Help me buy the right deodorant for a sensitive, but powerful* person
August 29, 2016 7:53 PM   Subscribe

I seem to be allergic to antiperspirants, but regular deodorant isn't strong enough to stop my powerful aura. What do similarly, uh, endowed people with sensitive skin do to be less of a nose-burden on the people around them?

I used antiperspirant as a teenager but would get weird pains in my arm pits. I've used regular Old Spice for probably the better part of a decade, but I smelled like someone's dad at best, and by the end of the day I'd have kind of a funk going. Nothing so bad that I think I was emptying the office, but you know, if you notice yourself smelling bad, other people do too.

When I ran out of dad-oderant a couple weeks ago I finally gave in and bought antiperspirant. It was wonderful. No smell. I could even wear the same shirt two days in a row. (I mean, you know, theoretically.) But man did it make me itchy. Horribly itchy. Enough that I would wake up itchy in the middle of the night.

I've stopped using it and have been using my reserve deodorant, which is unfortunately (unfortunate for everyone involved) a natural brand that is supposed to work by the power of tea tree oil, but doesn't.

What can I do to firmly neutralize my BO without causing a really unpleasant allergic reaction?
posted by teponaztli to Health & Fitness (43 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Just throwing out the possibility that you aren't allergic to the active ingredient of anti-perspirant but to some scent or added component. Maybe try another brand and/or an unscented version or one for sensitive skin?
posted by Tandem Affinity at 8:00 PM on August 29, 2016 [9 favorites]

There's hypoallergenic deodorant that's worth a shot. I am not sensitive like you are, but I use Dry Idea's hypo stuff and it works well.

Also some folks swear by the crystal deodorant! I've used it and it does work, though not as well for me as suggested by some of its converts. Definitely worth a shot, though.
posted by wemayfreeze at 8:01 PM on August 29, 2016

Seconding giving crystal deodorant a shot. I've used it intermittently, and have several friends who do, and there's nary a stink. I've found that the liquid roll-on is more effective than the ones that are basically a giant block of salt.
posted by mishafletch at 8:03 PM on August 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

Have you tried Tom's of Maine?

It worked okay for most of the year I reeked of stress (because I hated my micromanaged job at a rigidly hierarchical, toxic workplace, at which HR's main problem was figuring out how to get people to stay, since money wouldn't do it. At one point - just before I quit - I had to level up to something German with I think triple the aluminum content of normal anti-perspirants. Quitting was the best anti-perspirant of all.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:08 PM on August 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

Many (more than half) anti-perspirant brands contain propylene glycol, but some don't. Just in case you want to try and find out if that's the ingredient you're allergic to (it's a common allergen, both common in the world and a frequent source of allergies).

"Sure" unscented doesn't contain propylene glycol.
posted by amtho at 8:21 PM on August 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have sensitive skin but mostly do fine with unscented products. Dove has one that is unscented and also claims to be for sensitive skin which works well for me.

The hippy stuff is great for my skin but does not deodorize well in my experience.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:23 PM on August 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Another sweaty person with sensitive skin! I get horrible bumps when I use like 99% of the options out there. I have tried it all. But when I discovered Donna Karan Cashmere Mist Deodorant/Antiperspirant I knew I could never use another. This is the best out there. Amazingly effective and it doesn't hurt my pits at all. I don't even know WHY, nothing remarkable about the ingredient list. I discovered it after googling "what deodorant won't irritate my skin". Lots of people like it.

Even if I were a man I would still use this- soft cashmere-y smell be damned!

Cons: pricey.
posted by KMoney at 8:28 PM on August 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

it might sound counterproductive but for me deodorant and antiperspirant work better when i only apply a little bit. i am the sweatiest godawful gorilla in the mist and nothing short of death by immediate desiccation will likely stop that but when i put on only 1-2 swipes of dove stick vs the 10-12 i used to smear on it makes a big difference wrt how stinky i feel at the end of the day.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:47 PM on August 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also just a note that Unscented is a misnomer. Look for Fragrance Free. Mitchum makes one, as does Almay.
posted by oxisos at 8:50 PM on August 29, 2016 [7 favorites]

