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Straight Talk About Body Odour

Guest post by Lauren Mangion

In my last post for Minga Skill Building Hub I shared how I’ve simplified a lot of my personal care regimen. My pursuit of minimal products extends all the way to the one most critical for social acceptance…deodorant.

Sometimes I feel a little embarrassed to share what I’m about to; like I’m boasting of my body’s ability to properly manage and eliminate toxins. Almost like I’m trying to claim, “my sh*t” doesn’t stink!” So let me preemptively say, I am not writing this to set a standard, or start an “embrace your body odour” movement. It’s simply to share the gradient of what is available to go under your arms, all the way to… nothing.

I rarely wear deodorant. And what’s more, I rarely have body odour. Once or twice a month, I need to apply a mild deodorant, or if I am doing something that makes me nervous, like a television appearance, there will be multiple applications, just to play it safe. Phasing out this product that most people consider essential to their delay regimen took time, and lots of experimenting. I didn’t set out with the idea that I would almost stop wearing deodorant, but like many, was just trying to find a natural product that worked.

Here’s something I find absolutely fascinating. The concept of “body odour” was programmed into our collective consciousness by shrewd marketing in the early 1900s. Before that, people used perfumes and cotton pads under their clothing to absorb sweat, and were very leery of anything that blocked perspiration because they thought it was healthy to perspire (smart people!). Early products were rejected based on that belief, and also because the acids were very irritating to the skin. The companies that developed the products continued along, advising people not to shave before application to reduce the irritation, and dealing with the skepticism about blocking sweat by playing to their insecurities (see above advertisement). The men’s deodorant market opened up during the Great Depression with advertisers linking joblessness to body odour.

So, what’s done is done. We now live in a world where it is socially unacceptable to smell like a human, and we use every product under the moon to mask those smells. The problem is though, that many of those products are unhealthy, contain hormone-disrupting and carcinogenic chemicals, and may even interfere with our ability to choose the mate that is right for us.

Contained within the sweat that we are desperate to block are pheromones, which could be used as a vetting process for relationships. I’ve met many people who have stopped dating people because they couldn’t get past their smell. On the other hand, I know people in long-term relationships that can’t get enough of their partner’s natural scent. It seems like finding the right mate could be a faster process if we weren’t masking our individual scents.

Back to me and my deodorizing habits. I think my reduction in deodorant applications coincided with changes to my diet and eliminating a lot of processed food, as well as trying to manage stress in a healthy way. And there are definitely times when deodorant is a must, because like most people, I don’t want people to remember me by my pungent natural aroma. So, when a product is necessary, after much experimenting, I use a homemade deodorant that works like a charm. It is long lasting, has a cacao base (when you have to smell like something other than yourself, chocolate-y is a pretty great way to smell), and all the ingredients are recognizable (in fact, all the ingredients are edible). I’ve had feedback from a large number of people that I’ve taught the recipe to, that it’s the only natural product that works for them.

I’m excited to share this recipe and more at the workshop on February 24th. I can promise that we will have some great discussion, and you’ll be excited to try out all the products we make.

- Lauren Mangion is a sustainability educator from Calgary, Canada. Lauren’s personal life and work are intimately intertwined, both being experiments in more sustainable, lower-footprint urban living.


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