Your Deodorant May be Changing the Bacteria Living in Your Armpit

First Posted: Feb 04, 2016 09:23 AM EST

Antiperspirant or deodorant actually alters the microbiome on your skin. Scientists have found that antiperspirant and deodorant can significantly influence the type and quantity of bacterial life found in the human armpit.

"We wanted to understand what effect antiperspirant and deodorant have on the microbial life that lives on our bodies, and how our daily habits influence the life that lives on us," said Julie Horvath, one of the researchers, in a news release. "Ultimately, we want to know if any changes in our microbial ecosystem are good or bad, but first we have to know what the landscape looks like and how our daily habits change it."

In order to learn about the microbial impact of antiperspirant and deodorant, the researchers recruited 17 study participants: three men and four women who used antiperspirant products, which reduce the amount we sweat, three men and two women who used deodorant, and three men and two women who used neither product. Then, the researchers took swabs of the armpits of the volunteers over the course of eight days.

"We found that, on the first day, people using antiperspirant had fewer microbes in their samples than people who didn't use product at all-but there was a lot of variability, making it hard to draw firm conclusions," said Horvath. "In addition, people who used deodorant actually often had more microbes-on average-than those who didn't use product."

On the third day, participants who had used antiperspirant had more microbial growth. By day six, the amount of bacteria was fairly comparable among all participants. However, once they began using antiperspirant again on days seven and eight, there were very few microbes, which verifies that the products dramatically reduce microbial growth.

"Using antiperspirant and deodorant completely rearranged the microbial ecosystem of your skin-what's living on us and in what amounts," said Horvath. "And we have no idea what effect, if any, that has on our skin and on our health. Is it beneficial? Is it detrimental? We really don't know at this point. Those are questions that we're potentially interested in exploring."

The findings are published in the journal PeerJ.

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