Real Question: Can I stop wearing deodorant?
August 28, 2013 7:11 PM   Subscribe

Can I stop wearing deodorant? Also tell me your deodorant stories etc.

I feel like this should have been asked before, but I searched and apparently it hasn't been asked!

Anyways, I have to give you an obligatory backstory: I am a college student without a car, and I am too lazy to go to the store. I hate my deodorant; it keeps pilling up and I think it's either really old or really cheap. It's also the depths of summer. I also sweat, like, buckets even with deodorant. So it's not like deodorant is so great anyways.

But anyway, I heard once that if you stop wearing deodorant after a while you don't need it anymore; is this true? Would you eventually not be as sweaty/smelly? That would be magical? Anyone not wearing deodorant around here?
posted by lhude sing cuccu to Health & Fitness (89 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Don't give it up. What I hear is that you're not particularly fastidious and rely on deodorant to help compensate. So, for your sake and those around you, you should buckle down and stick with it.
posted by 2N2222 at 7:15 PM on August 28, 2013 [10 favorites]


Note that antiperspirant, which prevents sweating, is different from other types of deodorant, which often are mainly scents to mask the smell of sweat.
posted by mbrubeck at 7:15 PM on August 28, 2013 [10 favorites]


Deodorant itself isn't made to make you stop sweating; that's what anti-perspirant does. Deodorant is just meant to minimize natural odor. What makes you stink is bacteria on your skin when it comes in contact with sweat, so as long as you're washing your stinky areas every day with soap, you can probably do without deodorant, but only the people around you can really be the judge of that.
posted by girih knot at 7:17 PM on August 28, 2013


I think what is most likely is that people who quit using deodorant eventually get used to their own stink and don't smell it anymore. However, everyone else still does. Don't do it.
posted by something something at 7:18 PM on August 28, 2013 [54 favorites]


I stopped wearing deodorant a couple months ago and have gotten no complaints.
posted by silby at 7:19 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you sweat buckets then you need deodorant/antiperspirant. You can get it shipped to you on Amazon. If you don't like the brand you use now, order a few different ones and try them out.
posted by bleep at 7:21 PM on August 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


gel antiperspirant, go get some! or even the axe body spray. If you don't want to smell, that's okay most brands that have a roll-on or gel (like mitchem's) have an unscented version. Anti-perspirant is what you need. Forget about the deodorant. I can't make it one day without smelling like onions or death, and I am a chick. Do it...roll on or gel.
posted by Jewel98 at 7:23 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I haven't regularly worn deodorant/antiperspirant in almost 5 years - except for special occasions where I don't want to be noticeably sweaty or stinky. Some brands of deodorant actually make me smell worse.

I workout in the morning, quick shower afterwards, dress weather appropriate and haven't had any complaints from my long term girlfriend or anyone else.
posted by BlerpityBloop at 7:24 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've known a person who quit wearing antiperspirant/deodorant. They asked me if they smell. I said no. But they do.
posted by Houstonian at 7:26 PM on August 28, 2013 [63 favorites]


Wear antiperspirant. If you don't like the one you have, try a different one. They help. And you can buy it online at Drugstore.com or Amazon.com, both which have free shipping options.
posted by radioamy at 7:28 PM on August 28, 2013


My boyfriend doesn't sweat a lot, so he doesn't have to wear antiperspirant unless he works out (in which case he, too, smells awful). However, most people who sweat do need to wear antiperspirant, and it's rare for people who are not your significant other/family members/very close friends to comment on body odor unless it's a weird atypical event where you're normally ok and just this once you totally reek.

I heard once that if you stop wearing deodorant after a while you don't need it anymore; is this true? Would you eventually not be as sweaty/smelly?

I ... do not think this is actually true. In undergrad, I was friends with some international students who had never used antiperspirant/deodorant in their 18-22 years of life, and sweating made them smell just as gross as the rest of us. You may be thinking about shampoo, or the ability to detect one's own odor.
posted by angst at 7:28 PM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Do you have any baking soda in your cupboard? Mix some of that with water (doesn't take much soda -- just put enough to make the water feel slippery) and rub it into your armpits after showering.
posted by nacho fries at 7:28 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've had two friends who confidently discarded their deodorant/antiperspirant claiming that after time, their body would reach some kind of equilibrium and cease to give off B.O. They were both wrong, they stunk horribly even months (and in one case, years) after they could no longer smell themselves. My cat even peed on one of their heads.

If you decide you must try this, enlist some trusted friends who are known for their naked candor and patience and do a smell check with them on a regular basis because the number of people who can go without using deodorant is significantly smaller than the number of people who think they can go without deodorant.
posted by jamaro at 7:29 PM on August 28, 2013 [36 favorites]


A very, very small percentage of the population doesn't seem to have body odor. Ever. The vast majority of people who think they have no body odor and go without deodorant do smell bad. They'll report that no one says that they stink, even when they've asked friend, etc - but they stink.

Don't be that person.

