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There’s nothing more embarrassing than a strong, noticeable body odor. It’s one thing to smell a bit unpleasant after working out, but quite another to shower and apply deodorant only to find you still smell.
If you’ve found yourself in this unfortunate predicament, the good news is that there’s hope. With the right deodorant, you can beat body odor and smell fresh all day. Here are some of the best deodorants for smelly armpits.
First on the list is Blu Atlas’s deodorant, a great-smelling option and the winner of an AskMen Grooming Award. This formula is free of aluminum, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. Blu Atlas combines premium, natural ingredients to create an effective odor killer that’s still gentle on the skin.
So how does it work? Porous volcanic ash helps to absorb sweat and impurities in the skin, horsetail extract soothes irritation, and bamboo stem extract’s naturally antibacterial and antimicrobial properties kill off odor-causing bacteria. You can also choose your favorite fragrance (or lack thereof)—it’s available in Classic, Coconut Apricot, and Fragrance-Free.
Extra odor calls for extra control. Harry’s Extra-Strength Antiperspirant can handle even the sweatiest of armpits. It rolls on smoothly without leaving white residue. Harry’s even claims that it gives you 48-hour odor protection. While it does contain aluminum, it’s a paraben-free formula.
Even though it offers high-powered odor control, this deodorant still manages to soothe your skin. It’s made with allantoin, a compound that calms irritated skin.
Some people think that any ultra-strong deodorant will be loaded with harmful chemicals. That may be true in some cases, but it’s not with this one. Carpe’s clinically-proven formula contains no parabens, phthalates, or formaldehyde. It’s also cruelty-free.
The fact that it’s a lotion might give some people pause. It’s understandable, as a greasy film in your armpits sounds highly uncomfortable! However, this is a quick-drying formula that is non-greasy and leaves no residue. Carpe claims that you can avoid sweat entirely with this formula. That sounds a little far-fetched, but the company is willing to back up that claim: if you’re dissatisfied, it offers you a money-back guarantee.
You might remember Lume’s comical ad campaign from a few years back. This ultra-strong deodorant is designed for your whole body, so it’s a good choice if you’re worried about odor from more than just your armpits. Lume claims its formula kills odor-causing bacteria, making it possible for you to smell fresher for longer. It also claims its deodorant can control odor for an incredible 72 hours.
Lume also manages to do this with an aluminum-free formula—not an easy task! It offers products in a huge variety of different scents (including unscented) and regularly releases new ones.
This powerful deodorant uses Mitchum’s own Triple Odor Defense technology. That means that it shields you from motion, heat, and stress-related sweat. It’s a solid stick deodorant that goes on completely clear, so there’s no need to worry about pesky white residue on your clothes (or your armpits). This deodorant also defends against sweat and odor for an impressive 48 hours. It’s dermatologist tested, too!
You might wonder why this deodorant has “AM” in the name. That’s because it’s part of a three-step sweat protection system. This antiperspirant and deodorant is the first step, and it’s how you start your day. The second step is a deep-cleaning, deodorizing wash designed to clean your pores and kill odor-causing bacteria. The third step is an antiperspirant gel you apply at night.
Of course, you don’t have to get the whole system if you don’t want to, as the Duradry antiperspirant/deodorant works impressively well on its own. But if you do find you like the system, you can round it out with some of Duradry’s other sweat-controlling products, like antiperspirant wipes and body powder.
“Clinical protection” is certainly a buzzword in the deodorant world. It means that a given deodorant has the maximum allowed amount of an active ingredient (unless you count prescription deodorants). So, if you want a really strong deodorant, it’s the way to go.
Degree Clinical Protection has a bit of an edge over its competition thanks to its MotionSense technology. Once you apply it, the deodorant is designed to release extra fragrance each time you move. We like that it’s available in a strong “Summer Strength” version as well!
Many of the best deodorants for smelly armpits we’ve included have been solids. But if you’re someone who prefers the spray-on kind, Certain Dri’s Clinical Strength one is the answer. Spray deodorants do have some advantages—they dry more quickly, and if you want to cover more than just your armpits, they’re easier to apply.
We like that Certain Dri is the #1 doctor-recommended deodorant for those with excessive sweating. Thanks to its 25% aluminum chlorohydrate concentration, it can stop sweat before it even starts!
