Deodorant Questions
March 9, 2009 7:35 PM   Subscribe

Tell me about deodorant.

As someone in my 20s, I feel silly asking these questions, but I've never been able to smell myself very well and therefore don't really know how to answer them.

1. Which deodorants brands and types are generally most effective?
2. For deodorant sticks, how many swipes do you use under each armpit? (Swipe = 1 motion, up or down.)
3. Besides asking a friend, is there any way to tell if you stink?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (42 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
you don't need an anti-perspirent. Sweat is natural, and healthy.
2-5 swipes. (2 is enough, but it feels so cooling.)
you should be able to smell funk if you shower on a regular basis.
wash the pits about every 24 hours.
apply deodorant.
don't sniff pits in public.
If you are this fresh you have nothing to worry about.
posted by dawson at 7:42 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

1. Well, you either have Anti-Perspiration, Deodorant, or both. The one that works best is the both, because anti-perspiration gunk plugs your sweat glands with some sort of aluminum so you just sweat less. Some peoples' skin get bothered by it, I haven't had any problems. The deodorant part of it gives it the smell. I like Axe Kilo, cause I like it.

2. I go 3 or 4.

3. Sniff it!
posted by Mach5 at 7:46 PM on March 9, 2009

1. CertainDry is great, it's a big unusual though - it's an antiperspirant you apply it at night, and it'll work for two to three days afterwards. It's awesome. No sweat, and hence no smell. Just don't apply it right after a shower or it'll sting.
2. Uh, whatever you feel is depositing a reasonable amount.
3. Ask your mom. She'll be honest.

Now for a few more opinions: sweat is natural, but it's also annoying. Like periods. If you can suppress either I consider it a win. Deodorant is available in unscented varieties, so it's actually doing something other than adding an extra smell; I believe it's basically an antibacterial. Personally I hate the smells of all deodorants, so I think the unscented ones are best for everyone. Of course, if you use the CertainDry mentioned above you won't need a deodorant.
posted by you're a kitty! at 8:02 PM on March 9, 2009

One easy way to use the right amount is use something where you can see how much you're using, like a click-up gel or spray. So you can click up a little less than 1/4 inch and just rub it in until it has a nice even layer.
posted by Madamina at 8:08 PM on March 9, 2009

It depends. Do you sweat a lot? I ask because I don't and I didn't start using deodorant until just a couple of years ago (I'm 30). I had always used either baby powder or just body splash (Victoria's Secret Vanilla Lace, if you want to know) or nothing at all. I didn't exactly start stinking up the place, but I did notice that I was sweating more as I approached my late 20s. I made a gradual transition to deodorant (Tom's of Maine [unscented] just because an old boyfriend had left it at my house) and just two swipes does the trick. I don't like the idea of antiperspirants because you're SUPPOSED to sweat. It's one of the ways the body gets rid of icky toxins and whatnot. But I also have the luxury of not sweating too much, and certainly less than the average person. A good friend will tell you if you stink. And you should probably notice if you stink, but if you shower regularly with soap and wear clean clothes, you shouldn't be too stinky.

Good luck!
posted by cachondeo45 at 8:10 PM on March 9, 2009

I use an antiperspirant (Mitchum Smart Solid). The gunk Mach5 mentioned is aluminium zirconium tetrachlorohydrex gly. AZG clogs pores so they won't release sweat, and absorbs any sweat that does get released. I don't care for most scents that get used in body products, so I use unscented.

Over time, AZG will turn the pits of your white t-shirts yellow, and your dark t-shirts white. There is no known method for removing these stains. I always wear an undershirt with my nice shirts.

There are "natural" deodorants like Tom's of Maine, and some that is in rock crystal form that you wet and rub on your skin. These have not worked for me and left me smelling worse.* The smooth rock crystal dissolves unevenly, leaving sharp jagged edges.

*If you develop an underarm stink that you just can't wash off, rubbing alcohol will do the trick.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:29 PM on March 9, 2009

If you eat clean, don't smoke, drink or eat meat, work out regularly and take a shower when you sweat, you'll smell good naturally and won't need to load on the chemicals every day. If you ever feel less than fresh, a dab of hand sanitizer gel works great.
posted by aquafortis at 8:40 PM on March 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

If you eat clean, don't smoke, drink or eat meat, work out regularly and take a shower when you sweat, you'll smell good naturally and won't need to load on the chemicals every day. If you ever feel less than fresh, a dab of hand sanitizer gel works great.

