Hot enough to melt sureness

Sweat: Comfort and control are a nice concept in a cool drugstore. But outside on a day like this, do guarantees hold water?

June 09, 1999|By Arthur Hirsch | Arthur Hirsch,SUN STAFF

It's a reassuring thought. On a day like this it seems almost a humble prayer: Powerful anti-perspirant for the active man.

On a day like this you see the streets are full of shiny foreheads and upper lips that make you think of old black-and-white TV clips of Richard Nixon. There's a guy walking into a drugstore with a wash cloth on his head and a blue mesh baseball cap on top of that. Another guy's walking down the street rotating his left arm away from his body as if he just pitched a two-hitter but you know he's only airing it out a bit and probably wondering: How am I doing under there?

It's a day to be unsure. Suddenly you're a character in a television ad, a narrowly sentient being who actually thinks in terms of "wetness." Really, who ever heard of "wetness" before there was an entire American industry devoted to stopping it, controlling it, making it go away in some places and reappear magically in others?

The Rite-Aid has them stacked eight shelves high and 11 feet across: sticks, gels, roll-ons, sprays. Right Guard, Suave, Arrid XX, Arm & Hammer, Old Spice, Old Spice High Endurance, Dry Idea, Mitchum, Speed Stick ...

Dryness and wetness. Thousands of people work on these issues, buying houses and Chevy Luminas, putting kids through college.

Provides wetness and odor protection that lasts all day.

Such a lovely thought during a week like this. You've got a bunch of these thoughts right at your fingertips. Right there on the container of Speed Stick kept in the desk drawer at work.

Patented comfort guard applicator for better comfort and control.

Mmmmmmmmmmmm. Comfort and control. Comfort and control. It's 134 degrees in the shade out there with about 107 percent humidity and it appears that the planet is dying from too much ozone in some places and not enough in others. But where it counts, under there, you've got comfort and control.

TO USE: Turn dial to raise product. Apply to underarm.

Good idea. And while you're at it, apply it again. Because these are the days, my friend, it seems they'll never end.

How hot is it? Hot enough that you come in from a walk downtown and find you're grateful for "Active Ingredients" and the scientific geniuses who took time out from the space program to come up with aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex glycine. Say it slowly and think of cool desert breezes, nights in Death Valley, the banishment of dreaded "wetness." The "Phantom Menace" that George Lucas never mentioned.

Aluminum zirconium tetra-yeah whatever, is listed first among "Active Ingredients" of Speed Stick Anti-Perspirant/Deodorant. It helps clog pores.

Another reassuring thought. But this is not found on the container. For this detail you must call the toll-free number where it says "Questions? Comments?" What questions, what comments could there be?

"Thank you for calling Colgate-Palmolive consumer affairs," says the recording. "To request a Baby Magic Package, press one ..."

Better yet, press two and speak with an actual human: David Manton, a helpful consumer affairs representative. He's sitting in an office building on Park Avenue in Manhattan talking to folks all over the country about soaps, sprays, shampoos. He says he gets about 40, 50 calls a day and lately -- all right, here's the big Heat Story Journalistic Trend Angle -- most of the calls are about deodorant.

"Yes, this would be the busy time of year for deodorants," says Manton.

People want to know: What's the difference between an anti-perspirant and a deodorant?

Answer: the former curbs sweating, the later merely masks your odor with any number of others, such as "Classic Scent," "Sport Talc," "Powder Fresh," "Shower Fresh," "Wild Rain," "Spring Breeze," "Summer Breeze."

Folks might want to know why a certain fragrance was discontinued. They might have a faulty container that makes it impossible to carry out those helpful instructions: "TO USE: Turn dial to raise product. Apply to underarm."

All right, what about this other stuff here, cyclomethicone?

"Hold on, I'll get out my ingredients list," says Manton.

It's an emollient, he says, a lotion.

The hydrogenated castor oil?

This provides structure for the stuff as part of the "wax matrix." George Lucas didn't have anything to do with that movie.

It's all there in the stick, along with the stearyl alcohol, glyceryl stearate, the PEG-100 stearate and the fragrance, which happens to be "Fresh Scent."

Right there in the desk drawer on a day in which you need all the help you can get.

CAUTION: DO NOT APPLY TO BROKEN SKIN. IF RASH DEVELOPS, DISCONTINUE USE.

God forbid. Not now. Please not now.

Pub Date: 6/09/99

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