By Esther Mulandi, Sharon Onyango and Lucy Murithi
Published September 24, 2015
Have you ever walked past a group of people and they all gave you a quizzical look, or you opened your mouth to talk to your friend at a café only for her to turn her head to the side and cover her nose; even with the nice aroma filling the room?
You aren’t alone.
Just imagine the hustles that you go through in a day; you board several public commuter vehicles known as matatus in Kenya to get from one destination to another. You get caught up in the traffic on Nairobi roads and then experience the spontaneous change in weather. This would make your body catch bacteria in the air that would in turn end up giving off some awful scent. Yes, due to the various functions of our bodies we are bound to produce unpleasant smells emanating from our skin, armpits, hair, feet and mouth at one time or another.
While bad smells are very traumatising and have made many people to lose friends while the productivity of others has nose-dived due to one’s loss of confidence and low self-esteem springing from their perceived bad body odour and the isolation that comes with it.
But, thanks to the innovation of cosmetics—deodorants, nice-smelling soaps, sprays, perfumes, anti-perspirant roll-ons, jellies, creams, powders and lotions, colognes and mouthwashes– smelling good is within reach of most of us.
Jellies and lotions make our skin soft, remove dryness and stretch marks, perfumes mask stenches, leaving us smelling nice. Antiperspirant products, on the other hand, reduce the amount of sweat our armpits release such that our clothes don’t sock in sweat at the armpit area making it embarrassing for us to raise our hands in a public places. Mouth washes make our breath stay fresh so we don’t have to worry about bad breath. Powders kill bad smell-causing bacteria leaving our feet smelling nice.
Just as there are always two sides to anything in life, we have to ask ourselves if there is any price we pay just to smell nice.
Smelling nice doesn’t come cheap. The price of an average product may cost anywhere between Sh400 (US$4) and Sh3000 (US$30). A good lower end deodorant, roll-on or antiperspirant goes for nothing less than Sh100 (US$1) which, to some of us, is the cost of two meals. A mouthwash costs around Sh300 (US$3). These prices may be out of reach for many of us in the lower working class who must choose between food and scented body lotions.
Then there are health issues to deal with when it comes to smelling nice. Many mouthwashes contain a high amount of alcohol that, according studies like the one published in the Dental journal of Australia in 2009 concluded that it could allow cancer-causing substances such as nicotine and a toxic product known as acetaldehyde to accumulate the mouth.
Deodorants and roll-ons work by clogging, closing or blocking pores with aluminum salts in order to prevent the release of sweat effectively changing the functions of the body. This may cause lumps. Though studies are inconclusive, it is feared that deodorants and roll-ons can cause breast cancer.
And. Believe it or not, but mouthwashes, deodorants and roll-ons may also cause the bad body odours we may be running away from. This is because when we initially rinse our mouth using the mouthwash the germs in between our teeth are removed but the problem comes in when the alcohol in the mouthwash dries up our mouth and our salivary glands are unable to produce any saliva which helps in washing away the bacteria. Therefore the germs which cause bad breathe remain in our mouth. On the other hand some products such as deodorants and roll-ons may lack aluminum chloride which helps in altering the sweat-producing cells in the body by making the sweat ducts to swell and block sweat from escaping and therefore reduce sweating and in the end give off bad smell.
Mouthwashes may form stains on teeth and clothes. This is because one of the ingredients of mouth washes, chlorohexidine produces tooth staining as it reacts with the food additives left on the teeth especially tannins which is found in coffee, coca-cola and red wine.
Additionally, deodorants and body sprays cause stains on clothes as they contain aluminum salts such as aluminum chloride, aluminum chlorohydrate or aluminum-zirconium which react with the minerals in our sweat and as a result bind to our fabric and cause stains.
Body lotions and creams, deodorants, foot jellies, body sprays and roll-ons can cause asthma, breathing difficulties or allergic skin reactions and, in rare cases, trigger deadly heart problems. Experts explain that this is due to some of these products containing chemicals which cause dizziness, headaches, seizures, itchiness and burning or blistering of the skin.
Body sprays and deodorants, when sprayed, release a fine mist which can travel a long distance and can be easily inhaled causing asthmatic symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness or pain and shortness of breath. These symptoms can then lead to an actual attack.
If not used in moderation, body sprays and perfumes can cause sneezing problem to the user and the people around them, while others experience massive headaches when they use sprays and perfumes.
Experts say that chemicals such as aluminum that are used in antiperspirants and deodorants can cause cancer and memory loss among people aged 40- and 50-years.
Prolonged use of antiperspirants may cause inflamed tissues in the underarms, skin irritation and in more serious cases, it can develop into contact dermatitis, a state in which the skin develops an itchy and painful rash.
Chemicals such as parabens and phthalates present in deodorants may cause birth defects and early puberty in children.
Harmful content in perfumes and colognes produces headaches, migraines and sinus headaches. Strong chemicals used in fragrance and odour in some not only cause instant headaches while spraying but also causes long-term frequent headaches.
Researchers also say that people who use strong deodorants or perfumes excessively are more prone to breathing diseases especially asthma. Sensitive chemicals or toiletries present in deodorants causes breathing troubles and nausea.
Applying perfumes and colognes on clothes ruin the fabric and leaves stains, some weaken the textile fibres of the clothes, making them likely to tear easily.
That said, it is up to us to use our discretion as we seek to enhance our grooming through our selection and use of colognes, perfumes, mouthwashes, foot jellies and powders and anti-sweat salts for our armpits.
Yes, we want to smell nice; but at what cost?