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How we made our most effective deodorant yet

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Average read time: 5 minutes

Rexona’s patented microtechnology provides 72 hours of non-stop sweat and odour protection, and it’s now being introduced across the brand’s entire range. We asked two of Rexona’s scientists how they came up with the biggest deodorant breakthrough in decades.

A photo from Rexona’s advertising campaign featuring a woman exercising
Evelyn Warner

Formulation and Claims Manager Evelyn Warner and Global Research & Development Design Director Andrew Butterworth (pictured) were part of the team who created Rexona’s 72-hour non-stop sweat and odour protection range of products.

Evelyn and Andrew, what sparked the idea that Rexona needed to come up with something disruptive in deodorants?

Andrew Butterworth

Rexona (also known around the world as Sure, Degree and Shield) constantly works on understanding what consumers want. As part of this research, one key insight was that even though 98% of consumers were happy with their deodorant, 80% globally had experienced problems with sweat or odour. It showed us that people were resigned to believing that deodorant can only do so much – and it’s not enough.

When people experience odour or wetness, they often blame themselves, not their antiperspirant. But the reality is that anti-perspirant technology hasn’t changed since the 1980s.

We saw a huge opportunity to re-set people’s expectations about what a deodorant can deliver.

Evelyn Warner and Andrew Butterworth

So how is this different from anything that’s gone before?

When this project kicked off, we set out to look at how new technology could deliver better sweat protection. What we ended up with was a formula that offered not just sweat protection that surpassed anything else in our portfolio, but also offered amazing levels of odour protection and fragrance performance too.

It’s quite simply our best-ever antiperspirant technology. Used at low levels, it gives invisible protection without compromising sweat and odour performance. Used at higher levels, it gives unprecedented performance which allows us to deliver 72 hours of non-stop sweat and odour protection for the first time. What is more, this technology is unique in that we can use it across every single format in our range.

How did you get started?

A breakthrough like this doesn’t happen overnight. We have dedicated scientific capability that has been set up for many years on understanding sweat and antiperspirant actives. This discovery involved 50 expert scientists and ten doctors of science (PhDs). Between us, we extensively reviewed the scientific literature and were able to identify new routes to creating antiperspirant actives. After many experiments and over 50 formula iterations, we set the right level of our efficacy-boosting ingredients.

We found the answer by using microtechnology to combine a known antiperspirant active with two new ingredients. This discovery is now protected by numerous patents of its own, making it completely unique to Unilever.

An image from a Rexona ad, featuring a woman exercising and cans of Rexona 72H MotionSense deodorant. Text reads: Upgrade today: First ever 72H non-stop protection with MotionSense

What were some of the key steps in bringing this new technology into the non-stop protection range?

We performed more than 200 clinical tests to measure sweat reduction, malodour reduction, and sensory and fragrance performance. Many of these were carried out in what we call ‘hot room testing’ where we monitor how a formula delivers wetness protection, also known as sweat rate reduction, in high temperatures over a set amount of time.

We saw that our new formula delivered outstanding results after the standard 48 hours in the hot room, so we decided to push the boundaries and were able to prove that this product was still performing better on day three than regular antiperspirants at the end of day one.

The secret is that the microtechnology ingredients can compact closer together than conventional antiperspirant complexes, to form an extremely effective barrier against sweat.

How did you collaborate with other teams and experts to make this happen?

We designed and achieved a full understanding of our new microtechnology thanks to collaboration with leading institutions, laboratories and universities around the world.

We identified the structure of our new microtechnology by working closely with the UK government-funded Daresbury Laboratory. The quantum modelling techniques employed were the same ones that they use to understand the origins of the universe.

We worked with our Unilever colleagues at the Shanghai Science Centre to understand the kinetics and strength of sweat barrier formation and show how the new technology is superior to conventional technologies.

To show how effective our new technology was when pushed to its limit, we trialled our products with dancers, football players and other people with active lifestyles.

And we worked with dermatologists to guarantee that our formula was gentle to skin, and with our suppliers to ensure they could manufacture this new active in the vast quantities required to meet our market needs.

You created a new tool to measure sweat and it features in some of the product’s ads. Tell us more about SweatSense and how it played a part in product development?

SweatSense was developed by our Science and Technology team in collaboration with the University of Warwick. We know showing is better that telling people how good our formulation is, so we came up with an exclusive, patented tool that can give us a clear measurement of sweat.

It’s the first of its kind. A simple, clear and compelling visual way of showing how much the new product protects people compared with regular antiperspirants. You just apply the sensor to your underarms for five seconds to get results. The more the sensor turns red, the more sweat there is and the lower the antiperspirant efficacy.

And finally, Rexona’s brand purpose is to inspire people to move more, their way. How does this breakthrough support that?

Very simply, the more you move, the more you sweat.

Introducing this incredibly effective formula across the Rexona range is part of our work to re-set the deodorant category, giving everyone the opportunity to move with confidence without worrying about sweat.

We want to help fight the limits imposed by society that result in self-doubt. We make it our business to know more about sweat and what we learn about sweat informs every product innovation to keep people moving. And we’re not done yet.

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