The Loh Down On Science

Pit Tip

Here's a hairy question: How many people actually need underarm deodorant?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

That’s what geneticist Ian Day of Bristol University was wondering. So he and colleagues analyzed old data from a 1990s survey. It canvassed 11,000 British adults, asking medical and lifestyle questions. Like, Do you spray your pits? The survey also took genetic samples.

Day's team looked for people with a gene associated with non-sweating armpits. No sweat means no sweat-loving bacteria. And that means no odor.

But when they looked at those people's lifestyle data? Around eighty percent of them wore deodorant anyway. Why? Most likely social mores.

Overall, about one percent of Brits don't need deodorant. Many other people may not know they don't need it, either. One way to tell? Turns out the gene for underarm sweat also controls ear wax. Sticky ear wax usually means sticky pits. Ew. Dry earwax? Dry pits.

Just remember we said "usually." Don't assume anything before a date!

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena, California. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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