Old Spice is known for its scents, and this deodorant features a very pleasant sandalwood and bergamot fragrance. But the best part of Fresher Defense is its odor-controlling abilities. This clear blue solid rolls on smoothly without leaving any kind of white residue, and Old Spice claims it protects you from odor for a full 48 hours.
It’s important to note that this product is just a deodorant, and it has no antiperspirant properties. It’s aluminum-free and a good option if you don’t have issues with excessive sweating but do have issues with persistent odor.
From the name alone, you can see that this deodorant works hard to fight sweat and odor! RightGuard says it’s a new and improved 5-in-1 formula that includes more sweat blockers. The company also claims that it will protect you from odor for up to 72 hours.
Despite its strength, XTreme Defense 5 still goes on clear and dries fast. It’s a great option if you deal with serious sweat and odor and need a deodorant that can conquer both once and for all.
Dr. Squatch makes great all-natural deodorants for men who want to avoid aluminum and other chemicals. It uses arrowroot powder, charcoal, and probiotics to absorb sweat and improve your skin microbiome. Charcoal and probiotics are fairly common ingredients in other natural deodorants, but arrowroot powder might sound unfamiliar. It’s a highly absorbent powder that can absorb sweat as it appears. So, even though Dr. Squatch’s deodorant isn’t technically an antiperspirant, it can still reduce the amount of sweat and wetness you feel.
It's always fun to try different scents, and we like that Dr. Squatch has plenty of versions of this deodorant. You can try Summer Citrus, Cool Fresh Aloe, Alpine Sage, Fresh Falls, Pine Tar, and more.
FAQs: Finding the Right Deodorant for Your Smelly Armpits
What’s the difference between antiperspirant and deodorant?
Just about every antiperspirant works as a deodorant, but not all deodorants work as antiperspirants. An antiperspirant blocks your pores to stop you from sweating. And if there’s no sweat, there’s (hopefully) no odor.
Deodorants, on the other hand, don’t do anything to reduce the amount you sweat. Rather, they make your skin acidic. Acidity makes it harder for odor-causing bacteria to live and grow, so you won’t smell as much. Most deodorants also include some type of fragrance to mask any odor you still have.
The difference between the two can be a bit confusing, as many people just colloquially refer to both as “deodorant.” Because they reduce sweating, antiperspirants tend to be better at controlling odor. Virtually every clinical-strength deodorant has powerful antiperspirant properties.
How does deodorant work?
Most of us use some form of deodorant, but not all of us know how it works. The way your deodorant or antiperspirant works depends on the active ingredient:
Various forms of aluminum are what stop you from sweating when you use an antiperspirant. Aluminum plugs your pores, making it so sweat can’t escape your underarms.
Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) can be found in some types of deodorant. They don’t stop you from sweating, but they lower your skin’s pH to make it more acidic. Bacteria that cause odors don’t do well in very acidic environments, and you produce less odor as a result.
Baking soda is found in some natural deodorants, and it works in a couple of different ways. For one, it’s highly absorbent, so it can reduce wetness from sweat. It’s also especially good at neutralizing odors. If you’ve ever used an open box of baking soda to reduce the odor in a refrigerator, you already know!
However, baking soda can be very drying, likely because it has such a basic pH. Some people with sensitive skin develop rashes, itchiness, uncomfortable dryness, and other side effects when using baking soda deodorants.
Arrowroot powder and volcanic ash are gentler baking soda alternatives. Both are highly absorbent, but they feel softer and are much less drying than baking soda.
Volcanic ash, in particular, can make applying deodorant easy. It’s slightly slippery, so it might make applying a natural deodorant feel more like applying a traditional deodorant. Arrowroot powder is great for soothing the skin, so if your skin is extra sensitive, you might find that it works well for you.
What’s so bad about aluminum?
If you’ve already begun shopping for deodorants, you may have noticed that many of them note they’re aluminum-free. Aluminum isn’t found in true deodorants (those without antiperspirant properties), but it’s what makes antiperspirants work.
When the aluminum in an antiperspirant makes contact with your sweat, it becomes a wet, gel-like substance. That substance then covers and blocks your pores, preventing sweat from getting through. Add the pleasant scent of most antiperspirants to the mix, and you’ll smell fresh all day.
That said, aluminum can cause some issues. Some people say that it causes cancer. This hasn’t been proven, but some research indicates that very high exposure to aluminum may be linked to breast cancer. Other research suggests that the human body absorbs a negligible amount of aluminum through antiperspirant use. Ultimately, more research needs to be done before anything is determined for sure.
