What Sweat Says About Men, Women & MarketingS

New studies suggest that women can tell when a man is sexually aroused from his sweat, but apparently no one wants to know, as "clinical strength" antiperspirants have proven a huge hit for deodorant makers.

As mentioned last week, a new study published in The Journal of Neuroscience has shown that women can detect the differences between men's "neutral" sweat and sweat when they are sexually aroused. Researchers had 20 heterosexual men hold absorbent pads under their arms while watching erotic films and films with neutral content, then had 19 heterosexual women smell the pads of the men who were most aroused, explains today's The New York Times. All but two of the women said they couldn't smell any human odor on the pads and none said they could tell the sexual sweat from the neutral sweat. However, scientists found that the sexual scents caused activity in different areas of the women's brains than the neutral scents; brain activity didn't indicate that they were turned on by the smell of sexual sweat, but the brain could recognize the emotional information contained in the sweat, meaning that humans are communicating through smell.

But, according to this morning's other armpit news, people are so desperate to ensure that their sweat isn't sending the wrong messages that they are willing to pay more than two times the regular price of deodorant. The Times' business section reports that the deodorant industry in experiencing a bump in sales thanks to the introduction of clinical-strength antiperspirants over the past few years. The trend started in 2007 with the introduction of Secret Clinical Strength, which has the same active ingredient as regular Secret, but in a concentration that is 25 percent higher. (It also comes at a much higher price, selling for about $8.50 compared to $3 for regular Secret.)

Company research at Proctor & Gamble reports that 25 percent of women consider themselves "heavy sweaters," and 35 percent of both sexes experience underarm wetness one or more times per week. Manufacturers have found that these heavy sweaters, or people attending a special events where they expect to sweat, like a wedding or a job interview, are very willing to pay a higher price to stay dry. Now many deodorant brands, including Dove, Sure, and Suave, have introduced "clinical strength" formulas.

The success of the new formulas has caused huge excitement in the deodorant industry. Most people already use deodorant, and as Unilever executive manager Kevin George tells the Times, "Unless we get people to grow a third arm, there's limited potential." Secret has even dared to violate a deodorant commercial taboo in the ads for the clinical strength formula, showing bridesmaids at an outdoor wedding checking out their arm pits and one noticing a wet spot under her arm. "We have not shown pitting out before - it's the most overt we've ever been," said Becky Swanson, the creative director for Secret's advertising.

Varying Sweat Scents Are Noted By Women [The New York Times]
If You're Nervous, Deodorant Makers Have a Product for You [The New York Times]