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Remedies for perspiration

To remove the odour that is associated with perspiring and to contain it somewhat below the armpits, users will first of all resort to deodorants (short: deo) or antiperspirants. Not everyone is aware of the fact that these two product groups differ from each other. This is why these terms are often used as synonyms.
Isabel Weinert
10.06.2020  13:00 Uhr

Deo’s are products for unpleasant body odour. Sweat as such may be odourless but this quickly changes once skin bacteria break it down. In this process one of the ingredients formed is fatty acid such as butyric acid or caproic acid which are responsible for the characteristically unpleasant body odour.

To suppress the bacteria, the deodorants contain for example triclosan, chlorhexidine compounds or triclocarban. Furthermore, farnesol and phenoxyethanol as well as eugenol, menthol or thymol are also being used. These typical ingredients of aetheric oils spread in addition a pleasant odour.

Enzyme inhibitors such as Triethylcitrate or zinc glycine are used to prevent enzymatic reactions in the bacteria and thus the perspiration breakdown. In addition, deodorants contain scents as well as so called odour absorbers, which coat the perspiration’s decomposition products so that they cannot be perceived by the olfactory cells. A commonly used odour absorber is the zinc salt from the ricinoleic acid (zinc rizinoleat). To avoid as much as possible destroying the skin bacteria’s ecological balance and irritation of the skin, substances are used in concentrations that will inhibit the bacteria’s growth but do not act bactericidal. The products mostly also contain alcohol. It has a cooling effect as well as acting antimicrobial. Deodorants are suitable for users who do not perspire much. The products ensure a pleasant odour, but do not influence the sweat production.

Reducing perspiration

For those with a strong sweat production, antiperspirants are the right choice as they reduce the amount of sweat. In technical terms these are also referred to as antihidrotics or antiperspirants. The active substances these products usually contain are aluminium salts such as aluminium chloride hexahydrate or -acetate, and in addition substances that absorb and/or blanket the odour. Aluminium salts react with the proteins of the epithelial cells in the excretory ducts. This forms a clot which closes the excretory ducts and reduces the sweat production. The effect lasts until the epithelial cells are desquamated.

Drugstore products usually contain aluminium chloride in a concentration of one to two percent. Higher dosed products are available in the pharmaceutical-medical field. Aluminium chloride is for example contained in Ansudor®, Medisan® und Odaban®.

Dermatologists mostly prescribe preparations of between 10 and 30 percent aluminium chloride. In some pharmacies, antiperspirants are often found as prescription drugs. The NRF contains three aluminium chloride recipes: a cooling solution containing 2-propanol, a watery gel for sensitive or irritated skin areas as well as a viscose watery solution for application by a roll-on deodorant.

Adjusting the quantity

To start with, the patient should treat the affected area with the antiperspirant every two to three days in the evenings. An evening application makes sense as the production of sweat is lower at night and the medicine is not washed away by the sweat straightaway. It takes effect very slowly only after one to two weeks. When the user feels that the sweat production is subsiding, it is sufficient to apply the medicine only once a week. At the end of the treatment the effect usually continues for another few weeks.

Typical side effects from concentrated aluminium preparations are skin irritations. Especially at the start of the treatment the skin may itch and burn. If the irritation is very unpleasant, the user can wash off the preparation. However, he should, if possible, bear it for a quarter of an hour to achieve the initial effect. Normally, the skin will get used to the treatment over time. Should this effect not occur, it could help to reduce the concentration of the preparation.

Some years ago, it was suspected that aluminium salts increased the risk of breast cancer and promoted the development of morbus Alzheimer. The subject was often taken up in an undifferentiating way by the non-professional media. For example, no difference was made if aluminium is ingested by way of food contamination or oral medicine or it is applied to the skin. In the latter case the amount of aluminium which is absorbed by intact skin is negligibly small, thus the findings. The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) recommends as a precaution not to apply the products on freshly shaved or damaged skin.

Another substance acting antihidrotic is methenamine. It releases formaldehyde when in contact with acidic sweat, which denatures proteins and so closes the sweat glands’ excretory ducts. Methenamine ointment (Antihydral®) is thinly applied by the patient once to twice daily. As soon as the secretion of sweat subsides, it can be applied at longer intervals


Deutsch/German Englisch/English
Abwaschen wash off
Achseln arm pits
Aluminiumsalze aluminium salts
Antimikrobiell antimicrobial
Antitranspirantien antiperspirant
Bakterien bacteria
Brennen burning
Brustkrebs breast cancer
Deodorantien deodorants
Hautreizung skin irritation
Jucken itching
Körpergeruch body odour
Rasieren shave
Risiko risk
Schweiß perspiration, sweat
Schwitzen sweat, perspire
Zubereitung preparation

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