An old euphemism says, “Horses sweat, men perspire, and women glow.” Whatever we choose to call it — sweat, perspiration, or a healthy glow — the body’s cooling mechanism is truly ingenious.

Sweat, essentially odourless, can become rather pungent once exposed to bacteria. A sizable industry has grown to address people’s concerns about body odour, and a wide variety of products are available to help guard us against perspiration.

What do these products do exactly?

>> Antiperspirants work by blocking sweat ducts, thereby reducing sweat production. They may also contain ingredients to inhibit bacteria growth.

Deodorants help prevent or reduce body odour, without reducing sweating. Some combination of fragrances, antibacterial ingredients, and ingredients that change the pH of the underarm area (making it a less hospitable place for bacteria to live) is usually included.

Are there risks?
>> Concerns have arisen over aluminum salts — found in some antiperspirants — and their relation to Alzheimer’s disease, and whether underarm products containing parabens can increase breast cancer risk.

Research has yet to provide conclusive evidence to support these fears. Nonetheless, certain ingredients do have consumers concerned, not only for their own well-being, but also for the environment, into which tons of personal-care product chemicals are washed every year.

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