There are two reasons we habitually apply a barrier to our underarms: sweat and smell. You wouldn’t be the first to assume that the former causes the latter, which means you’re not the first to be wrong.
Sweat actually doesn’t smell. It’s the bacteria that builds up in that little crevice we call an armpit that causes the pong. Of course, this doesn’t take perspiration off the hook – no one likes to look down and discover that telltale half-circle of darkened material on their shirt.
While their names indicate their differences (antiperspirant and deodorizing), they have somehow slipped into the same column. Deodorants have antibacterial agents that help reduce and mask body odor, whereas antiperspirants reduce sweat by using aluminum salts to clog pores and trap perspiration. Some brands combine the two.
Unless you’ve gone as far as Botoxing your underarms (to combat excessive sweating) or are a no-sweat fluke of nature, deodorants have been a constant companion since the age of 14. You’re either in team roll-on or team spray, but not all deodorants are on par.
We know you have better things to do than scour through every product on the shelf, so we’ve worked up a sweat for you. Whatever your underarm gripe, there’s an easy solution.
Try: roll-on or stick
The gel, cream, or wax formulas roll onto your armpits and work better as an antiperspirant than a deodorant alone. Many also have moisturizing agents that can help soothe the underarms. However, if you have severely irritated skin, ask a dermatologist for advice.
Added benefits Great for air travel and less offensive to your fellow gym-goers in the changing room
Cons Avoid if you’re in a rush. They take longer to dry than spray deodorants and can be sticky.
Using pressurized gas, the formula sprays directly and evenly onto your armpit and often contains a scent to mask body odor. Because of the even distribution, your underarms are more protected against perspiration, plus aerosols dry faster, so they won’t transfer onto clothing.
Added benefits Perfect for quick top-ups and can double as a body spray.
Cons If you don’t shake them well enough, you can end up with talc-like residue on the armpits (not good for an LBD!). It can also annoy passers-by who happen to get caught in the line of spray fire.
Try: natural brands (free of parabens)
Natural brands generally use ingredients like citrus and oils to remove odor and are free from aluminum (the yellow-staining culprit) and other commonly used chemicals. You could even try apple cider vinegar. Yep, we’re totally serious – ACV works to absorb and neutralize body odor when dabbed on with a cotton swab. While it won’t block your body’s ability to sweat (although some prefer this method for that very reason), it does work for the smell. The vinegary scent only lasts until it’s dry.
Added benefits Paraben-free products are not only kind to the environment, but they also help reduce chemical contact on the skin.
Cons Prolonged use can cause staining, and scented oils can irritate broken skin.