If you don't want to go to the store - buy it online. And, if you sweat a lot, you'd be better off with an anti-antiperspirant/deodorant combo.
posted by quince at 7:31 PM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I never wear deodorant and while sometimes I'm a bit smelly, it's nothing that a shower won't fix. I'm also from a small hippie town in northern california where this is the norm. Very occasionally, when it's really hot out I shower with antibacterial soap and that definitely cuts down on any smell for a few days. I also only shower a few times a week and I consider myself a happy functioning member of society! (My husband, on the other hand, swears by his deodorant/antiperspirant which I think smells horrible and I can't imagine rubbing those types of chemicals on sensitive body parts everyday of my life.)
posted by tigeri at 7:33 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


as long as you're washing your stinky areas every day with soap, you can probably do without deodorant

I had a boyfriend long ago who honestly believed this, and even showered twice in a day on occasion, but he really did smell like a giant funky armpit by the afternoon. I urged him to please try deodorant, he tried an unscented "natural" type brand (might have been Tom's) and he smelled worlds better. And I can tell you, I despise perfumes and colognes, and enjoy the smell of natural clean human, but funky armpit is... a turnoff.
posted by RRgal at 7:41 PM on August 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


Some people have BO and some don't. For example, most Caucasians do and a lot of Asians don't. So it really depends on your body's genetically-determined physiology as to whether you will smell of BO if you don't use deodorant. Of course the question of whether you care what you smell like is a different matter.
posted by Dansaman at 7:42 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I rarely wear it, and only rarely get stinky, and my last boyfriend also didn't wear it and I can vouch for the fact that he smelled great. I'm REALLY sensitive to stinky people on the subway, etc., so I don't think I'm deluding myself about non-deodorant-wearing possibilities. As others said, it really depends on the person. And the climate you're living in.
posted by three_red_balloons at 7:45 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can you not buy new/better/different deodorant at the supermarket when you grocery shop? I seriously hear you on hating to shop for things, but deodorant is so ubiquitous you can find it at the gas station. I think somewhere you transact business probably sells deodorant so you shouldn't have to make a special trip.

When I was in college I did the thing where I bought the absolute cheapest toiletries possible. It sucked, I always felt gross, and it probably didn't save me money in the long run. Spend an extra $1 and get something that actually works.
posted by Sara C. at 7:46 PM on August 28, 2013


It really depends on the individual person, and out of all the people I have known throughout my life who decided to go no-deodorant/antiperspirant, only one of them has avoided having a vile stench that they themselves could no longer smell. This person neither smokes nor drinks alcohol, nor does he eat meat or do any kind of drugs. He is also militant about hygiene, both with showering and always wearing clean clothes. When he gets sweaty he smells clean and healthy. It is possible that he is some kind of magical elf, tbh.

Unless you want to commit yourself to that kind of undertaking, AND unless you have been blessed with magical elf characteristics, I suggest you do not go down this path. In all likelihood you will stink, you will be unaware of your stink, you will insist that you do not stink, and no one will tell you otherwise.
posted by elizardbits at 7:47 PM on August 28, 2013 [13 favorites]


I've known enough stinky hippie dudes. Dudes who stop using deodorant stink even worse than hippie ladies. Please do not stop using deodorant. Try changing products if you don't like what you have now, but don't stop at all. Your classmates, relatives, coworkers, people next to you on the bus, etc. will thank you.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:50 PM on August 28, 2013


On more careful reading of the question, if you sweat a lot, yes, you should wear antiperspirant/deodorant. I don't really sweat, which is probably why I can get away with it. Order online, as others said. :)
posted by three_red_balloons at 7:51 PM on August 28, 2013


I rarely wear deodorant. I have asked people who I trust if I have BO in the past and they always tell me no (and these are people who have been honest about stuff like bad breath in the past, so I don't think they're protecting my feelings). Every once in a while I sweat a lot and can tell I have some, but a quick shower usually takes care of it. But I'm not very active, am not overweight and rarely sweat. YMMV.

Basically, the answer is not everyone needs to or does, but you should probably try going without for a week and asking a good friend to tell you if you need it.
posted by empath at 7:53 PM on August 28, 2013


Oof. I thought this was going to be a question about natural alternatives to deodorant. There are lots of good reasons not to use regular commercial deodorant (chemical sensitivity, etc), but just 'cause you can't be bothered isn't really a good reason.

Does your laziness extend to being lazy about taking showers? You definitely need to keep your body very clean if you are going to stop wearing any kind of deodorant.
posted by snorkmaiden at 7:55 PM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I do sweat a lot, too, and for everyone telling you you should keep trying brands until you find something that will make you stop sweating, sometimes there is no brand that makes you sweat less, sometimes there's just the acknowledgement that the only thing that will make you sweat less are things like drinking less alcohol, exercising more and losing weight, and sometimes you give up antiperspirant just so that you don't get embarrassing pit stains on all of your clothes.

There are deodorants that don't have antiperspirant in them though and they do help you keep from stinking. Someone recommended a salt block deodorant upthread, and I second it.
posted by girih knot at 7:55 PM on August 28, 2013


I've also heard that, for people who have trouble with really severe sweating, Botax injections can take care of it.
posted by three_red_balloons at 7:59 PM on August 28, 2013


Arm and Hammer unscented deodorant. Little yellow bottle, 2 bucks a pop, bring it with you. When you get where you're going, pop in the restroom, paper towel the pits (hopefully hit up a Starbucks or the like where they have 1 person bathrooms) and swipe with the stick. I get what you mean about it piling up (antipersperants make me feel that way too) and honestly in the dead of summer you're going to sweat and stink to a certain degree no matter what. Just a little established hygiene habit goes a long way towards keeping youtrself socially acceptable
posted by theweasel at 8:06 PM on August 28, 2013


Seconding baking soda. I apply it while my skin is still wet from the shower and I'm done.
posted by komara at 8:07 PM on August 28, 2013


Best answer: I'm allergic to pretty much all deodorants. Even the hypo-allergenic ones will give me a nasty, itchy and painful rash after a few hours.

