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I Switched to Acid-Based Deodorants, & I’m Never Going Back

Bye-bye, body odor.

Although our prolonged days spent working from home have somewhat upended our grooming routines, I’m guessing that most everyone is still using a daily antiperspirant or deodorant. Even better if you’re testing out a natural deodorant—there are less people around as your body gets used to an aluminum-free formula. But in my experience, there have been few clean options that actually minimize body odors in any significant way. And given that summer temperatures have me sweating the moment I step out the front door, I’ll try anything to fix a stinky armpit. Even…acid?

The newest trend cropping up in the body-care market is inspired by the ever-popular exfoliating toner—think of the cult-classic Biologique Recherche P50, Pixi Glow Tonic, or Josh Rosebrook Daily Acid Toner. Products like these use a blend of alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids—like glycolic and salicylic—to gently exfoliate dead skin cells, dirt, and buildup, leaving you with a soft, smooth canvas. Similarly, when used on your underarms, these ingredients destroy a large portion of odor-causing bacteria.

Alicia Zalka, MD, dermatologist and founder of Surface Deep, explains, “By keeping the skin at an optimal, slightly acidic pH, bacteria, the root cause of odor on skin surfaces, is impeded. These acidic compounds also help reduce some of the oils found in certain parts of the body. These oils, when in the presence of bacteria and dead skin cells, allow odor-causing bacteria to flourish.”

She does stress, however, that it is unsafe to fully strip your skin of bacteria altogether. Your microbiome needs helpful bacteria in order to keep your skin healthy, which is why finding the right balance in formulation is key.

So an acid-based product will help minimize BO, but what about sweating in the first place? Well, you won’t have as much success in that department. Says Dr. Zalka, “Sweat is odorless and colorless. It causes odor only when acted upon by bacteria. Sweating is a necessary body function—why stand in its way?”

Remember that aluminum, the ingredient in many traditional antiperspirants, stops sweat production by clogging your pores and preventing them from releasing that fluid in the first place. You’re better off wearing breathable materials that will help keep your body cool and using a deodorant product to minimize any unwanted smells rather than trying to halt sweat production.

I, as a generally sweaty person, was eager to try this new batch of products specifically made for the underarms (rather than using a facial toner), and I have to say, I’ve been impressed with the results. After I shower and shave, apply my body lotion, and go through my skin-care routine, I apply my preferred product—I’ve been alternating with Dr. Zalka’s Surface Deep Anti-odorant Pads and the Kosas Chemistry AHA Serum Deodorant—and wait a few moments for it to dry. Then I get dressed (with nary a product stain in sight) and go about my business.

Do I still sweat like an Italian grandpa throughout the day? Yes, sadly. Do I have BO? According to my partner, no! I just smell like me—plus whatever fragrance I feel like wearing. The effects last all day, and unless I’m doing an ungodly amount of physical activity outside, I don’t need to reapply.

I’m almost entirely sold on the idea except for one thing—if I accidentally nick my skin when shaving, it does not feel good to apply an acid on top of the cut. That’s just something to be mindful of in your daily routine, but otherwise, I am a total convert to an acid-based deodorant. But don’t just take my word for it—try out one for yourself!

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