Don't do this. There's a reason for the 'smell hippie' stereotype.
posted by unixrat at 8:47 PM on March 9, 2009 [6 favorites]

I also drink liquid chlorophyll, which functions as an internal deodorant. After awhile, even your farts won't smell bad. Chlorofresh tastes pretty good, too.
posted by aquafortis at 8:55 PM on March 9, 2009

Uh? Hippies who smell do drugs and don't bathe.
posted by aquafortis at 8:58 PM on March 9, 2009

I sweat an unbelievable amount during the downstate Illinois summer. Just walking across the parking lot is enough to give me pit stains. So I'm pretty religious about my antiperspirant. It's just like those old Sure commercials; the ones where the girl raises her arm and then thinks twice about it. I really don't want to think about it.

But if you don't sweat a lot then there's no reason to get the antiperspirant.

1. I usually just use Speed Stick, although sometimes I mix it up. Really, they all work just as well.
2. Two swipes at most. Sometimes during winter only one.
3. I think once you start using deodorant you'll know if you smell. If I forget usually I can tell by mid-day. Probably not something anyone else notices, but I start to. Just quick wiffs of "Is that me? Ohh... it is!"
posted by sbutler at 8:58 PM on March 9, 2009

I've heard some of those anti-persperants may increase risk for breast cancer. link
posted by delmoi at 9:00 PM on March 9, 2009

You have antiperspirant (containing Aluminum something as an active), or deodorant (which is intended to mask odor but not block sweat).

Crystal deodorants, which are salt crystals that reportedly block sweat (though I don't believe they are called antiperspirants) and therefore prevent funky odors, are growing in popularity. You'll find a wide array at your local Whole Foods.

So-called clinical underarm products contain higher levels of active and are typically packaged in a box. The NYT recently had an article on them.

By the way, are you male or female? I've never been brand loyal, but as a girl, I am a big fan of Teen Spirit these days. It's an AP, but the branding is just way too fun.
posted by pearl228 at 9:01 PM on March 9, 2009

Let me give you some really sound advice that's going to sound tinfoil hattish, but so be it: there are toxic and problematic chemicals in all kinds of body products, and deodorants are no exception. Since you're at the very beginning of exploring what products you want to use, do yourself a favour: go into the process without preconceived notions built on advertising and what you saw in your parents' medicine cabinets. Start with products that score well in the Skin Deep database. Something low hazard will work for your pits without containing hormone mimickers, endocrine disruptors, and carcinogens.

Just to give you a sense of "regular" products' toxicity ratings - here are some you might have heard of:
Old Spice

Speed Stick

Right Guard

Not so awesome to be smearing this stuff onto a lymph-dense part of your bod. Be aware of ingredients and choose first to do yourself no harm, then find a product that works for your body chemistry. No matter what you start with you'll probably go through at least a few brands before you find something that really clicks, so why not start & stay with safe products.

(I'm heading the research on a book about green body products right now; the research is terrifying; please, please, please stay away from BPA, phthalates, flame retardants - seriously.)
posted by Mrs Hilksom at 9:14 PM on March 9, 2009 [8 favorites]

Seconding Mitchum.

When I was fourteen and going through puberty, my body decided to become a little stinkbomb for a while there (thanks, God. First one to get boobs—which was not so fun in fifth grade, mind you—and I stank right when I hit high school). My high school gym teacher (bless her!) knew what was going on and recommended the kind of Mitchum that comes in a tub (it's more effective than the stick), thereby saving my high school social status from certain ruin.

This is really heavy duty stuff, though. If you sweat a normal amount (i.e., you only noticeably sweat through your shirt during the summer or while exercising), you can almost certainly go with something less powerful (and if you sweat very little, go with just a deodorant, like dawson said).

As for knowing when you stink, well, the only way to really know is to ask someone. Chances are, if you were really foul, a friend would tell you, but if you're merely unpleasant, they might not.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:16 PM on March 9, 2009

I always sweat more with anti-perspirant than with regular deodorant (or nothing). Therefore, I use regular deodorant. The other advantage is that I don't get those nasty yellow spots on my shirts.

I usually use some version of Old Spice, but that's just based on what I like to smell (not regular scent, though, because then you'll smell like Old Guy).

Tom's of Maine is awful deodorant that left me smelling worse than not using anything at all.

