Are you getting collateral damage from your anti-perspirant? Are your favourite threads going from must-have to must-dump because of unsightly stains or stiffened fabric beneath the arms? Vichy’s Pascale Mora and specialist dry cleaner Nathalie Fargeaud-Felber tell us what causes them and what you can do about it.
Avoid the funk
You know how it is. You don’t want unpleasant odours messing with your mojo or damp patches making you look hot under the collar. But there’s more than one way to stay cool. Anti-perspirants and deodorants are very different animals. To work out which is best for you, you need to know what’s inside the bottle.
It’s not necessarily sweat that’s the problem here. After all, babies are born with millions of sweat glands all over their bodies and nobody looks at them funny in the elevator. Instead, it’s the decomposition of sweat under the effect of natural bacteria on your skin – particularly the high-fat sweat from glands that kick in at puberty – that causes unwanted odours. Sweat plus bacteria equals social discomfort.
There are two ways to resolve that equation. You can block the sweat, or you can remove the bacteria. Anti-perspirants emphasize route one. Their active ingredients puff up in contact with your skin, sealing your sweat glands and preventing perspiration. They neutralize bacteria too, to stop them cooking up a funk. Deodorants, on the other hand, only zap the bacteria. Use a deodorant if you’re concerned about odour alone, or an anti-perspirant if you want to eliminate dampness too. If sensitive skin is a concern, many products are also specially formulated to soothe and prevent irritation.
Keeping it clean
When you’ve found the product that’s right for you, you need to make sure it’s right for your clothes. Pascale Mora gives us the lowdown: “We think that white marks happen when anti-perspirants combine with mineral salts contained in sweat. Yellow ones are caused by fatty substances in both sweat and the products themselves. Stiffening takes place when these residues are engrained into the fabric by repeated ironing.” The solution? Choose an anti-perspirant with a formula designed to leave fabrics good as new.
Last chance saloon
But what if it’s already too late? We asked Mme Fargeaud-Felber – of venerable Paris dry cleaners “Parfait, Elève de Pouyanne” – what can be done to salvage a tainted garment. First the bad news: “If you’ve washed it in hot water and you see a yellow stain, it’s all over. The hot water will have fixed the stain.” Instead, rub household soap under the arms and wash the garment in cold water. “White marks on a dark shirt can be dabbed with hydrogen peroxide or white vinegar. Never rub: you’ll break the fibres and they’ll never look the same.”