Lost Journal: Sweating the Details Can Be Good for Your Health

Journal entry: September 23, 2008 (age 39) 

Once in a great while, a marketing campaign can actually make you stop using a product that you’ve used for years.  Recently, I’ve started seeing ads for “clinical strength antiperspirant.”  So far, so good.  I think I fit into the sizable demographic that doesn’t like to be involuntarily wet and smelly, or at least not during business meetings or family functions.  And like most people, I usually reach for the product that says “extra strength,” rather than the one that says “regular strength.”  Regular strength is for common people, not exceptional people like you and me.  We have atypical needs that require extraordinary solutions.  Let the peasantry get by with half-measures; we power-users must be fully satisfied!

But the next ad I saw went on to say that clinical strength antiperspirant achieves its improved results by increasing the aluminum compound content.  Aluminum?  Increasing the aluminum?  Huh?  I went to my medicine cabinet and got out my regular strength, sweat-battling stick.  Sure enough, the label listed the active ingredient as aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex.  Just the aluminum part sounded bad enough.  With the added negative connotations of zirconium (cheap diamonds?) and tetrachlorohydrex (bleached fish?), I became truly concerned.

After some online research, I realized that for the past 30 years, I have been plugging the pores under my arms with…metal?!  “That oughta do it,” I imagined the product development engineers saying.  But is cutting off a natural process of the body by filling openings in our skin with metal really the best option? From what I gather, the science on possible health problems resulting from this approach is unsettled.  Nonetheless, the idea just sounds wrong.

That didn’t stop me from toying with the idea of stitching Reynolds Wrap into all of my shirts.  Sure, I’d make crinkly sounds whenever I moved, but I could also get a little closer (and not be shy).  I began to rationalize this iron-clad method of preventing B.O.  The electrolytic reduction of aluminum is referred to as “smelting.”  Therefore, I reasoned, he who smelts it will not smell it.

Following that kind of unassailable logic, what other innovations in personal hygiene could be achieved by getting past such outdated concepts as “safety” or “health?”  We could make toothpaste that’s 50 percent bleach.  Or an eye drop that actually kills blood vessels.  Or skin-toned spackle to fill in laugh lines.  The possibilities are endless!   Cement styling gel.  Lip em-balm.  Flesh/odor-eaters.  Q-tip drill bits.  Perhaps one day, nature’s most poisonous protein could be injected into people’s faces to get rid of wrinkles.  Oh wait – that one is already being used.  (It’s not just toxic – it’s bo-toxic!)

On third thought, I think I’ll just try a deodorant without antiperspirant.  If Mennen Old Spice can’t be Sure of the Degree to which Secret methods are being used to make their underarms Arrid, Soft & Dri, there should be a Ban.

Tim Mollen
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