Gel deodorant is like putting cold snot on your armpits.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:24 PM on March 9, 2009

i don't have a whole lot to add, but i will reemphasize that the first one you pick off the shelf might not be the one that works best for you. get one, try it for a week or two, and if it doesn't seem to be working, go buy another one and try for a week or two. repeat as needed until you find one that works.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 9:26 PM on March 9, 2009

Seconding "don't use any."

Though on rare occasions -- purel.
posted by rr at 9:28 PM on March 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

Is your inability to smell yourself well a feature of your nose or your armpits? Can you smell other things OK? If you can, then maybe you're just not much of a stinker. At some point in your young life, you would have discovered B.O. if your nose worked OK and if you had B.O. I still remember Mrs. Palmer saying in 5th grade that "people" needed to start thinking about wearing deodorant. Not naming any names. Then I remember the day in 6th or 7th grade when I kept thinking "Somebody stinks!" all day until I realized it was me! You can't miss it. So that's when I started. Ask a close friend or family member if they've ever noticed you smelling. Then don't shower one day and ask them to give you a test whiff.

As for sweating, I don't care if it's natural, I don't want it, so it's deo/antipersp for me. As for effectiveness, you'll find that a lot of people have a lot of opinions on a lot of different brands. They seem to work differently for different people. If you're not much of a stinker, you'd probably be fine with just about any normal brand and don't need any of the nuclear stuff. I'm a Degree "Cool Rush" man myself. Fresh without being too noticeable or cloying.

I do 3 or 4 swipes just to make sure I'm all covered through the hair.
posted by Askr at 9:29 PM on March 9, 2009

I would love to not have to use anti-perspirant. Unfortunately, despite regular showering, eating healthy, exercising a bunch on a regular basis, and wearing breathable, natural clothing, I still sweat, and it smells like day old kitty litter, to boot. So, you'll likely thank me for putting on the Mitchum unscented gel stuff. It works well for keeping me socially acceptable. Whether or not you need it, I don't know. Maybe you can try working up a big sweat while wearing a tee shirt, take tee shirt off for a few hours and give it a whiff? With the gel thing, it's more that a bit goops out (small amount!) and you squish it around in your armpit area.

There are some people whom will just sweat excessively & possibly smell without it, despite what was suggested upthread. Chances are, if you are usually particularly ripe, someone would have let you know already, so it shouldn't be that bad.
posted by kellyblah at 9:54 PM on March 9, 2009

I don't use an anti-perspirant -- the thought of shoving aluminum flakes into my pores kind of creeps me out.

But I've always used deodorant of some sort. Recently after my sensitive skin developed a rash from a new scent of Speed Stick -- Swagger, "the Official Scent of Confidence," according to the container -- I switched to Toms of Maine, which uses hops. I really couldn't be happier. It's a different smell, one that reminds me of other shoppers at Whole Foods, but I kind of like it.

My wife and my officemate, both of whom I have no problem talking about B.O. with and would ask in a heartbeat, have not reported offense to it yet.

Like the TofM toothpaste I switched to years ago, once you get started on the less plastic-y fake scent stuff it's hard to go back to Axe.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 10:05 PM on March 9, 2009

Just to throw in my two cents, I recently switched from conventional deodorant to Burt's Bees deodorant and really like it. The smell is much more natural, owing to the ingredients and I like that it doesn't stop you from sweating, which is one of the ways the body rids itself of impurities. I must admit that I get a little funky as the day wears on, but I personally like the way I smell when I'm funky so it's not a big deal. YMMV.
posted by friendlyjuan at 10:34 PM on March 9, 2009

Seconding "don't use any."

Though on rare occasions -- purel.
posted by rr at 12:28 AM on March 10

Seconding - please don't do this. There was someone in my office that either did this purposefully or accidentally - unclear why - and just stank up the place. People would go out of their way to avoid him. Please at least use deodorant.

I use Degree personally, good smell, good antiperspirant - and I'm not sure why someone wouldn't use it because it 'creeps them out'. That just doesn't fly with me as a valid medical reason.

From the link

However, researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), a part of the National Institutes of Health, are not aware of any conclusive evidence linking the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and the subsequent development of breast cancer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates food, cosmetics, medicines, and medical devices, also does not have any evidence or research data that ingredients in underarm antiperspirants or deodorants cause cancer.
posted by jourman2 at 10:43 PM on March 9, 2009

The only time I sweat is when I'm working out. I shower every morning, use minimal products in my hair, and never wear perfume. I don't use deodorant or antiperspirant of any kind, and I never have (barring those few years when it was a status of Puberty). I do not smell like a dirty hippie, there is no funk about me. I have a partner and friends and family would would blatantly tell me if I did, and I can always smell a difference after I have worked out.