I finally gave up on anti-perspirants after decades of the vicious cycle of increasing levels of a-p brands leading to increasing levels of irritation (and actually increasing levels of perspiration). The natural products I tried didn't work at all. I've been using Degree "timed-released" deodorant for the last few years and it seems to work pretty well. I don't necessarily buy the sales pitch, but it does get me through a normal day without really any downside, which is all I care about.
posted by ClingClang at 8:52 PM on August 29, 2016

Have you tried Certain Dri? My skin tends to be sensitive, but if I use it as directed (apply sparingly at night once a week or so, as needed) I don't have trouble with it and it seems to be effective at odor reduction.
posted by Lexica at 8:52 PM on August 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

There are prescription antiperspirant available from a dermatologist. Maybe one would work for you.
posted by flimflam at 8:53 PM on August 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I also have sensitive skin and get an itchy rash from almost all products, even the "natural" ones (Tom's of Maine, Schmidt's), and the ones that don't give me a rash generally don't keep the b.o. at bay. I recently tried Crystal Essence Pomegranate and it keeps me stink free all day with no itching/rash. I do reapply if I'm going out at night or before I work out, but overall, I've been really happy with this product.
posted by ezrainch at 8:54 PM on August 29, 2016

The above sound like great suggestions. I have had good luck with Adidas brand Deodorant. I get it from Shoppers Drug Mart in Canada. I have found it way more effective than Tom's, or than any roll on. It's a very dry stick.
posted by leslievictoria at 8:58 PM on August 29, 2016

Here are some things that work for me:

Trim the hairs short. Reduces perspiration and odor.

Apply your product at night. I picked up this tip on Metafilter, and it does make a difference. Deodorants work by blocking pores, but they need a while to be most effective.

I like Dove stick--it's inexpensive, a range of scents, and does not generally irritate my skin. Generally.

If my pits do get irritated, I use Burt's Bees Almond and Wax hand cream. Beeswax stops the itch like nothing else, and it has all kinds of great antibacterial properties.

A spritz of vodka will kill odor on clothing and can be used on pits. I like Trader Joe's citrus vodka. Cheap, non irritating and can be used for every thing from deodorizing your shoes to clothing.
posted by effluvia at 9:02 PM on August 29, 2016 [5 favorites]

Try Burts Bees Herbal Deodorant - it's a bit of alcohol and some plant essential oils. Should be safe unless you're allergic/sensitive to sage, lemon and lavender. Amazon and Whole Foods have it.

It isn't dad-scented like Old Spice, but is still a masculine scent, and isn't overpowering.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:04 PM on August 29, 2016

Trim the hairs short.

For sure this! I'm a lady so I know the norms might be different for you around hair removal, but I definitely notice BO smell creeping up much earlier in the day when my armpit hair gets past like... 1/4 inch or so.

I've also found Certain Dri to be helpful when used in addition to my regular morning antiperspirant, but as others have said, use sparingly! More than one light swipe gets irritating fast on my grumpy, sensitive skin.
posted by augustimagination at 9:35 PM on August 29, 2016

Yep, shave those pits my hairy friend. A family member of similar hairiness to myself is super stinky and sweaty and takes like three showers a day in a futile attempt to combat his funk. I started shaving my armpits when I started getting a lot of hair there as a teen girl, and though I have sweat problems I rarely if ever have stink problems. I basically never shave or trim any of the rest of my copious body hair. After college I went through a no-shave phase for my pits and guess what? I started stinking like my family member!! I've tried to encourage him to shave his armpits too but he refuses.

Shaving will cause your armpit skin to get irritated at first but if you use a good shaving cream and a sharp razor it will only last a few shaves before the skin gets used to it. For deodorant/antiperspirant I like the Dove Men+Care combo stuff.
posted by Mizu at 9:46 PM on August 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

I don't have sensitive armpits, but I do sweat and will get funky if I'm not vigilant. Trimming or shaving armpits helps a lot. I agree with the previous poster who mentioned this that the sweet spot is hair length that's less that 1/4 inch long. When my usual antiperspirant stops working well (the funk starts happening), I can reset and get rid of the funk cycle by putting straight tea tree oil on my clean/washed armpits overnight. I wear my usual antiperspirant during the day, but do 3-5 overnights of the tea tree oil treatment in a row and it kills off whatever bacteria are making me smell bad.
posted by quince at 10:02 PM on August 29, 2016

I have insanely sensitive armpits, and something in all sticks (gel or solid, with or without antiperspirant) makes me break out in horrible rashes. I am also allergic to a widely used cheap synthetic musk.