So, yeah, you can totally go without it. And if you want to go without it, don't be shamed into using a product you don't like. It's your body.

I've found that wearing an undershirt cuts down on the stink quite a bit. Also, fastidious cleaning.

But don't ever believe that you never smell. You do, and some other people are sensitive to it and offended by it. Sucks to be them, I guess.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:11 PM on August 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


I went without deodorant or anti-perspirant for a long time because I couldn't find a brand that I wasn't allergic to. Here is what made it more or less do-able for me:

1. Shave armpit hair, or trim it very close.

Nothing holds onto the stink like armpit hair. Before I trimmed mine, I could not get the smell out no matter how I tried. I even tried shampooing my armpits. Once I trimmed the hair very short, this problem went away.

2. Be prepared to wash under your arms twice a day.

In the winter, when there were several layers between my armpits and the outside world, this wasn't too big a deal. But in spring/summer/fall, I really needed to wash my pits in the mid-to-late afternoon as well as during my morning shower. This could be a soap-and-water wash, or with an alcohol swab. I didn't always bother if I was going to be at home all evening, but if I was going anywhere, this felt essential.

3. Alcohol is your friend.

Swabbing out my armpits with alcohol after my shower, and again later in the day, went a long way toward killing the smelly bacteria. Because I am now limited to a single brand of deodorant that doesn't make me break out, and it's not the most effective one, I still use alcohol sometimes.

4. Be prepared to change your shirt twice a day. Do not attempt to convince yourself you can wear a shirt twice.

Basically, to meet contemporary body-odor standards, it's likely that you'll have to trade a high degree of maintenance of yourself and your clothes for deodorant. This was my experience, at least.
posted by not that girl at 8:20 PM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I haven't worn deodorant or antiperspirant for years, and I have it on very good authority that I don't stink. But I also keep my armpits clean-shaven, and I'm not sure that you want to go that route ;)
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 8:22 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Never wore it since a little bit in college, don't stink (and my family is not lying to me)
Some people have bodies that end up smelling, some people don't.

Sure, give it up.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 8:23 PM on August 28, 2013


Amazing how effective personal hygiene advertising is. How on earth did we ever live with these products!

Never used it, never needed it. Grew up in a large family of boys none of whom ever used it or needed it. Have a husband that has never used it and never needed it. IMHO total marketing BS. Give it a miss, take a shower every day.
posted by Long Way To Go at 8:28 PM on August 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


I had a roommate who stopped using it and the whole house smelled.
posted by greta simone at 8:29 PM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


My husband has never worn deodorant in his life and he smells fine. I've worn deodorant or antiperspirant daily since I was nine years old and I still reek sometimes.

Here's hoping my baby takes after her dad.
posted by town of cats at 8:31 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


A very, very small percentage of the population doesn't seem to have body odor.

This is true. I am dating one of these people. He is not totally non-odorous, but close enough that it's not bothersome. (This is a problem when I stay over at his place and forget to bring my own deodorant, because while I can suit all my other needs by borrowing his toiletries, there is no anti-stink stick... which I need.)

You say you sweat buckets. You know you get smelly. You should be able to acquire something to help you deal with that. Adulthood is largely a process of getting over various lazinesses; here's one to start with.
posted by psoas at 8:33 PM on August 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


If you already know that you are smelly without deodorant then NO, I am sorry, you cannot stop wearing deodorant. Your body is not going to magically stop being not-smelly - otherwise you probably wouldn't have started using deodorant in the first place.

If you're lazy and don't want to go to the store then buy deodorant/anti-perspirant on the internet. I'm sure sites like Amazon and Drugstore can help you out there.
posted by joan_holloway at 8:37 PM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Shave, don't re-ware a shirt more than 2x, and scrub extra hard on a smelly day.

Don't eat crappy food. Some people stink through their skin.

I never wear deodorant and I only smell if I get the trifecta of old shirt, didn't shower, didn't shave.

There's "all natural" crystal deodorant which is ok.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:38 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I live with a college-student aged, not fastidious roommate who as far as I can tell does not wear deodorant. He also doesn't have sheets and lies directly on his mattress, which cannot be washed. Nor does he clean his room. Nor does he shower when he gets home from work (which is in a kitchen and requires a two mile walk there and back).

There are reasons we adopt certain standards of hygiene, and that is because they make a difference to the people around us. For the first time in my life I invest in air fresheners and I can tell when he's home because I smell him when I go up to the apartment door before I even go inside. For the sake of everyone around you, please, please, please use deodorant.

(Also, I sweat a lot too, and it's the deodorant that keeps me from being smelly while I'm sweating)
posted by schroedinger at 8:47 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is a lovely coffee shop in the city where I live that (unfortunately) is frequented by I-don't-wear-deodorant types. Once, I posted a plea on Facebook for the whole coffee shop to take a shower. That post got nearly 100 likes.

Wear deodorant. If you really think you might be one of those unicorns who do not have body odor, try going without deodorant for a few days and then ask for a stranger's opinion.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 9:01 PM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I remember something I read ages ago about people who don't wash at all for over six months, and I believe it was about homeless people.

It's a spectrum, from people with medical conditions and hygiene ignorance to people who have an inoffensive odor if any detectable odor at all. I've known people who when discussed were always pitied for their uncontrollable stink and others who were thought to use it purposefully. I also know people without a sense of smell or impaired olfaction.

