FROM THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
May 11, 2011
Shirt and Antiperspirant Makers Hate Them, Too; Women Aren't Immune
By Ray A. Smith
Coming soon, heat, haze, humidity—and underarm stains.
With summer a little more than a month away, count on sweating ruining at least one shirt with a yellow armpit stain. It's often a bigger problem for men: Remove the sport coat and there's that embarrassing reveal of twin sweat circles, dashing the whole power suit image.
Underarm sweat may bother you, but it fuels an industry of deodorant, stain remover and absorbent shield makers. Many admit they're still struggling to discover a true cure for this common sweat zone and its resulting shirt stains.
Deodorant makers, detergent manufacturers, stain-removal companies, doctors and textile professors disagree on what exactly causes the pesky underarm yellow stains. One factor may be the critical ingredients in the antiperspirants themselves.
"The biggest culprit is the antiperspirant, the aluminum-based products in them that stop the body from perspiring are virtually impossible to get rid of," says Brian Johnson, director of training at the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute.
Toby Gubitz, vice president of marketing for the antiperspirant and deodorant business for Henkel Consumer Goods Inc., which makes Dry Idea and Right Guard deodorant products, says there are a number of factors to take into consideration, making it "hard to figure out even for us what causes the staining and what's the main driver."
The company updated its products to create Dry Idea AdvancedDry for men and women, and introduced another Right Guard series, Right Guard Total Defense 5 for men last year. Both claim additional levels of wetness reduction—40%—by boosting the amount of aluminum.
"We want to protect against wetness, that means using ingredients that might lead to yellow staining," says Mr. Gubitz. Reducing those ingredients would mean "you will ultimately have to sacrifice performance," he says. "That's what we're still struggling with."
Speed Stick launched a line last year called Speed Stick Stainguard with technology the brand says is formulated to help fight against the stains. Speed Stick goes further than other antiperspirants by claiming on its label and in marketing that it prevents yellow stains on shirts. A spokeswoman for Colgate-Palmolive Co., which owns Speed Stick, would only say the patent-pending formula works "by staying on your skin and by containing low-stain causing ingredients."
Hanes is researching the "yellowing phenomenon," a spokesman says. The company sold one million packages of undershirts containing Speed Stick Stainguard samples last year. Its share of the market for white crewneck undershirts rose 15 points to 75% during the peak of its three-month promotion at Target, says Mark Noyes, senior marketing manager of male underwear at Hanesbrands Inc.
PitStop, a stain remover product launched late last year by Pharmworks LLC, a small Palm Beach, Fla.-based company, is aimed specifically at treating yellow underarm stains. "We're not going to take out your blueberry stain or your coffee stain," says Hillary Enselberg, a company spokeswoman, whose father, a hematologist-oncologist and chemistry enthusiast, developed PitStop. The product sells online, where 4,000 bottles of PitStop have been sold since its November launch, Ms. Enselberg says.
Sweat shields, also known as dress shields or garment shields, were first made in 1869 by I.B. Kleinert Rubber Co. In an attempt to modernize them, Niche Brands Inc., of Grimsby, Ontario, last year launched cotton-blend underarm liners to protect garments from perspiration and stains. The adhesive liners, branded "beconfident," attach to clothing and are mostly aimed at women, says company president Jason Jacobs. They are only sold in Canada. The company has been approaching U.S. retailers. On the Internet and infomercials there are an expanding number of brands with names like Garment Guard and Advadri selling sweat shields.
Consumers in the U.S. spent $2.7 billion on deodorants and antiperspirants last year, up from $2.6 billion in 2009, according to market-research firm Euromonitor International. Deodorants mask the odor produced by apocrine glands in the armpits but generally don't fight underarm sweating. Antiperspirants generally include aluminum to block the ducts of eccrine glands, which produce sweat.
The underarm perspires when hot, but sweating can also be triggered when a person is stressed, in a state of fear, in pain or even while eating something spicy, says Dee Anna Glaser, a professor of dermatology at Saint Louis University and president of the International Hyperhidrosis Society, which addresses the estimated 3% of the population who suffer from excessive sweating.
Researchers measured the amounts of underarm perspiration in 30 men and 30 women with hyperhidrosis and 30 men and 30 women without the condition. Men in the first group produced twice the perspiration of female subjects. Men in the latter group also produced more sweat than women. The study, published in the April 2002 issue of the journal Archives of Dermatology, suggested one reason is due to a larger area of close-set sweat glands in men's armpits. Genetics, weight and age can factor in why some people sweat more than others, says William P. Coleman III, a clinical professor of dermatology at Tulane University.
An antiperspirant doesn't guarantee completely dry underarms. Rather, they'll be less wet than they would with no antiperspirant. The Food & Drug Administration requires that antiperspirants provide at least 20% sweat reduction to carry labels such as "lasts all day" and "24-hour protection." At 30%, products can be labeled "extra-effective protection." Some deodorant manufacturers seek to exceed that, usually by boosting their products' aluminum salt content. (The FDA ruled in 2003 that theories about breast cancer and the use of aluminum "lack sufficient evidence." It did not find "evidence sufficient to conclude that aluminum from antiperspirant use results in Alzheimer's disease.")
Church & Dwight Co.'s OxiClean claims on its website that its products can get rid of yellow underarm stains, a rare stain-removal product to make such an explicit claim. The company has tested its products on stains composed of synthetic perspiration and an active ingredient in an antiperspirant, a spokesman says.
The University of Illinois Extension Stain Solutions department recommends a daunting regimen to treat a yellow underarm stain. It urges scraping off any excess material with a blunt kitchen knife, soaking the garment for 15 minutes in a quart of lukewarm water, half a teaspoon of dishwashing detergent and one tablespoon ammonia, gently rubbing from the back to loosen the stain, soaking another 15 minutes, then rinsing.
If it doesn't go away, soak the stain in a laundry detergent that contains enzymes for at least half an hour, then put in the washing machine. An older stain should be soaked for several hours. Then launder. If the stain remains stubborn, use chlorine beach, if safe, on white shirts and oxygen bleach on colors.
Underarm sweat is a nuisance for people—and for the antiperspirant manufacturers, detergent sellers and undershirt makers, too.
SWEAT More people are seeking prescription antiperspirants, Botox injections, laser procedures and surgery to remove sweat glands, doctors say.
Adults who use antiperspirant/ deodorant use it about 8.6 times a week on average. People age 18 to 24 average 9.2 uses per week, according to Mintel International.
Apply antiperspirant at bedtime when there's less sweat, says Dee Anna Glaser, professor of dermatology at Saint Louis University. It won't wash off in the morning shower as the sweat ducts have absorbed the active ingredient.
Wash rather than dry-clean shirts with yellow underarm stains. 'The stains are water based, so you need water to get them out,' says Brian Johnson, of the Drycleaning and Laundry Institute.
Wash an item as soon as possible after perspiring. Use detergent or stain remover with oxygen bleach, says Kay Obendorf, professor of fiber science at Cornell University.
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