March 23, 2010

Axe Body Spray, marketed to Boys. Its ads are hypersexual, its ingredients secret + toxic. ~ Elizabeth Joseph

Axe Body Spray is marketed to Boys. And its ingredients are secret.

The Further Erosion and Sexualization of Childhood: and this time, it’s Toxic.

Having been a special education teacher for seven years, many a young fella walked, and ran, through my daily life.

I was a 5th grade teacher for six of those years and got to know a few hundred 10 to 12 year-old boys. Boys often start to notice girls right about at this age. At first they deny it, but one cannot help seeing those furtive glances and the blossoming of self-consciousness around the female classmates.

Another development occurs at this age. Boys begin to notice that they smell bad. Usually, they find this out on their own, but then there are those moments of public humiliation when, having taken their shoe off in Mrs. Josephs’ Language Arts class for reading time, the girls start “Ewwwwww”-ing and making remarks about how disgusting the boys are.

This is where Axe comes in.

I found out about Axe the hard way. My male students were coming back from gym class, smelling like pungent, acid-sweet musk oxes in a vain attempt to cover up gym smell. You know the smell. It’s a combination of sweat, urine and mildew. However malodorous the gym smell was, it wasn’t as bad as Axe, which makes me allergic, causing me (and many others, including children) mild to moderate asthmatic difficulties.

Having been assaulted with the stench of Eau du Axe, I banned the product from my classroom. Henceforth, Axe was no longer tolerated around Mrs. Joseph. The boys were disappointed, but had some sense of relief when I polled the females in my classroom and uncovered the truth: most of the girls think the smell of Axe is just as sickening as I do!  The boys were shocked and dismayed to discover that their first foray into babe magnetland had failed. Try again, kid!

Here is a generalized picture of the Axe Boy I refer to, above: He is 11 years old. He has siblings and sometimes a dad at home. His parents are busy and come home late from work, exhausted from stress and lack of sleep.  His breakfast consists of a Pop-Tart and a can of Red Bull or Mountain Dew. Lunch can be many things, but I have seen trays filled with cardboard-y pizza, french fries (the vegetable), a can of soda and apple sauce, which no one eats. The boy stays up until 1am, watching a movie, playing his WII and texting a girl on his cellphone.  He comes in to school tired, sugared up, caffeinated and buzzing. This student does not need a special education class. This student needs detox!

My classes were small, usually 3-7 students. I worked with students who were diagnosed with learning disabilities, ADHD, Asperger’s syndrome, oppositional defiant disorder, and other various and sundry neurological and behavioral disorders. Some of my students clearly did not belong in my classroom. Wondering if aspects of their environment were contributing to their learning behaviors led me to take a look at several things, including the chemical make up of products like Axe.

When I looked into Axe, produced by the global corporation, Unilever, I saw that it comes in various forms, including cologne and deodorant. I found a Wiki definition that informed me Axe is the best selling body spray in the world. It horrified me to find out some of the ingredients in this nefarious solution were bad enough for the rest of us, but especially dangerous for a young kids to come in contact with. The Aluminum Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex Glycine Complex in their deodorant has neurotoxic effects in humans. The body spray contains isopropyl myristate, which is incredibly effective for killing head lice. And butane, which can cause cancer, birth defects and other reproductive harm. But these ingredients are in many products (unfortunately).

After a long search on the internet, including the Unilever website, I cannot find out what ingredients make up the “fragrance” in the product line. It seems to be a deep dark secret. A secret that makes me, and others like me sick.

Perhaps it would be best if we all take a look at what we spray, rub and dab onto our skin. It’s great to eat smart, recycle smart and walk to work, but what about your localized environment?

Your own skin?



Excerpt on the Teenage Body Spray Phenomenon:

…American young men have become apparently addicted to body sprays, Disney offers perfume lines targeting younger and younger consumers…we might all be feeling the impact of an exacerbated youth culture in perfumery…

…Rachel Dodes has an article in the Wall Street Journal on the new wave of teens fragrances and the social implications of this trend, especially vis-à-vis the fragrance-free movement in schools.

… the burst of new scents could exacerbate debates over whether kids in school should be wearing perfumes and colognes at all. School districts in Rhode Island, Minnesota and Massachusetts have recently launched public-service campaigns that target fragrances as potential allergens.

The proponents of curbing or banning fragrances in schools — mostly school officials and legislators in different states — argue that excessive use of scents can trigger asthma attacks and cause headaches. Some workplaces and schools have scent bans in Canada, where strong odors have long been viewed as an air-quality issue.

Kevin Farr, superintendent of the Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical School, in Bourne, Mass., started a campaign last year to educate students about what he says is excessive use of body sprays and perfumes. He says the problem is compounded when kids use them in place of soap. “Kids don’t shower…

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