
Pro-Age ("Because Beauty Has No Age"), and as far as I can tell it's the exact same product as their regular deodorant (same exact ingredient list, except that one product is in a slightly different place in the order, which means there's a little bit more of it). Marketers seriously think older women are going to buy this product just because you wrap it in burgundy plastic instead of white, and give it a different slogan? Also, it was the same price as the regular Dove, and I'm not going to encourage The Man in His thinking that I'd buy it because it's a different color package. Duh.

My eye wandered. To the very bottom shelf. To the
Tom's of Maine. Ohhh, beautiful "natural" deodorant. How I do wish I could afford to spend nearly $5 on a product that promises to be completely ineffectual.

And then? I found
it. Right next to the Tom's of Maine. The $2 version of the same idea. "Natural" deodorant. Aluminum Free. Paraben Free. And NOW Alcohol Free! Really, I'm pretty good about taking care of my health, but my deodorant is one place where I'm generally a shirker. And given the recent links between Alzheimer's and a high aluminum content in the brain, going aluminum-free can only be good for me. There is a tiny bit of fragrance, but it's not a generic Horrible Deodorant Fragrance, it's just a mild aloe-y fragrance, because there is actual aloe in the product. And vitamins A and E! Because there's nothing like absorbing your vitamins through the skin of your underarms. And the company's website makes them look like they're one part homegrown hippie co-op and one part Sketchy Pyramid Scheme. (And the product is $2 in the store, but $6 on their site. Hm.) I'll let you know if it works. If not? It was only $2. I don't feel like The Man is really taking advantage of me if I only use $1 worth. Besides, The Man didn't make this one, some other guy did.


Jennie said...

In England, there was this beautiful invisible women deoderant made by Nivea. I can't find it in the States. I settle for Dove. Because "powder fresh" = "clean laundry" so the pits of my shirts smell like Clean! Yay!

Diversey said...

"Unscented" often includes a masking fragrance - look for "fragrance free."

I've heard good things about crystal deodorant, but I generally prefer to knock my sweat glands out with aluminum. I may regret this when on my deathbed twenty years ahead of time.

Less Than a said...

Is that thing about armpit bacteria scientifically proven or what? Because that is totally the experience I have.

I think you should write an entry about deodorants that stain/ruin your clothes (invisible Secret much?).