In the world of beauty, it's ever so easy for fiction to become fact. These "secrets" are passed down from generation to generation, traded at beauty shops, touted on the pages of women's magazines ... but are they true? Of course we've all heard that drinking eight glasses of water will hydrate your skin, but according to whom? And then there's the old tale that getting regular haircuts will actually make your hair grow faster. Or that washing your hair less makes it healthier. In our new column Beauty Myths? we've enlisted the help of pros to demystify and debunk some of the more popular advice out there.
This week we're exploring why antiperspirants seem to become ineffective after a certain period of time. It's something many of us have experienced. We toss out the current tube and pick up a new one, only to find the same thing happening a few months later. Somewhat frustrated and mostly curious, we recruited Dr. Heather Woolery-Lloyd, New York dermatologist and founder of skincare line Specific Beauty, to shed some light on the issue.
"Most antiperspirants contain aluminum salts," says Woolery-Lloyd. "The aluminum salts block the eccrine duct, which is the tube that the sweat comes out of. Although many of my patients report that antiperspirants work for a short period and then stop working, there is no science behind that. The only possible explanation is that the body adapts and finds a way to unplug the duct -- although that has not been proven."
Does that mean that something is chemically changing in our bodies, causing the antiperspirant not to work? "No, that does not appear to be the case," says Woolery-Lloyd. "Another possibility is that the body develops compensatory hyperhidrosis (excess sweating) due to the blocked ducts. This has been observed after surgical procedures to stop sweating in the arms and hands. Thirty-three percent of people after surgery will get increased sweating at other locations, such as the feet, groin or trunk."
If it's not exactly clear why antiperspirant stops working, is there anything we can do about it? "The best way to get the most effective results from an antiperspirant is to apply it at night," suggests Woolery-Lloyd. "Then there is no sweating to stop it from blocking the ducts."
We can also rule out the difference between powder, cream and gel formulas. Woolery-Lloyd notes that the active ingredients are more important than the vehicle. "Aluminum chloride is considered the most effective ingredient for hyperhidrosis," she says. While many antiperspirant contain the ingredient, the dermatologist recommends Hydrosal Pro, which is "new to the market and very effective," as well as Drysol and CertainDri.
The conclusion: Our bodies can adapt to the antiperspirant we use after two to three months, though there's no clear answer why.
Have a beauty myth you'd like us to investigate? We want to hear them. Leave your suggestions in the comments.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that deodorant becomes ineffective after a few months. Actually, it is antiperspirant that becomes ineffective. This article focused on antiperspirants, not deodorants.