People judge people on the way they smell on an unconscious level as well, and we're talking about non-notably detectable odor.

If you are trapped with people where people are forced to smell you, imagine you had to endure an unwanted stench for the duration.

Step one: figure out how you smell. You'll need other people for this.
Step two: figure out why you smell. Not cleaning properly/thoroughly/with the right products? Etc.
Step three: what to do about it. I knew a girl who not only had a strong odor but would wear patchouli which was the exact wrong thing unless she wanted to add that acidic tang.

I don't wear deodorant but people don't find me to have much of a scent and what there is is usually inoffensive, but I care how I smell to myself. I wash often, change clothes, blot, etc. I've known people who think they can go without washing for a day who are shocked when I tell them they are wrong. We're talking about people who's smells I have had to deal with; denying you smell is just going to get you sent away for good.

I will totally tell you if you smell bad, if I have a reason to. It's one of those horrible things you don't want to tell someone you like, like a childhood taunt like in Harriet the Spy, except in most cases something can be done. I'm the people other people grab to be blunt.

I accidentally clicked on one of those "things that turn men off" lists once and the first thing was telling them that they smelled bad. Ignore it, ladies, he shouldn't have to wash if he's horny! I violently disagree.

Generally, women respond to scent more than men, so I'd say you get on that whether or not you like the ladies. If you avoid human company, do what you want.

In middle school I sat next to this girl who had a very unfortunate odor problem which could not have been a mere hygiene issue. I was silent and nice for several months but it became unbearable and one day I just moved. Nothing was said, nothing needed to be said. I was really down to survival at that point. I've known people who dropped out of classes because someone's perfume was screwing with their allergies.

Cripes, I've got a lot to say on the topic.
posted by provoliminal at 9:03 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


My mother used to give me and my siblings this personal hygiene advice when we were younger, usually because my brother refused to cut his toenails: "In general, try not to horrify others." You don't have to be perfect and you can't please everybody, all you have to do is not be absolutely offensive.

I am a college student without a car, and I am too lazy to go to the store.

Could you go to the store once a year and stock up?
posted by moons in june at 9:08 PM on August 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


I know someone who doesn't use deodorant. He showers every morning and usually smells fine (no odor at all). However, after working out, or even just going for a walk on a sunny day, he smells AWFUL. He always showers immediately after exerting himself, so it's not a problem - but I bet he wouldn't have to shower as often if he wore deodorant.
posted by insectosaurus at 9:12 PM on August 28, 2013


Except for some experimentation in middle school, never worn it. I bathe every night, shower after my morning workout (those mornings when I do) and otherwise avoid sweaty situations. Always wear an undershirt, changed daily. Generally good diet. Nobody at work's ever said anything, although my GF says she likes my smell.

tl;dr but agree with the OP: Pogo_Fuzzybutt's nailed it.
posted by Rash at 9:40 PM on August 28, 2013


It's honestly not just marketing, sorry. But showering daily and wearing clean clothes will go a long way toward minimizing unpleasant smells if you really really don't want to wear deodorant. I agree with others, though, those things plus antiperspirant and deodorant will mitigate pretty much all offensive odor.

As to why you wouldn't fess up if a stinky person asked you about their personal smell? I've never had the question put to me but ugh, I can see how awkward and horrifying it would be and I can understand if put on the spot you just freeze up. Emitting a bad odor is a big fear for a lot of people and intensely personal, so it just may feel really awful to confirm that a loved one stinks.

That said, I can attest some people have little to no offensive body odor, and my husband is one of them. So lucky! I'm not one of those peeps.
posted by JenMarie at 9:53 PM on August 28, 2013


I use vinegar a couple of times a week. It kills the bacteria so my sweat doesn't get smelly, and it doesn't smell like vinegar for more than about a minute.
posted by melesana at 9:53 PM on August 28, 2013


How on earth did we ever live with these products!

We lived without these products at a time when everyone lived without them, so nobody noticed anyone else's BO.

Similarly, in parts of the world where deodorants are not commonly used, nobody is using them, so everybody stinks, and it doesn't really matter at the micro level whether any one individual smells.

Call it herd immunity if you like. This is one of those things you sort of have to do whatever is the norm where you live, or, yes, people will think you stink.

I used to live in a house full of dudes, many of whom were not from the US and did not wear deodorant. It stunk. They stunk. Their bedrooms stunk. Their clothes stunk. They were artists and clearly did not care, but yes, if you want to know, people who don't wear deodorant smell like people who don't wear deodorant. It might be marketing BS, but the BS part isn't the effect of deodorant on the way you smell, it's the fact that these companies convinced the entire population to do this. You live in a population where deodorant is the norm. Wear deodorant.
posted by Sara C. at 9:55 PM on August 28, 2013 [20 favorites]


Body odor is due to bacterial decomposition of apocrine sweat, which is the kind from your armpits that is richer in proteins and lipids. I was told that there was a racial difference: Chinese people are comparatively poor at producing apocrine sweat, which is why deodorant isn't really a thing in China. Wikipedia repeats this claim, although I wasn't able to fact-check its citations.

This may also explain why most of the people in this thread think you absolutely have to use deodorant. I remember several white people being surprised to hear that I didn't use deodorant. If you are East Asian, you might want to ask someone of similar background.
posted by d. z. wang at 9:55 PM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Here's the thing, if you're one of those people who won't smell without deoderant, you'd probably already know it. If you've ever found yourself smelling bad, than I hate to break it to you, but you don't have the magic "no-stink" gene, and giving up deoderant will cause you to start smelling.

