The History of Commercial Deodorants

Mum was the first commercial underarm deodorant

Chris Baker / The Image Bank / Getty Images

Mum deodorant is generally recognized as being the first-ever commercial deodorant... but we don't actually know who invented it.  

Mum Deodorant

Before the advent of deodorant, people generally battled their offensive smells by masking them with perfumes (a practice dating to the Ancient Egyptians and Greeks). That changed when Mum deodorant came onto the scene in 1888. Unfortunately, we don't actually know whom to thank for saving us all from our stink, as the inventor's name has been lost.

All we know is that this Philadelphia-based inventor trademarked his invention and distributed it through his nurse under the name of Mum. 

Mum also had very little in common with the deodorants found in drugstores today. Unlike today's roll-on, stick or aerosol deodorants, the zinc-based Mum deodorant was originally sold as a cream applied to the underarms by the fingers.  

In the late 1940s, Helen Barnett Diserens joined the Mum production team. A suggestion by a colleague inspired Helen to develop an underarm deodorant based on the same principle as a newfangled invention called the ballpoint pen. This new type of deodorant applicator was tested in the USA in 1952, and marketed under the name of Ban Roll-On.

The First Antiperspirant

Deodorants can take care of smells, but they're not as effective at taking care of excessive sweating. Fortunately, the first antiperspirant came onto the scene just 15 years: Everdry, which launched in 1903, used aluminum salts to block pores and inhibit sweating.

These early antiperspirants caused skin irritation, however, and in 1941 Jules Montenier patented a more modern formulation of antiperspirant that reduced irritation, and which hit the market as Stopette.

The first antiperspirant aerosol deodorant was launched in 1965. However, antiperspirant sprays lost popularity due to health and environmental concerns, and today stick deodorants and antiperspirants are most popular.

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Bellis, Mary. "The History of Commercial Deodorants." ThoughtCo, May. 27, 2017, thoughtco.com/history-of-commercial-deodorants-1991570. Bellis, Mary. (2017, May 27). The History of Commercial Deodorants. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/history-of-commercial-deodorants-1991570 Bellis, Mary. "The History of Commercial Deodorants." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/history-of-commercial-deodorants-1991570 (accessed January 20, 2018).