Aluminum can cause other, less severe issues too:
Skin irritation can occur when your pores are clogged day in and day out, and you may even develop pimples in your armpits. You also can notice rashes, redness, and itchiness. However, it’s possible that skin irritation is caused by fragrances and other potential allergens as opposed to aluminum.
Overheating can also happen when your sweat ducts are plugged. Underarm sweat can be smelly and embarrassing, but it does serve a purpose: we evolved to sweat so we can cool ourselves down. While you can sweat elsewhere on your body, plugging the pores in your armpits can still cause problems. Overheating won’t become an issue for the vast majority of people, but if you live or work in very hot conditions, it might.
Staining isn’t a health concern, but it is an inconvenient effect of deodorants containing aluminum. If you’ve ever noticed yellow pit stains on your favorite white shirt, aluminum may be to blame. When it mixes with sweat, aluminum can create yellow-tinted stains that are almost impossible to get out. Additionally, if you use invisible solid deodorant and have ever gotten it on a black shirt, you know that white marks are hard to get rid of, too!
Should I get paraben-free deodorant?
Parabens can be found in almost every type of personal care product. Their main purpose is to slow the growth of mold and bacteria. However, research has indicated that they can disrupt the endocrine system. Many researchers think they are likely carcinogens, although that has not yet been proven.
The European Union has banned five different parabens from being used in cosmetics, but so far, all parabens are still legal in the United States. Still, some people understandably prefer to avoid these potentially harmful chemicals and go paraben-free.
Fortunately, identifying paraben-free deodorants is pretty easy. Because being paraben-free is a great way to stand out from the competition and draw in health-conscious customers, many companies will prominently indicate it on the product packaging.
What does “clinical strength” mean?
The term “clinical strength” is a little misleading—it just means a deodorant contains the maximum amount of the active ingredient (a form of aluminum) you can get over the counter. If clinical strength deodorant still isn’t enough to control sweating, odor, or both, your next step would be to seek out prescription deodorant.
Prescription deodorants either use more concentrated forms of aluminum or include it in a higher concentration. You might wonder why deodorant would be regulated this way. The reason is that stronger forms and/or higher concentrations of aluminum can cause severe itching, burning, and swelling in some people. They also can cause potentially dangerous reactions.
What’s the difference between “invisible solid” and “soft solid” deodorant?
The difference between solid, gel, and spray deodorants is pretty obvious. But the difference between invisible solid and soft solid is less clear. Invisible solid deodorant is a single solid stick that goes on clear. Soft solid deodorant is more like a solid that’s slightly powdery. It usually comes up through a set of holes, which you then apply like an invisible solid.
Soft solids will sometimes leave more of a residue than an invisible solid. But in many cases, they are gentler on your skin.
How can I get the most out of my deodorant?
Using deodorant seems easy enough: you roll (or spray) it on, and you’re ready to go. But if you suffer from especially smelly armpits, it’s worth looking at how you use your deodorant to see if something needs to change.
To start, make sure your armpits are clean and dry before applying deodorant. Ideally, you’d apply it right after showering (but not when your armpits are still wet!). Skincare experts recommend applying it at night rather than in the morning, but if you shower in the mornings, there’s nothing wrong with applying your deodorant afterward.
If you use stick deodorant, aim to give each armpit two or three strokes. Start at the center and work outward, covering the whole thing. If your deodorant feels wet after applying, give it a few minutes to dry before getting dressed. This can help make sure it absorbs into your skin, and it can also help you avoid bothersome white or yellow marks on your clothing.
If you use spray deodorant, make sure you shake it before applying. This will ensure you get all of the ingredients mixed together and onto your armpits. Then you can spray it on, holding it a few inches away from your armpit. Make sure you cover everything thoroughly. Aim for a two-second spray on each side.
Gel deodorant is a little different. If you’re using gel deodorant, push out a little bit. Rub the gel into each armpit for roughly 10 seconds, making sure it thoroughly absorbs. Only use as much as you need—if you use too much, it may not absorb properly, and it can create an unpleasant film.
How often should I apply deodorant?
You’ve probably noticed that many deodorants and antiperspirants claim to work for 48 or even 72 hours. But if you frequently battle armpit odor, you might wonder if applying more frequently is a good idea.