As far as I know, if you are really insistant on doing this, the best way to go about it is to get rid of all of the bacteria in your clothes which causes the smell. This means soaking all of your clothing in vinegar, or something else that can kill the bacteria. Then, you have to get yourself really really clean. The idea here is that if you can kill off all of the bacteria that causes the smell, then you should smell just fine. The key here is to be vigilant about making sure that bacteria doesn't come back. If you have even one shirt that you don't get it all out of, than the first time you wear that shirt you have introduced it back onto your body, and it will spread to all of your clothes. A simple wash won't kill the bacteria, so you'll have to disinfect everything all over again.

Order some anti-persperant off of Amazon and be done with it. Your friends and neighbors will be much happier.
posted by markblasco at 10:07 PM on August 28, 2013


So, you openly say you are too lazy to buy deodorant, correct?

It seems that the measures you will need to take to stay relatively odor-free or low-odor without deodorant/anti-perspirant are way more intense and time consuming than buying some at the store, or ordering online.

Basically the people who have said they can get away with it take great care to keep those areas clean - as mentioned above - shaving, alcohol rubs, extra showers, changes of clothing, undershirts, vinegar washes...

Are you going to go to the store to pick up extra razors to shave your armpits? Go out and buy extra shirts? Get some rubbing alcohol? Shower more, and thus run out of body wash sooner?

I think if you are too lazy to get some deodorant, you would be too lazy to do those things to be less-smelly. (Again, just going by what you self-reported here, not trying to offend.) That means I think you may end up as the stinky guy...

I would have a different opinion if your reasons for cutting out deodorant were more for overall health, allergies, etc. and were willing to do extra steps.
posted by Crystalinne at 10:18 PM on August 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


My ex never wore deodorant or antiperspirant, and he sweated like a mule. No odor unless he had been out in the heat working or fishing all day and his sweat dried on his clothes. We were married nearly 27 years, so I had plenty of time to notice whether he smelled bad.

I always figured it was because he showered after exercising in the morning and took a quick shower before bed most nights and because he didn't particularly like onions or garlic and stayed well-hydrated.
posted by JaneL at 10:21 PM on August 28, 2013


To piggyback on this thread: I've been using unscented deodorant without antiperspirant (Tom's, I think?) over the past few months. Does it actually work, or have I simply become desensitized to my own odor? Some people claim that plain deodorant only masks BO, but I've heard differing opinions. Help!
posted by archagon at 10:44 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Rubbing alcohol actually works pretty well to neutralize sweat odor, though you may need to do it more than once a day.

Honestly, a big issue here is that in many cases, whether something smells "good" or "bad" is a highly individual judgment, and it appears to be especially so when it's the smell of a person. This means that unfortunately it might not be wise to rely on the opinion of close friends and spouses: what smells musky and sexy (or even "neutral") to one person may smell completely repulsive to another. Deodorant of some variety will get you to a more neutral middle ground.

I don't love it either, but I can accept it as one of those things you have to do in public, like wear pants. In both cases it would be more convenient and sometimes sexier if you didn't have to do it, but unfortunately it would also make some people really uncomfortable, even if you are super hawt.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:51 PM on August 28, 2013


And to answer archagon's q, deodorants usually have ingredients like alcohol or propylene glycol that kill bacteria but are safe to use on the skin. It's not just cologne on a stick.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:55 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mod note: A couple of comments deleted; please do not fight with each other or the OP, or expand this to a general chat/debate about deodorant.
posted by taz (staff) at 11:15 PM on August 28, 2013


People we know and interact with on a regular basis are, for the most part, polite to our faces. That's normal, it keeps things moving, makes encountering people who are not and will not become friends on a daily basis, bearable. Few people will ever outright tell an adult that they stink. It's a pretty strong transgression.

People who don't use deodorant and say "no one says I stink" are, with the exception of a nearly microscopically, possibly mythical percentage of people who truly don't stink, surrounded by perfectly normal people who don't want to cause more stress in their daily life than they already have. Being polite. Going along to get along.

Choosing not to wear deodorant, especially if it's a laziness issue, rather than a woo-ish response to a back-to-how-we-imagine-nature-to-have-been blog post, that's messing with the order. That's forcing people to put up with, and patiently endure your natural smell.

To some extent, this is a question of how much you feel is okay to impose on people around you, and how good your reason is for doing it. Seriously, though, unless it's an outright medical necessity, please use it.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:15 PM on August 28, 2013


Do you work alongside others, sit near people in classes, or have a roommate?

Do any of them have a car to get to the store?

There may be someone who will be DELIGHTED to give you a ride to the store to buy some antiperspirant or deodorant, or even buy some for you!
posted by yohko at 11:16 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I find that an alum block (also known as crystal deodorant) works better for me than any other deodorant I've tried. I use the kind that's also used for stopping the bleeding from small nicks that men may get while shaving.
The block lasts for years. You'll need to buy one, so it's an investment, yes, but a worthy one. It will keep you socially acceptable. That's important.

Alum has no smell of its own. But it kills the bacteria that make your sweat stinky. Wet the block and rub it on your (clean) armpits. That's all.

(Yes, I have asked others to confirm the results.)
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:26 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've been using unscented deodorant without antiperspirant (Tom's, I think?) over the past few months. Does it actually work, or have I simply become desensitized to my own odor? Some people claim that plain deodorant only masks BO, but I've heard differing opinions. Help!

