Thursday, July 22, 2010

In Praise of the Humble Armpit

In my ongoing search to enrich your lives by bringing you interesting and obscure things to think about, I have helped you learn the outcome of the long-standing chicken-vs-egg question, and the importance of good looks to one's career and social life. Having pondered these issues, we can turn our attention to other interesting topics, like the difference between deodorants and antiperspirants, the relative environmental and health impacts of each, and, by extension, a greater appreciation of the armpit.

Yesterday I found this article at "Should I Stay Funky? On the Greenness of Deodorants and Antiperspirants." I learned that antiperspirants, as their name suggests, reduce sweating by temporarily plugging up the sweat ducts in your armpits, while deodorants either use perfume to cover up bodily odors or use antimicrobial agents to eliminate them altogether by killing the bacteria that interact with sweat to produce unpleasant odors. This is, of course, a topic of no small importance during the current heat wave which has brought us a week of temperatures in the upper 90s (that's 32 degrees and up, for my Celsius-oriented readers) and humidity nearing 100%.

Anyhow, from a health perspective, the article suggests that we might want to think about the use of antiperspirants that contain aluminum (i.e., almost all of them), for studies have suggested that aluminum might contribute to both Alzheimer's disease and breast cancer...not to mention the environmental impact of mining and processing all that aluminum. And, of course, antimicrobial deodorants have their own issues, perhaps contributing to the ever-growing problem of new microbes which are resistant to antibiotics.

So, what are your options? You can sweat and stink, or come down with exotic diseases and help cause ever-more mining damage to the environment. Quite a choice, eh?

And it's all because of our concern with the humble and underappreciated armpit. The axilla, to use the proper anatomical term.

Years ago, famous science fiction author Isaac Asimov wrote a clever little parody of the popular books The Sensuous Woman and The Sensuous Man - he called it The Sensuous Dirty Old Man, and it was hilarious. In addition to providing instruction in such useful girl-watching techniques as the "cane pivot," Asimov (or "Dr A") offered physical and mental health hints for dirty old men. For example, he noted that older men, generally having higher blood pressure and more delicate constitutions than in their more robust and healthier years, needed to avoid the overstimulation that might come gawking at the bosoms, derrieres, and legs of young ladies...he suggested instead that dirty old men focus on armpits, noting that "...The sight of an attractive young lady, properly semi-clothed, holding onto the overhead strap on a bus will keep the sensuous dirty old man glued to his seat long past his proper stop."

Which argues for the application and appreciation of those deodorants and antiperspirants, doesn't it.

And through the miracle of the Internet, you have the opportunity to learn far more than you ever wanted to know about the humble armpit in all its manifestations: shaven or unshaven, dry or glistening with perspiration. If you doubt me (and you shouldn't), do a Google search on Bollywood armpits and you will find that there are roughly 1,800,000 sites dealing with the underarms of Indian actresses. You don't want to know how I found that out.

So anyhow...

As you step out of the shower to start your day and roll that deodorant, antiperspirant, or crystal over your freshly-laundered underarms, think not just about the favor you are doing for your fellow man, but also about the potential cost to your health and the environment.

And ladies, remember that there may be a sensuous dirty old man out there who quietly appreciates your grooming more than most.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



KathyA said...

Well the armpit is after all an erogenous zone!
I think the antiperspirants are just wrong -- who cares if your pits are sweating when the rest of you is soaked anyway???

Mike said...

If you keep your physical activity to a minimum you won't get sweaty pits and save the enviroment at the same time.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

I'll have to rember the axilla. It sounds better that way.

KKTSews said...

For those who want to try the no aluminum method, Arm and Hammer is the only deodorant-only I could find at the local grocery. And it works, as a deodorant. NOT an antiperspirant. With the 90+ degrees and humidity we've had in Ohio while I was doing outdoor Girl Scout camp, that makes a difference. I hope I enjoy my Alzhimer's.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

Axilla. Now that's a word we can live with. Good post on a neglected topic.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

Axilla, a word we can live with. Great post!