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Don’t Do It: The Deodorant Challenge

Summer is here, school is out, and kids are bored. How bored? Bored enough to take to social media to do something called the “deodorant challenge” without thinking about the damage it can do to their skin. The challenge involves closely spraying aerosol deodorant on bare skin for as long as the person can stand it. It hurts in the moment, and can have lasting impacts as well.

“Depending on how long they spray the aerosol on their skin, kids can effectively give themselves first-, second-, and even third-degree burns,” said David Smart, MD, a dermatologist with University of Utah Health. “It is an aerosol burn caused by the pressurized gas within the spray cooling quickly. The decrease in temperature freezes the skin causing frostbite. Frostbite on the skin is very similar to a burn. 

Evidence of the burn may appear immediately or may surface over a number of days. Small red bumps are the first sign. They may blister or peel in cases of more advanced burns. And the scarring they leave could last longer than any Instagram post. “This type of damage to the skin can cause permanent scarring,” said Smart.

In order to avoid scarring, parents who notice these types of burns on their children should get them help immediately. If the burn is fresh, the skin should be washed with warm water to remove any residual from the chemical, and a doctor should be consulted on what course of treatment to take next. 

“Mild burns require only moisturizing, gently keeping the area clean, and protecting it from the sun,” said Smart. “Severe burns can require surgical procedures and skin grafts.”

While the “deodorant challenge” is causing concern among parents and health care professionals, there is one group that shouldn’t be concerned: those who use aerosol deodorant. They are not at risk of suffering such burns if they are using the products as directed.

“It takes real commitment, such as the deodorant challenge, to burn yourself with aerosol deodorant,” said Smart.  “People who use it do not hold it close enough to their skin and spray for a long enough period of time to cause damage.”

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