Though there isn’t any conclusive evidence yet that the metallic salts in antiperspirants are harmful, some consumers are concerned about possible links between chemicals like aluminum and cancer, leading them to choose alternative products. The problem, however, is that a ton of these allegedly safer, natural products just don’t freaking work. Most are only deodorants and not antiperspirants, meaning they don’t actually prevent you from sweating; instead, they just layer your bodily fragrance with notes of eucalyptus, or whatever. But maybe, the solution has been right under our pits all along.
Researchers at the Virginia Tech Nature-Inspired Fluids and Interfaces Lab recently studied a theory: What if sweat itself could be used to clog our sweat ducts, preventing further sweat from escaping? The idea is centered around how traditional antiperspirants function. By blocking the sweat glands in our armpits with metallic salts, sweat is incapable of meeting the skin and mixing with odor-producing bacteria. Hypothetically, sweat is capable of its own crystallization with similar blocking capabilities — if it can be evaporated while still in the duct.
In a series of experiments utilizing an artificial “sweat rig,” the researchers mimicked the production of sweat using a microchannel of glass, pressurized gas and synthetic sweat. In one round, the researchers partially blocked the duct with a physical polymer. In another, they monitored how the sweat rig functioned unblocked. In the third, they infused the polymer with propylene glycol, a chemical that attracts water.
They found that in the first two scenarios, sweat continued to flow freely. In the third scenario, however, the polymer and propylene glycol formed a seal on the duct, preventing it from leaking sweat. Because sweat only smells when it interacts with bacteria on the skin, the blocked sweat would remain scentless. As such, the researchers speculate that an antiperspirant could effectively be made using a water-attracting chemical combined with one’s own sweat.
Propylene glycol is obviously one option for said water-attracting chemical, and is already present in foods like packaged grated cheese, coconut flakes and various cosmetic products. That said, it’s also in antifreeze, which might freak people out.
In essence, though, we’ve figured out that it’s technically possible to stop yourself from sweating by using your own sweat. It truly doesn’t get any more natural than that!