I also use Tom's deodorant -- though I use the lemongrass scent, not "unscented", though I have in the past -- and definitely find that it makes a difference. No deodorant and I'm rank by afternoon, with deodorant, even simple Tom's minimalist stuff, AFAIK I don't stink. I put on Tom's deodorant this morning, spent a hot afternoon in my car sans AC. Just smelled myself. Nothing. Whereas I promise that if I hadn't worn deodorant today I would reek.

That said, I am female, on the petite side of average, and don't sweat excessively. YMMV on Tom's deodorant, of course.
posted by Sara C. at 11:49 PM on August 28, 2013


I haven't worn deodorant in about five or six years. I sweat a LOT. I'm remarkably lucky in that I don't seem to produce any body odour even when gross and sweaty. I'd probably be wearing it if I did smell. Now that I live in an area where summers hit temperatures of 44-45C, I'm likely bringing it back into my life for those two-three months of the year. Otherwise, I'm very happy without it.

On reading some of the other answers, I am pretty sure I'm of that microscopic percentage of people who really don't stink. Also, I rarely re-wear shirts and have next to no armpit hair (what there is, I remove). That probably helps.
posted by 9000condiments at 11:59 PM on August 28, 2013


My wife doesn't wear deodorant or antiperspirant. She smells fine. I can't give it up myself, but I have some hangups about that kind of thing.
posted by studioaudience at 12:02 AM on August 29, 2013


If you must try this, shower daily with anti-bacterial soap. If you exercise, shower again. Follow the recommendations above about wearing an undershirt, and cleaning your clothes really frequently. The alcohol wipe sounds effective. Now you have to go to the store for soap and alcohol.
posted by theora55 at 12:43 AM on August 29, 2013


I see you best answered the one that says "You can do it! Clean a lot, but you'll still smell, and if people don't like it, sucks to be them!" Which is true, but it's also sucks to be you, because people who don't like the smell of your BO (most people) will avoid you, and yes, they will miss out on knowing you, but you will miss out on knowing a lot more people than they will. You will also miss out on a lot more job opportunities (and other opportunities), because no one wants to work with a smelly person. This is absolutely your choice, but don't think it's other people who will lose out.

You can always change your mind and start using deodorant whenever you want to, if not using it doesn't work for you.
posted by jeather at 4:45 AM on August 29, 2013 [8 favorites]


Yep, I don't wear deodorant unless it is really hot. I don't really sweat much. I kinda stopped using deodorant when my sensitive skin issues got to be too much and it was so nice not to be scratching my pits like a baboon after putting on product. My mother is very blunt and she has never told me I smell. I bathe daily and remove my pit hair.

BUT! If you already know you are sweaty and smelly, I wouldn't give it up.
posted by chainsofreedom at 4:47 AM on August 29, 2013


I only occasionally wear deodorant. My husband will occasionally try go to without deodorant, but the effect is not anywhere near successful. I suspect the main reasons I can do this and he can't are almost certainly on a biological level. I am a woman and sweat less on average, I have significantly less body hair (and regularly shave), and I am East Asian while he is of decidedly European stock. This is not to say I never stink, because, boy howdy, there are some days...but our overall body chemistry is different enough to make a profound difference in how we can conduct our basic hygiene regimen. It's not a one size fits all deal, but it really never was anyway, what with differences in skin type, hair length, makeup or shaving demands, etc.

When we first met, deodorant did not figure as heavily in his daily routine, and I think this is because he spent the majority of his time around college dudes who had convinced themselves that it was fine not to use it all the time and they didn't smell that bad. This was, of course, totally untrue, and it came back to bite them in the rear every time they found themselves in a hot, enclosed room and their "herd immunity" to the impressive stank failed.

For whatever reason, BO can become the elephant in the room no one wants to talk about, even when it's sitting on your chest, smothering the air from your lungs. But like using a knife and fork at the table or wearing a suit to a job interview, deodorant is one of those things that may not be strictly necessary, but don't try to kid yourself that no one will notice.
posted by Diagonalize at 5:22 AM on August 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


We had a non-deodorizing guy working at the restaurant I work at recently. He got fired because no one could take the stench. It filled half the restaurant.

We also have a regular customer who also doesn't believe in deodorant. Every time he comes in, customers at nearby tables demand to be moved somewhere else. Employees hold their breath as we move around the restaurant.

Don't be that guy. A large part of being a civilized human being is doing your best not to offend others unnecessarily. So, we don't blast our music all night if we live in an apartment, we don't have sex in the middle of the street, and we make it a point not to smell offensive. It's called being considerate.

And if you think you don't stink, you're wrong. I promise you, you're wrong. You are so very, very wrong, you are the wrongest person in the history of wrongness. Trust me on this. People won't tell you - they'll just avoid you.
posted by MexicanYenta at 6:59 AM on August 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


A quick suggestion regarding your comment that your deodorant keeps "pilling up": have you tried gel or liquid roll-on deodorants, instead of the solid ones? I too hate the pilling, and a gel deodorant has solved that.
posted by megancita at 7:03 AM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


The one other thing I want to bring up is everyone saying "my boyfriend/girlfriend doesn't use any and they smell great/I like the way they smell!" - this is probably because of sexy love pheromones, and may have little to do with their actual smells.
posted by elizardbits at 7:03 AM on August 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


Others have effectively answered your question, but I'll just chime in to say that if you want to skip deodorant I'm okay with it. There are unusual smells all around us. Farmers treat land with manure, people fart and in general all sorts of scents are in the air. I choose not to get upset about how someone else smells. The only reason it would be personal is if I'm in close intimate space with you. We all need to lighten up a bit about this because it isn't important.
posted by dgran at 7:12 AM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


My husband doesn't wear deodorant or antiperspirant either, and he smells great. Maybe a little sweaty after an 80-mile bike ride, but no different than anyone else would smell after a difficult exertion. Me? If I don't wear deodorant, I smell bad after an hour of sitting down and reading Metafilter.

