Was everyone smelly before the invention of deodorant?


Nose picking has a thousand-year-old tradition.

Commercial products used to “deodorize” the body first appeared on store shelves in the 1880s, but before the appearance of deodorants (not to be confused with moisture-regulating antiperspirants) for suppressing odors, there was already a millennia-old tradition of deceiving the nose. Even in ancient times, many options were tried to prevent “the stench of wild goats from escaping under your armpits”, as Ovid Love is an artmemorably formulated in What were these?

Roman baths in England

A thorough wash never hurt, whether at home or in a river or public bath. The skin could be cleaned with oils or soap, the existence of the latter dates back to at least BC. We can trace it back to 2800, and then it was sprinkled with perfumes or other scented substances, say fruit juice mixed with aromatic plants, flowers, and spices. It doesn’t matter what kind of clothes they wore either, since linen and wool have natural antibacterial properties, changing clothes regularly – especially in the case of clothing that comes into direct contact with the skin – could prevent the accumulation of odors. As an alternative to this, later so-called izzlaps (pieces of material sewn into the garment in the armpits that prevent perspiration) could help preserve the quality of the garment.

There were also deodorizing recipes, Egyptian medical texts recorded mixtures of lettuce, myrrh and frankincense, for example, while in Roman times alum – a natural hemostatic agent containing aluminum potassium sulphate – and honey were preferred. It was still a long and bumpy road to commercial distribution, the early formulas caused a lot of irritation and contained dirt and sediment. Deodorant did not become widespread until the 1920s and only became commonplace in the 1950s.

The article is in Hungarian

Tags: smelly invention deodorant


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