Both deodorant and antiperspirant work best if you put them on before you start to sweat. But if you find you need a touch-up during the day, there’s nothing wrong with re-applying. If you’re very sweaty, though, neither is likely to work well, as the sweat dilutes them. If you’re sweaty and can’t take a shower immediately, try using a cleansing wipe, waiting for your armpits to dry, and then re-applying.
Keep in mind that deodorant can be very irritating to your skin, and the risk of irritation increases the more you apply it. Your deodorant might not cause any problems when you apply it once daily, but if you start re-applying three times a day, you might start to notice redness and irritation.
Can I use deodorant on the rest of my body?
That depends on the deodorant. Some brands advertise their products as whole-body deodorants. Others say to apply it to underarms only. Generally, deodorants without antiperspirant can be applied anywhere, but antiperspirant is only applied to the underarms.
Applying antiperspirant elsewhere can cause a few issues. If you block all or most of your sweat glands, it becomes very easy to overheat. Blocking all of your pores can also result in acne and even boils. An armpit pimple or two won’t bother most people, but visible bumps elsewhere on the body might.
Some areas of skin are more sensitive than others, and some antiperspirant ingredients can be quite harsh. As a result, applying it across your entire body might not be a great idea.
Does “natural” deodorant actually work?
Out of concern for their health, lots of people consider switching to natural deodorants and other personal care products. However, many of them hesitate, wondering whether these alternative deodorants work (or work as well as traditional antiperspirants/deodorants).
In many cases, natural deodorant does work, and works well. It usually absorbs sweat instead of preventing it, which can certainly cut down on odor. If you’re someone who sweats excessively due to a condition like hyperhidrosis, a natural deodorant may not be enough. Prescription deodorants prescribed to those with hyperhidrosis contain different forms of aluminum, the ingredient that is most effective at stopping sweat.
However, keep in mind that not every deodorant labeled “natural” is actually free of harmful ingredients. Some less-than-scrupulous companies simply use it as a marketing term. Although it can be tedious, reading through the ingredient list and looking up any ingredients you don’t recognize is the best way to determine whether a given deodorant is good for you.
Should I shave my armpits if they smell?
Traditionally, men have not shaved their armpits. But if you’re a man (or woman) with armpit hair who has also noticed severe body odor, shaving them is a great idea. Multiple studies have indicated that people who shave their armpits have less body odor than people who don’t.
The reason behind this is simple: body hair traps body odor. When you sweat, bacteria grow, causing body odor. Armpit hair traps the sweat in your underarms, and it also creates the ideal space for bacteria to thrive. As a result, people with armpit hair are likely to experience increased body odor.
What if my armpits still stink?
You might be discouraged if even the best deodorants for smelly armpits seem like they can’t touch yours. If you have tried the best over-the-counter deodorants and the best prescription ones, there are several treatment options you can explore with your doctor:
Botulinum toxin injections aren’t just used for cosmetic reasons. A very mild form of botulinum toxin may be able to reduce severe sweating in your armpits. With this procedure, a doctor will inject the medication into your armpits (often in multiple places).
The toxin blocks one of the chemicals that stimulate your sweat glands for about 4-6 months. If you find that this treatment works, you can get regular treatments to reduce sweat and odor.
Prescription wipes are a topical option you may want to try before botulinum toxin injections. These wipes contain glycopyrronium tosylate, an ingredient that may be able to reduce or eliminate sweating.
You might not think a topical wipe could have side effects, but this one is so strong that it can. You may notice dry mouth, stinging, redness, or burning.
Electromagnetic treatment is a very new option whose long-term effects are still being studied. If your doctor offers it, it may be worth trying. The doctor uses a handheld device that aims electromagnetic energy at your armpits. It destroys the sweat glands.
However, scientists don’t yet know if this is a permanent treatment. They also don’t know what long-term side effects the treatment may have.
Prescription medication is an option that has been around a lot longer. It’s usually only used for hyperhidrosis (a medical condition where you sweat excessively). The medication stops your sweat glands from working normally.
As you may have guessed, this treatment can be dangerous for some people. If you’re an athlete or live or work in a very hot area, you might find that your body is not able to completely cool itself down. Some people also get dry eyes or dry mouth.
Surgery is an absolute last resort. If none of the above treatments have worked, your doctor may perform a surgery where the sweat glands are completely removed from your armpits. However, because sweat glands elsewhere on your body still work, you should still be able to cool yourself down if you overheat.
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