How to Get Rid of Underarm Odor

Your armpits are not complicated, but if you don’t take proper care of them, you may experience sweaty and unpleasant odors. For example, I ruined many, many T-shirts simply because of leaky armpits, because my sweat mixes with antiperspirant, leaving stains. Sometimes these stains remain persistent, forcing me to give up my favorite clothes.

This begs the question not only for me, but for all my sweaty soulmates: How much deodorant or antiperspirant do you need? The answer, unlike your underarms, is a little more complicated than meets the eye.

Difference between deodorant and antiperspirant

First, there is a key difference. Deodorant is different from antiperspirant, at least in theory (most deodorants are antiperspirants nowadays, so you usually get a mixture of them anyway). The antiperspirant is packed with aluminum compounds that clog your sweat glands, so you drip less. A deodorant is more of a scent that prevents pits from smelling.

Adam Mamelak, a dermatologist at Sanova Dermatology, explained in 2015 regarding an antiperspirant that “the percentage of aluminum chloride essentially helps reduce the amount of sweat produced” by temporarily blocking the sweat glands. While antiperspirant has a dual purpose of delaying perspiration and preventing body odor, deodorant is exclusively for the latter. Thus, less sweaty people do not need to use aluminum-based products (which, by the way, can cause health problems if consumed excessively, especially if a person has poor kidney function ).

This may sound unsettling and unexpected, and even if you may have heard that overuse of antiperspirant can lead to breast cancer, these rumors are largely unfounded, according to the American Cancer Society . The only health concern associated with overuse of antiperspirants concerns the aforementioned people with poor kidney function. According to Benjamin Chan, a physician at Penn Family Medicine in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, “aluminum may be more of a concern if you have kidney problems, especially if your kidney function is around 30 percent or less.”

He elaborated on this issue in a 2019 article for the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center:

Excess aluminum in the body can cause bone disease or dementia. Excess aluminum is usually excreted by the kidneys. Thus, people with impaired kidney function cannot filter aluminum quickly enough. However, if you have normal kidney function, they can usually recycle the amount of aluminum from antiperspirants and cosmetics that is absorbed through your skin.

However, you can probably use as much antiperspirant as you want, but using too much is a waste of antiperspirant and your money.

Sweat is actually odorless

While antiperspirants are primarily designed to combat sweat, sweat isn’t the only cause of odor.

“The armpits contain the apocrine and eccrine glands,” says New York City demotologist Rebecca Kleinerman to Lifehacker. “The apocrine glands in the armpits produce a thicker fluid that bacteria on the skin break down and cause bad odor.”

As the Mayo Clinic explains , body odor is a natural waste product of bacteria, which, when combined with sweat, turn into acids.

The apocrine glands are found in areas with hair, such as the armpits and groin. These glands secrete milk fluid when stressed. This liquid is odorless until it mixes with bacteria on your skin.

If you sweat more than usual – like me, who drips from pits even when I just sit here and work – you will probably need antiperspirant deodorant. Fortunately, combinations are available wherever you can buy deodorant.

What is the ideal amount to apply for?

There is no exact protocol for each underarm, and there are no medical studies that accurately indicate the ideal amount of antiperspirant or deodorant to apply. Brands often extol the benefits of their own products when used according to their own supposedly proven methods, but there is no reason to believe that two antiperspirant smears are better than three or four.

Whether or not you suffer from excessive sweating (medically called hyperhidrosis), Dr. Kleinerman advocates a measured approach to deodorant, telling Lifehacker:

Aluminum antiperspirants are designed to be applied with a thin film to the axillary arch; adding more to crumble and flake off is optional as it doesn’t come into contact with the ducts, although deodorant can smell good when you add the scent.

In theory, a conventional over-the-counter antiperspirant should work six to eight hours, Kleinerman said. With regard to prescription drugs, she says, “You can repeat the application every 24 to 48 hours until … sweat control [improves], and then apply a couple of times a week to keep it in check.”

Plus, there is one scientifically proven antiperspirant method to reduce sweating that may seem a little counterintuitive: Applying it at night.

Why would I use it at night?

It sounds strange, but it is common knowledge among dermatologists that applying antiperspirant at night before bed is more effective than applying it before starting the day.

This is what Lifehacker brought up in 2014, and despite this post’s best efforts, it may still be a somewhat overlooked nighttime ritual.

As former Lifehacker staff writer Patrick Allan wrote at the time :

The best time to apply is at night because the sweat glands are less active and the skin is drier. The effect of the ingredients usually lasts about 24 hours and will remain active when you shower in the morning because the pores are still clogged . So, if you haven’t already, change your daily routine and add antiperspirant to your night shift. If you are unsure which deodorant to buy, take a look here .

This knowledge is echoed by Kleinerman, who says that aluminum antiperspirants work by “blocking / hindering the secretion of the eccrine ducts, so it is recommended to apply them at night.”

What about alternative methods of stopping sweating?

If you’ve exhausted all the antiperspirant drugs at your disposal, you are too witty, you may be tempted to inject Botox into your armpit. This can be very effective, albeit temporarily.

Kleinerman tells Lifehacker:

Injectable botox works well for axillary hyperhidrosis by blocking the nerves from releasing a neurotransmitter that stimulates the eccrine glands to secrete sweat. This blockage lasts for about 3 months and then goes away.

As for even more experimental methods, such as using rubbing alcohol to prevent leaks, Kleinerman says he “can temporarily reduce the bacteria on the skin that contribute to bromhidrosis (body odor),” but that won’t work as a long-term solution to stop sweating. …

When it comes to your besieged pits, you need to find a recipe that works for you. But if you’re not the type to use a prescription antiperspirant, or take three or four courses of Botox a year, you can try applying an antiperspirant at night and just deal with sweat if it doesn’t go away.

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