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Do men and women need different deodorants?

Selling Men and Women Different Deodorants
No girls allowed? Not when it comes to deodorant.
No girls allowed? Not when it comes to deodorant.
© Wood

 The only reason that manufacturers offer men and women different deodorants is to make more money. Men's deodorants are not stronger or in any other way different than women's deodorants. In the early 1990s, unisex deodorants made up about one-third of the marketplace, but today, they only account for 10 percent of sales [source: Howard]. People are more likely to buy things they feel are targeted directly toward them, another reason why you may see deodorant marketed towards teens.

That's not to say that men and women don't have different preferences for deodorant products, though. For example, roll-on deodorants modeled on ballpoint pens were extremely popular when they were first introduced in the 1950s, except with men who found that underarm hairs tended to get caught in the applicators (men are much more likely to stick with a solid stick or gel) [source: Ramirez]. And offering consumers a greater variety of scents is a good option, particularly because the genders may interpret body odor differently.

It's not that men produce a greater stink than women, but it may be harder for men to hide their body odor from their ladies, according to new research from the Monell Chemical Senses Center. In a 2009 study, researchers found that women are more sensitive than men to the smell of underarm sweat [source: Wilbert]. When researchers presented vials of sweat combined with perfume samples, mimicking the cover-up deodorant is designed to provide, the women could still smell the body odor. Only nine fragrance chemicals could mask a man's musk, while 25 chemicals covered up female sweat odor [source: Monell Chemical Senses Center].

The researchers think that women are more sensitive to the men's odors because they have the ability to smell out useful information about mating (information more useful than whether a man showers). It's possible that women can sense when a man has different major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes than she does. Studies have shown that having different MHC genes from one's partner plays an important role in sexual attraction, marital happiness and reproductive success [sources: Kaplan; Bryner]. So if a woman is always urging her special fellow to try out a new deodorant because she doesn't like the one that he has, it may not be a new deodorant that's needed, but rather a new man.