I can use Ban roll-on unscented. It is technically not fragrance free, because of a couple of plant extracts, but it contains no added fragrance ingredients. But it didn't help for smell, really. So I have some liquid rock with lichen and alum that I use more for chemical exfoliation than odor control and keep the pits shaved.
posted by monopas at 10:38 PM on August 29, 2016

I have sensitive skin, and applied incorrectly Certain-Dri is like angry doberman bees in my armpits. Applied correctly however it is wonderful.

Give it a shot.
posted by zippy at 11:02 PM on August 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

Just cause no one else suggested it yet - you can get Botox injections on your armpits to stop sweating from them. It might even be possible to get insurance to cover it.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:14 AM on August 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Baking soda and cornstarch, mixed half and half, work for me most of the time. I've also heard of a 'first vinegar, then baking soda' approach but that seems like a person would smell like a salad at best and have fizzy armpits at worst.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:44 AM on August 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

I just looked at the Donna Karan anti-perspirant referenced above. It does _not_ contain propylene glycol; I might try some myself!
posted by amtho at 3:01 AM on August 30, 2016

I am a very stinky person with perfume allergies and very sensitive skin. I once had armpit irritation so bad it took a year for the scarring to go away. Now I use Mitchum unscented and it's pretty good. Still sweatier than I'd like, still smell if I'm not careful, but definitely passable in society and armpits feel fine. Putting it on the night before really works (even with a morning shower) but I don't always remember.
posted by shelleycat at 4:59 AM on August 30, 2016

This stuff is expensive, but not only works, it works better than anything I ever bought in a store.
posted by COD at 5:14 AM on August 30, 2016

Crystal and Tom's deodorants make me smell worse than I do going without. Some that you could try that I dont think have been mentioned yet: Lavilin, which is a sticky cream that lasts for a few days, and baking soda. For baking soda to be effective for me, washing my 'pits with it in the shower (as well as applying it damp post-shower) is key; it doesn't work otherwise.
posted by metasarah at 5:31 AM on August 30, 2016

I have the same problem. The tips provided from others are definitively worth following: keep hair short, apply at night.

As a woman, I shave or epilate my armpits, so wanted to add:
Lightly exfoliating my armpits seems help keep them smelling better.
Don't apply any strong antiperspirant on freshly shaved skin.
When my pits are being sensitive, some shea butter moisturizer helps them calm down. In fact, moisturising them with shea butter seems to trick them into producing less sweat, but that may be a trick of my mind and not body.

I also wanted recommend antiperspirant called Perspi-Guard Maximum Strength Antiperspirant Spray. Most effective I have ever encountered, but must be applied the night before, and not on broken skin. kiehls has one I otherwise use which seems ok.
posted by troytroy at 5:57 AM on August 30, 2016

Because there are already a billion great product recos above, practical advice for if you end up stinking / driving yourself crazy mid-day (which I think I picked up on here oddly):

Use a little hand sanitizer on your pits if you feel like you're getting stinky mid-day, and then apply deodorant/antiperspirant afterwards . . .kills the bacteria that are smelly and you can get on with your life.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:11 AM on August 30, 2016

I struggled with anti-perspirants for decades. I was using the Gilette Clinical, which stopped odor but I still perspired.

My dad gave me a bottle of Thai Crystal spray to try, and amazingly, it stopped both the odor and the perspiration.

I'm not someone who goes for the "all natural" remedies, but this stuff was a revelation for me.

YMMV, but you might give it a shot.
posted by Fleebnork at 6:24 AM on August 30, 2016

Another vote for Dove Sensitive. I'm a big, hairy guy who doesn't stink.
posted by pupsocket at 7:36 AM on August 30, 2016

In my experience, shaving makes my pits stinkier--I think there is some diversity in people's pit biomes.

I also have sensitive skin and stinky pits and prolific sweat glands. Right now I'm having the best luck with the liquid crystal deodorant. Tom's makes me stinkier, Schmidt's gave me a rash. This baking soda deodorant from Fat and the Moon works pretty well and doesn't irritate my skin.

