Whole-Body Deodorant Is Having a Moment — but Do You Need It?
There is a universal experience shared by everyone: that occasional moment when you're stretching, reaching, leaning, or bending, and you suddenly get a whiff of something . . . not pleasant. "Is that me?" you wonder.
Typically, the answer is yes, and it usually corresponds with a busy day or an intense workout, aka you were sweating a lot. This is where the newest category in body care — whole-body deodorant — comes into play. Marketed as a way to prevent body odor all over, from under your underarms to between your legs to between your boobs to between your butt cheeks, it's a solution to a problem that you never admitted you had (aloud).
One of the original whole-body deodorants, Lumē ($20), is a cream that can be applied after a shower, while the new Dove Whole Body Deo Anti-Friction Deodorant Stick ($13) and Secret Whole Body Deodorant Spray ($13) are both aluminum-free options. Most whole-body deodorants available on the market claim to work from pits to toes, so whether it's a spray, cream, or stick, you can use it as a replacement for your regular deodorant. Ahead, find out the truth behind your stinky situation, how whole-body deodorants work, and if it's the right product for you.
Where Does Body Odor Come From?
To start, let's unpack the science behind body odor. Double board-certified dermatologist Elizabeth Bahar Houshmand, MD, explains that those stinky smells actually come from bacteria that live on sweaty parts of your body, like your armpits, groin, and feet, and not from the sweat itself. "When you sweat, these bacteria break down certain proteins in your sweat into acids, causing an odor," Dr. Houshmand tells POPSUGAR. "You're more likely to have body odor when your sweat comes from apocrine glands, which release sweat from hair follicles found in your armpits, groin, and pubic area."
Board-certified dermatologist Brooke Jeffy, MD, says that those apocrine glands offer a moist, warm, bacteria-friendly environment, thus more odor. "Sweat itself is odorless, but when bacteria come in contact and metabolize sweat, they can release smelly byproducts."
And the conditions on other parts of the body can also be hospitable to bacteria. "Eccrine sweat glands, which are found on the rest of the body, produce sweat that can also be enjoyed by bacteria and lead to odor," Dr. Jeffy says. It's just not as common.
What Is Whole-Body Deodorant?
A whole-body deodorant, just like your underarm deodorant, is meant to protect against odor. And they are often formulated with powdery ingredients like tapioca starch that can absorb moisture.
"Whole-body deodorants often combine ingredients with antibacterial properties along with moisture-absorbing ones to both reduce bacteria and wetness," Dr. Jeffy says.
Ingredients are a distinguishing factor when it comes to whole-body deodorants vs. your standard underarm deodorant. Dr. Houshmand recommends looking for ingredients like sodium bicarbonate, mandelic acid, tea tree oil, peppermint oil, and eucalyptus oil. "Stay away from fragrances and parabens," she says.
Should You Use a Whole-Body Deodorant?
For most people, it's not necessary. "Regular soap or cleanser is enough," Dr. Houshmand says, but that's not to say it couldn't be useful for those who have a more active lifestyle, work outdoors, or live in a hot environment. "But again, for the average person working indoors, these are not necessary. The ingredients found in some whole-body deodorants may cause irritation to people with sensitive skin."
While Dr. Jeffy agrees that whole-body deodorants could be useful if body odor is a big concern for you, there are other steps you could take before adding another product to your Amazon cart. She recommends bathing daily with antibacterial soap; wearing breathable fabrics like cotton, silk, and wool or synthetic fabrics designed to wick away moisture; and practicing relaxation techniques to help reduce sweating in stressful situations. "And while I hate to say avoid any vegetables, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli can worsen odor in some people, as can red meat, alcohol, asparagus, and spicy foods like garlic and onion," she says.
It really comes down to creating a healthy environment for the skin that's inhospitable to certain bacteria. Bella Skin Beauty's Probiotic Underarm Toner ($28) is an anti-inflammatory underarm toner that lowers the pH level of your skin so the stink-producing bacteria can not survive — something regular cleansers can't do because they're not acidic enough. You could also try at-home remedies like witch hazel or apple cider vinegar to help balance your skin's pH level to prevent the growth of odor-causing bacteria.
That said, there are countless Reddit threads dedicated to the hunt for a good whole-body deodorant, so the problem is not niche. Especially for women who are postpartum or going through perimenopause and who suffer from excess sweat, a whole-body deodorant might help you prevent or reduce body odor, and we're all for it.