Why Koreans Don’t Need Deodorant… But You Probably Do

With the weather getting warmer, one of the most common complaints heard from expats is that quality deodorant is near impossible to find in Korea. Seasoned expats will be well versed in shipping their chosen brands over from home en masse. What gives though? What’s with the lack of quality deodorant in Korea?


Basically, most Koreans don’t actually need deodorant.

Several years ago, scientists discovered a gene that was dubbed “ABCC11”. The team who discovered the gene found that it was a key determinant in whether a person will produce dry or wet earwax. Since then, it has also been discovered that people who produce “wet” ear wax also produce chemicals in their armpits that cause underarm odor when metabolized by bacteria. Those who produce dry ear wax lack these chemicals.

“This key gene is basically the single determinant of whether you do produce underarm odor or not,” Ian Day, a genetic epidemiologist at the University of Bristol, told livescience.com. A mutation in the gene causes the body to produce dry earwax and stink-free armpits, while those who lack the mutation will find themselves needing to lather up on antiperspirant come the warmer months.

More than 97% of people who are of European or African descent have the version of the gene that causes smelly underarm sweat, while most East Asians and, according to the study, almost all Koreans do not. 30-50% of People from areas such as Southern Asia, the Pacific Islands, Central Asia, Asia Minor and indigenous Americans exhibit the mutation in their ABCC11 gene that saves them from stinky armpits as well.

Better stock up, that deodorant drought isn’t breaking any time soon!

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Photo by RODNAE Productions

  1. Imma tell you this..
    You can research it
    There is no such thing as a gen that takes the odor away..

    Ive meet people that went to corea and guess what? Pple that don’t use deodorant smell bad..
    They even say that being in closest spaces, like a train or a classroom is F nightmare.

    Tired of pple spreading nonsense sh*t ..
    Do you wanna get people that smell better? Go to Latin America..
    Very well known that those guys take care of themselves, deodorant, perfum as drinking water. And showers twice a day. Totally another thing.

  2. This article is wholly misleading and disingenuous. While the ABCC11 does have a more drastic effect on ear wax, the effect on “underarm odor” is at best minimal and at worst hardly noticeable.

    This article WAY, WAY overestimates the relationship with the ABC11 and it’s effect on body odor. All humans have body odor. The slight difference between populations is generally close to imperceptible. Plus, there are OTHER genetic factors that attribute to body odor.

    Do Koreans “need” deodorant? The answer is, just as much as everyone else on the planet.

    Now in terms of ear wax, there is a far more significant relationship to ABCC11 and the formation of two distinct varieties of ear wax.

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