All this to say: each person is different. Brand X will work best for some people, brand Y for others. Some people need to layer it on, some only need a dab. Best way to find out what works for you is to try things until you're happy.
posted by rhapsodie at 10:52 PM on March 9, 2009

From delmoi's own link purporting to show a cancer/deodorant link: There is no conclusive research linking the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and the subsequent development of breast cancer,
posted by scody at 11:42 PM on March 9, 2009

From delmoi's own link purporting to show a cancer/deodorant link: There is no conclusive research linking the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and the subsequent development of breast cancer

There were two "key points" and you quoted one. These are the two key points
1) There is no conclusive research linking the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and the subsequent development of breast cancer (see Question 1).

2) Research studies of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and breast cancer have been completed and provide conflicting results (see Question 3).
Here's part of question three:
Findings from a different study examining the frequency of underarm shaving and antiperspirant/deodorant use among 437 breast cancer survivors were released in 2003 (7). This study found that the age of breast cancer diagnosis was significantly earlier in women who used these products and shaved their underarms more frequently
Because studies of antiperspirants and deodorants and breast cancer have provided conflicting results, additional research is needed to investigate this relationship and other factors that may be involved.
So two studies didn't find a link, and one found that there was a relationship between deodorant and earlier onset of breast cancer. They go on to say that more research is needed. The takeaway is certainly not that there is no risk, but that it's an issue scientists are still studying.
posted by delmoi at 12:05 AM on March 10, 2009

Some people's natural body odor smells much better than the drug store. (And no, I'm not talking about hippies. I live in San Francisco, I know what I'm talking about. Hippystink--Ew.)

Unfortunately I don't have any guidelines on whether you're one of those people. If not:

1) Mitchum. Go antiperspirant, deodorant just tires to cover it, leading to smells like hippystink.

2) Once up once down.

3) Go with your gut. If you did something and sweat a lot, do a quick shower and change. Your own nose is terrible at smelling yourself.
posted by Ookseer at 12:09 AM on March 10, 2009

Singingfish uses and recommends deodorant from Lush.
posted by singingfish at 12:42 AM on March 10, 2009

All deodorants, unless they specifically state that they don't - contain aluminum.

There's enough stuff out there on the subject, I'm just quoting one of the sources. It would serve everyone well to get educated on the matter.
posted by watercarrier at 2:50 AM on March 10, 2009

The best way to check if you stink: Stick your head in your shirt. Or, take off the shirt and smell the pits. Easy enough.

It would have helped to include if you're a dude or a lady. Dudes actually can get fancy with the deodorant - many men's colognes come in deodorant form, all of which work with alcohol, so I guess it's like a classier version of smearing Purell on your pits.

For ladies: I'm totally 100% brand loyal to Dove. I use the one that says "Fresh" or something because I hate smelling like a baby's butt. I also like the cucumber/green tea scent.

I think most drugstore men's deodorants can be ambigenderous. I had an ex-girlfriend who wore Speed Stick and it was super sexy.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:18 AM on March 10, 2009

Also: If you're a lady, you're gonna stink more if you don't shave your armpits. Just how it is. If you're going that route because you're feeling natural, Tom's of Maine makes deodorant that works ok. (In my experience, I had to reapply at least once a day, but other than that, it kept the stench at bay.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:20 AM on March 10, 2009

Don't be that "smelly" guy or gal in the office. Please use deodorant. Of course, this is somewhat dependent on where you live. If you live in a "western" country, definitely use it. A person will very quickly lose the ability to smell themselves, so even if you test it out by giving a whiff, if you have never used deodorant before, you won't notice your own stink.
posted by Grither at 5:12 AM on March 10, 2009

"1. Which deodorants brands and types are generally most effective?

Those labelled as an antiperspirant are better at blocking sweat, deodorants mask the smell. I use regular Mitchum unscented because it's the only unscented non-gel antiperspirant I can buy locally besides Mitchum's smart solid which gives me ichy cracked skin.

"2. For deodorant sticks, how many swipes do you use under each armpit? (Swipe = 1 motion, up or down.)

Essentially enough to cover the area; not all swipes are created equal.

"3. Besides asking a friend, is there any way to tell if you stink? "

People avoid standing next to you on the bus, in the elevator, while walking down the hall, etc.

aquafortis writes "If you eat clean, don't smoke, drink or eat meat, work out regularly and take a shower when you sweat, you'll smell good naturally and won't need to load on the chemicals every day."

