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Odor too strong?

The Aromatic Armpit: A Whiff of History

Journey through history and discover how people have dealt with armpit odor, from ancient civilizations' fragrances to today's innovative solutions.
 |  Tishala Balewa  |  Beauty
The Aromatic Armpit

Armpit odor has been a part of human life since the dawn of time. As the body's natural means of cooling itself, sweat becomes an unavoidable element of daily living. However, it's the odoriferous armpit that has long been a focus of attention across different cultures and periods in history.

Here, we delve into the annals of history to unearth how people in the past dealt with this smelly issue, as well as investigate a time when body odor was more prevalent.

Ancient Approaches to Armpit Odor

The Egyptians, being the pioneers of cleanliness, were among the first to find solutions to the problem of armpit odor. Records from ancient Egypt reveal that they used perfumed oils and unguents to mask unpleasant smells. The Greeks and Romans also adopted their own methods, as they rubbed themselves with pumice stones and scented oils after a visit to the baths. The Romans even used an instrument called a strigil, which was designed to scrape off dirt, oil, and sweat from the skin.

The Middle Ages: A Time of Pungency

The Middle Ages was a time of poor hygiene and increased body odor. Frequent bathing was considered a luxury, as water was often scarce and expensive. In Europe, people would mask their body odors with fragrant powders and pomanders. Pomanders were small, perforated containers filled with scented substances, worn around the neck or carried by hand. This helped to provide a more pleasant aroma in the wearer's immediate vicinity.

The Renaissance: A Time of Creative Camouflage

During the Renaissance, people began to pay more attention to their personal hygiene. However, armpit odor still persisted as a problem. To mask the smell, individuals would wear garments made of muslin or linen, which were both breathable and absorbent. Perfumes also became more popular and sophisticated during this period. In fact, several European courts had their own royal perfumers responsible for creating custom scents.

In addition to perfumes, the use of nosegays became common during the Renaissance. Nosegays were small bouquets of sweet-smelling flowers and herbs that individuals would carry with them to mask unpleasant odors. These aromatic bundles were believed to protect the user from disease and infection as well.

Colonial America: Armpit Odor and the New World

In Colonial America, settlers had limited resources and often lived in cramped quarters, which made personal hygiene a challenge. As a result, body odor, including armpit odor, was a constant companion for many. To combat this, colonists would use homemade remedies, such as rubbing fresh herbs and spices under their arms or using a mixture of vinegar and water as a deodorant. Some even resorted to stuffing their clothing with fragrant herbs and flowers to mask the smell.

Victorian Era: The Birth of Modern Deodorants

The Victorian era saw an increased focus on cleanliness and personal hygiene. This period marked the invention of the first commercial deodorant in 1888, called Mum. Mum was a zinc-based paste that would be applied to the armpits to reduce odor. Although it was not very effective, it paved the way for modern deodorants.

Victorian era topless woman holding pot of water used for bathing.

The 20th Century and Beyond: Innovations in Armpit Odor Elimination

The 20th century saw a significant breakthrough in armpit odor management with the introduction of antiperspirants. Aluminum-based compounds were found to be effective in blocking the sweat glands, reducing both sweat and odor. The first antiperspirant, Everdry, hit the market in 1903, and since then, deodorants and antiperspirants have evolved into the wide variety of products we know today. These modern solutions come in various forms, such as roll-ons, sprays, sticks, and even natural alternatives.

Natural and eco-friendly deodorants have gained popularity in recent years as people become more conscious of their health and the environment. These products often use ingredients like baking soda, arrowroot powder, and essential oils to neutralize odor without using harsh chemicals or blocking the sweat glands.


Armpit odor has been a universal concern throughout history, transcending cultural and geographic boundaries. From the use of scented oils in ancient Egypt to the invention of modern deodorants and antiperspirants, the journey of combating armpit odor has been an ongoing one. As our understanding of hygiene and the human body continues to evolve, we can expect even more innovations in the realm of odor management. One thing is certain – the quest for a fresh and pleasant-smelling armpit is as old as time itself.

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