If you are too lazy to go to the store, you're WAY too lazy to do any of the other things you have to do to stay on top of the stink. Order some on Amazon.
posted by KathrynT at 7:46 AM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Just so you know, the crystal deoderant doesn't pill and lasts YEARS (and I've been assured that it works and I don't generally smell). Like, I'm on year three of the current fancy one I bought that has a plastic base and there's still way more than half of it left. I bought the fancy kind because previously I would always drop the slippery cheaper crystal after a few years and it'd break. So you could buy one of those things and be good till mid-life.
posted by ldthomps at 8:40 AM on August 29, 2013


I heard once that if you stop wearing deodorant after a while you don't need it anymore; is this true?

This is not true. I grew up in a family of non-deodorant wearers who basically don't smell much. I wear deodorant on formal/work occasions just to be on the safe side and don't wear it socially otherwise. Sometimes I wear perfume (as an unrelated thing, just to say I am not a scentless person). You have to really stay on top of your game in terms of keeping your clothes very clean, armpit hair trimmed/shaved and washing often. Some people hit the funk jackpot and just don't really smell. Other people smell like people (like just an "I've been out in the yard" scent not body odor) and that's okay with them and possibly not okay with others. Some people just stink.

So there are different ways to smell and this goes for whether you personally have a smell and whether other people can personally smell you and, if so, whether they care. Clearly there are people here who find personal body smells more of an issue than other people. I find some of the assertions here a little odd (people are lying and telling me I don't smell when I actually smell bad? I don't know when others smell bad? I find that unlikely. More likely that there's a confirmation bias where people don't know who is not wearing deodorant if they can't smell them) but culture is made up of a lot of different sorts of people with varying tolerances for things. You can, knowing what people have told you, make your choice.
posted by jessamyn at 8:48 AM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


> I also sweat, like, buckets even with deodorant.

It isn't the amount that you sweat that's the issue. Some people can be heavy sweaters and not offend at all; other people can barely glow, yet have practically visible stink lines. It's all about bacteria, which of course you can't see.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:25 AM on August 29, 2013


It strikes me that, of all the many many answers here, you zeroed in on the one that unequivocally says "you can go without deodorant, screw all the haters." That's ignoring lots of people talking about how much extra cleanliness it takes to go deodorant free, and lots of people saying "you probably smell anyway, so better safe than sorry." How much time do you actually have to do laundry? If you're too "lazy" to buy deodorant, does that go for laundry detergent, razors, soap, and all the other hygiene and cleanliness products that you might need to maintain a deodorant free life? Does your campus not have a bookstore that sells at least some of these things? (I know campus bookstores are an extortionate racket, but at least they're right where you presumably have to go for class anyway; no excuses about being too busy or lazy to leave campus.) It almost seems like you came here looking for a specific answer and cherry-picked one that meets your pre-conceived notions, rather than reading through the many many other voices.

Note also that the answer you favorited is by someone who's allergic to deodorant. You don't mention any allergies/sensitivities, so I presume there is some deodorant out there that will work.

For what it's worth, I am a person who sometimes puts off shopping and forgets to buy toiletries for a few days. I'm also, for the time being, living with friends who are very kindly putting me up for free between leases. I'd been stalling on buying deodorant, and this thread convinced me to sniff myself and think about whether that's really a considerate choice. Lo and behold, I do stink, and I just got myself some deodorant today. Anyone who has to live with me, especially in the circumstances I'm in now, deserves that degree of consideration. If you have roommates now, or see yourself having roommates in the next while, consider them as well.
posted by ActionPopulated at 9:57 AM on August 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


Mitchum PowerGel. Order via Amazon. 6 sticks will come to your door, and you won't have to think about it. No pilling, no smelling, sometimes one swipe will work for two days if you are the kind of person who showers every other day.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:06 AM on August 29, 2013


I don't wear product in my armpits.

I shower in the morning and scrub armpits and crutch with a terry-towelling washcloth: way, way more effective than just hands. If the weather's been warm, the washcloth gets a small squirt of anti-dandruff shampoo on it first. Zinc pyrithione is a mild antiseptic, and shampoo is kind to skin even with vigorous scrubbing. That's as close to soap as I ever get.

That washcloth never goes through the washing machine but it stays white anyway and doesn't smell because it gets wrung, rinsed, wrung, rinsed, wrung hard and hung spread out over the shower curtain rail when I'm done. It's mine exclusively and it's always completely dry by the next morning.

I wear fresh all-cotton T shirt and underpants every day. If I wear the same cotton garments next to my sweaty bits two days running, I smell bad by the middle of the second day. If I wear cotton-poly blend, I smell bad by the middle of the first day.

If I'm going to work up a sweat, I'll change into an already-sweaty T shirt first and shower afterward.

