Alum armpits

When it comes to keeping body odour at bay, some are skipping the sprays and returning to the all-natural approach

Using a deodorant is essential, especially in hot climates. But before the arrival of commercial deodorants, Thais used to apply sansom, or alum crystals, to prevent the formation of bacteria in our armpits in the hot and humid environment.

Potassium alum is a mineral salt that has been used as a deodorant in Thailand as well as other countries in Asia and Europe for a long time.

A selection of alum deodorants.

In fact, potassium alum can also be used for various purposes such as an aftershave, an astringent or in fire extinguishers.

In the past, smooth alum crystals were hard to find and the rough crystals could hurt your armpits.

Off-the-shelf deodorants were introduced in the US in the late 19th century. In the late 1940s, roll-on deodorants went on the market.

Roll-on deodorants are easy to use and also come in a wide variety of fragrances such as sweet floral aromas and even chocolate.

Today's deodorants do more than combat body odour — they can whiten or soften the skin in underarm areas.

We also have anti-perspirant sprays that dry immediately and do not leave stains on our clothes.

We can also choose anti-perspirants with or without alcohol or that offer 24 hours to 48 hours of protection.

All of these commercial deodorants and anti-perspirants contain aluminium chlorohydrate, a synthetic product made from aluminium and hydrochloric acid.

Some are concerned that aluminium chlorohydrate might be linked to breast cancer.

Many people have stopped using mass-produced deodorants and turned to natural alum.

Today, alum or sansom, is available in stick, block and powder form.

It is believed that natural alum not only prevents body odour, but also helps whiten the armpit skin.

Another benefit is that natural alum does not smell so it is good for those who are allergic to perfume.

One alum stick, which is around 7.5cm long, costs far less than a commercial deodorant and can last up to six months or longer.

Alum has gradually regained its position as a deodorant, especially among those who are health conscious and who use only natural products.

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