Do your armpits smell like onions? I've noticed sometimes I get a particular oniony funk going on which is usually a sign that something is out of whack in my armpit region--that's when I wipe down any stick deodorant I'm using and exfoliate my armpits. It's like some particularly gross bacteria has taken over and has to be knocked back.

Speaking of exfoliating--I've found that washing my armpits with a soapy washcloth every day makes a big difference (as opposed to just washing with a soapy hand).
posted by purple_bird at 9:18 AM on August 30, 2016

Regular deoderants irritated my skin; the all natural ones never worked. I tried (big mistake) baking soda mixed with olive oil--it worked great, briefly, then gave me a painful rash (duh). My sister suggested PiperWai and I've been using it (on my stinky, very sweaty, and long-hair hairy armpits) for about 6 months and it's been great.
posted by carrioncomfort at 9:20 AM on August 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

I am newly in love with Tom's of Maine lemongrass scented deodorant. Like I'm shocked it works so well. I've got hyperhydrosis and antiperspirants don't work (not even the prescription stuff), so I'm still sweaty, but at least I am not stinky.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:24 AM on August 30, 2016

also when i find myself suddenly becoming intensely stinky, i will wash my pits with hibiclens in the shower. i don't know if this is bad for me or not in the long run but it gets the job done.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:39 AM on August 30, 2016

1. See a dermatologist if you can. It's worth the cash to figure out what's going on.
2. Stop shaving your pits. Alternatively, start shaving your pits and try Old Spice again (I'm not the only person who absolutely adores the scent...)
3. Try Mitchum unscented.
4. Change shirts in the middle of the day, wipe down pits with baby wipes, then re-apply deodorant.
5. Get botox in your armpits.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:24 AM on August 30, 2016

also when i find myself suddenly becoming intensely stinky, i will wash my pits with hibiclens in the shower. i don't know if this is bad for me or not in the long run but it gets the job done.

A similar effect can be achieved with hand sanitizer. If your skin is already sensitive, though...yikes.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:24 AM on August 30, 2016

I love Tom's of Maine antiperspirant and I'm sensitive to just about anything on the skin. Nthing that maybe it was a certain ingredient in that antiperspirant you tried.
posted by getawaysticks at 1:49 PM on August 30, 2016

Try PiperWai - it's marketed as a deodorant, but everyone who tries it seems to immediately delight in how well it works as antiperspirant, too. Activated charcoal! it has a light scent that dissipates with time, and doesn't smell like something traditionally marketed towards men or women - it's very neutral.
posted by VioletU at 2:44 PM on August 30, 2016

I've been using the Almay brand for years, and it seems to work like a champ. (I trust that Mrs. Sourcequench would jump at the opportunity to let me know if I were whiffy.)
posted by sourcequench at 2:46 PM on August 30, 2016

I have sensitive skin and can only wear unscented antiperspirant. I use Sure unscented (which I discovered has a masking fragrance, but it doesn't bother me). I used Dove unscented in the past.
posted by radioamy at 5:24 PM on August 30, 2016

I also recommend Tom's of Maine, unscented or apricot, which is pretty low key and I am SUPER scensitive, so to speak, but still seems to work pretty well.

Also, though, what kind of fabrics do you wear? I don't know if it's my particular biochemistry, but I cannot wear modal fabrics without instantly stinking up. I also can't wear anything that's mostly or entirely synthetic and thus doesn't breathe. I generally stick with cotton, cotton blends, or linen blends for the most part, at least for the layer next to my skin, and also avoid as much as possible clothes that are tight against my arm pits, as for me the sleeves rubbing against my arms tends to make me sweat even if I'm not overheated.
posted by rafaella gabriela sarsaparilla at 10:15 AM on August 31, 2016

Response by poster: Woah, thanks for all the suggestions, everyone! I step away from this site for two days and come back to find out about a bunch of options to try. The Internet is neat!

I'll try a different brand first (shaving has always made me itchy and Botox is maybe not necessary just yet, although I'll keep both in mind). We'll see what happens! Wish me (and the people around me) luck.

Thanks again!
posted by teponaztli at 6:48 PM on August 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

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