Now just to convince my boss to install a shower so I can partake every hour and things will be golden.
posted by Mitheral at 6:22 AM on March 10, 2009

I also use mitchum, but the smart solid works good for me. It's great because no white pit stains but it's not a liquid gel...

Honestly... who uses those liquid gel kinds? They just get my clothes wet.

I had a hard time post-puberty in finding a deoderant / anti perspirant that didnt either a) make me sweat like a pig or b) give me a horrible itchy painful rash within a week of daily use.

So unscented mitchum is where I landed and it's great.

Also, I did try one of those fancy crystal dealies once, and despite being an anti-perspirant, I sweated heavily all day long with it.
posted by utsutsu at 6:48 AM on March 10, 2009

The deodorant crystals are an aluminum salt, so if you're worried about anti-perspirants, you'd want to avoid those as well.
posted by electroboy at 7:13 AM on March 10, 2009

I see why there are so many "how do I gently tell my co-worker/SO/friend that they kinda stink" AskMes. No, not everyone can sense their own BO, and your mom or friends may not feel like piping up with this info -- people tend to pass the buck and assume that [other relationship] should be the one to tell you.

Experiment with a few antiperspirants and deodorants (buy some travel sizes if you want) and see what you like -- as you can see from the thread above, people have vastly different preferences regarding gel vs solid vs roll-on and whether their deodorant is also an antiperspirant.

If you sweat enough that your underarms get wet in non-exertion situations, do yourself and your clothes a favor and use some antiperspirant, though. If antiperspirant seems weird to you or is too harsh on your skin, you may be able to get away with using it every several days and use just deodorant the other days.

I'm going to try to stay out of the breast cancer semi-derail, but I will note that proving causation is tremendously complicated, especially when self-reported behavior is a major element, as diagnosis could be happening earlier because these women are paying more attention to their underarms, including willingness to participate in studies, among other factors.)
posted by desuetude at 7:49 AM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

1. I have no evidence for which deodorants/anti-perspirants work best generally, but I tried a number of options before ending up using Degree for Men. Since switching to this brand I have had no problems.

2. One swipe works for me.

3. Since you say your sense of smell is not that good, I think asking a friend would be the best way.
posted by hworth at 7:51 AM on March 10, 2009

Mitchum unscented roll-on. Really effective and none of the LL Cool J berries.
posted by electroboy at 8:06 AM on March 10, 2009

I'm a big fan of the crystal sticks--they work great for me. I put some on after I shower at night, and it keeps me non-stinky all through the next day.

If I'm going to do anything especially sweaty-making, though, I'll occasionally splash on a bit of Dr. Bronner's All-One Crazy-People-Nut-Jobs soap. Which I realize makes me sound like one of those crazy people nut jobs, but I swear that it works. My husband uses it sometimes, too, and I'd argue that he smells better with Dr. Bronner than he does with regular deodorant/antiperspirant. Just put a few drops of Dr. Bronner's on a damp washcloth and then wipe your pits with it. (Warning: if you shave your armpits, don't do this after shaving.)

Finally, all these people who are saying "one swipe" are surprising me--I've always felt that it takes at least a few swipes, regardless of the brand/type of deodorant.
posted by MeghanC at 8:08 AM on March 10, 2009

There's enough stuff out there on the subject, I'm just quoting one of the sources.

That's not really a source. That's pretty much a blog entry.
posted by electroboy at 11:09 AM on March 10, 2009

In defense of gel deodorants: put it on after you get out of the shower and let it dry before you get dressed. I walk around in a towel for a while to let my lotion dry too, so it's no inconvenience.

I don't understand the chalky solid crap -- now that stuff gets all over my clothes.
posted by edrnjevich at 11:08 PM on March 10, 2009

I've used a vast number of anti-perspirants and while some stop the dampness better than others, there is not one that will completely do away with the stank, including Certain Dri.

I have found a stank solution that works, though, and it's cheap and natural and readily available: baking soda. Helps to mix it with some cornstarch to soften it some. I haven't been brave enough to use it alone yet, but when used with any of my anti-p's - no matter what their strength is - I stay smelling fresh all day. I keep a little plastic container of this mixture in the bathroom and apply with a cotton ball, being sure to lightly dust the entire pit area. Doesn't take a huge amount.
posted by lucyleaf at 9:38 AM on March 13, 2009

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