The reason I live this way is that most commercial scents, especially those strong enough to mask human smells for most people, make me sneezy and wheezy and itchy and really, really irritable. Not only that, they don't even mask the stinky human smells for me. If you fail to wash and you come near me wearing Axe or Old Spice, what I experience is doubly disgusting because not only can I smell your horrible festering armpits but you're doing your best to give me hives as well. Euuurgh.
posted by flabdablet at 10:34 AM on August 29, 2013


elizardbits: The one other thing I want to bring up is everyone saying "my boyfriend/girlfriend doesn't use any and they smell great/I like the way they smell!" - this is probably because of sexy love pheromones, and may have little to do with their actual smells.

This, but also there is a difference between personal smell and BO smell. Everyone will always have a personal smell, and that won't go away unless you change your physiology (or eat differently). BO smell is horrible and offensive to everyone.

Someone above said cotton. This is so true. My synthetic shirts, while great on a camping trip, smell like bjeezus after a few trips through the dryer. It's called Synthetic Funk and it's NOT a 70s band. BUT! Every once in a while you have to put your clothes through the dryer to kill [bacteria?] whatever smells.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:45 AM on August 29, 2013


I haven't worn any deodorant or antiperspirant since high school 20 years ago. I have to go 2 days of camping and hiking without a shower in order for anyone to notice a smell. My parents would totally have told me if I needed to use a product. No boyfriend has ever complained. Whenever the topic comes up people are shocked but then they admit that I do in fact not stink. Noses have been stuck in my armpits to confirm this. My mom has really bad BO. I got the lucky gene I guess.
posted by futz at 11:03 AM on August 29, 2013


If you haven't tried it yet, I suggest Sweat Defense anti-perspirant and deodorant from Old Spice. I sweat more than the average person, but it keeps things manageable.
posted by tacodave at 3:25 PM on August 29, 2013


I am a special (not-so-stinky) flower, in that I have never, ever been bothered by other peoples 'BO' as I am by deodorant.
Stinky, chemical, often sting-my-nose-and-making-it-run, but regardless, generally gross - usually kind of putrescently sweet, something equally awful.

I have sensitive skin and get rashes, so this isn't even on me, which I've already ruled out. But yeah, if you're wearing deodorant, you've basically been ruled out as a sexual partner, and I'll subconsciously not want to sit next to you or hug you too much.

I try to empathize with the rest of the world, because this is apparently how they feel about BO!
Derail: which I APPARENTLY don't have e.g. after being up for 48hrs doing cleaning work, people asked why *I* didn't stink (but then I don't sweat much), but hey, equally likely people are lying/not mentioning it. Even when strong, it doesn't irritate me as much - it's like strong food smells.
But it still kinda sucks a little to be in this tiny fraction of the history of human civilization that has decided those are preferable smells.

So yeah. Sucks to be me.

It's ok, I'll just hang out with my (not-)stinky hippy friends.


For you? You're almost definitely going to get flack for it, because I'd say just make sure your clothes are clean, daily, and you wash frequently, but sounds like you're feeling less effortful. Maybe wear lighter clothes so you sweat less?
posted by Elysum at 4:27 PM on August 29, 2013


Coming in late, but FWIW deodorant is not really known about in China, it's hard to find in most stores, and almost no-one wears it. And people don't have body odor, for the most part, in the same way that westerners do. I lived in China for several years and dated and was close to Chinese people so can attest to this. So, to the people commenting "EVERYONE smells, you will STINK, and everyone who says you don't stink is LYING TO YOU'.....umm, that's not always true. I read about some research suggesting that people of Asian descent lack a "B.O gene" that most westerners have. Also, diet is related to how you smell.

So, I don't know if you personally smell, O.P, without deodorant, but I wish people wouldn't make unequivocal statements about things like this.
posted by bearette at 7:56 PM on August 30, 2013


I dislike most artificial scents. I have been using this stuff for more than ten years now. Can't imagine life without it.
posted by macinchik at 1:41 AM on August 31, 2013


Response by poster: Update: My (Chinese) friend told me I "had a body odor"...however, that might have been more to do with having worn the same clothes for the past two weeks than deodorant. So the jury's still out.

Don't judge me, this is college!!! (OK, I admit I wash my clothes more now...)
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 7:20 AM on September 20, 2013


having worn the same clothes for the past two weeks

all deodorant is going to do is make you smell bad in a different way.
posted by flabdablet at 10:00 AM on September 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


having worn the same clothes for the past two weeks

Dude, whether to wear deodorant or not is the least of your worries.

You cannot just completely set aside all personal hygiene. Even if it is college!

Wear clean clothes every day, at least.

If you're at the level of "should I change my clothes daily or what", you are not allowed to even CONTEMPLATE giving up deodorant.
posted by Sara C. at 10:36 AM on September 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


I beg to differ. If there's one stink in the world worse than unwashed adolescent, it's unwashed adolescent plus cheap industrial perfume.

And yes, even at 23 years old, a college student who spends two weeks in the same unwashed clothes is still an adolescent.
posted by flabdablet at 11:12 AM on September 20, 2013


Deodorant is more than just perfume, though, it's an antimicrobial. Like a little Purell for your armpits. This is why cologne does not usually substitute for deodorant.
posted by en forme de poire at 2:44 PM on September 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes, there is a difference between "I have a musky human smell that some people might find too intense and others might find sexy" and "I smell like stale bananas and butyrate." That difference is usually "regular washing of person and clothes with soap."
posted by en forme de poire at 4:15 PM on September 20, 2013


Today I was reading reddit, and I thought of this question.
The reddit article.
What I wanted to pass along, linked in that article: Ofactory fatique.
posted by Houstonian at 6:57 PM on April 22, 2014


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