Smelling your own body odor in the middle of the day is absolutely mortifying.
We’ve all experienced this rude awakening at some point. Usually because we’ve forgotten to put on deodorant that morning. But if most deodorants seem to irritate your skin, this might’ve happened more than you’d like to admit. (Probably thanks to one of the many deodorants for sensitive skin that give up on you as soon as you break a sweat.)
Deodorants are notorious for being a little harsh on the fragile skin under our arms. Even worse, the harshest chemicals used in deodorants are the ones that help prevent sweating and body odor. (THAT’S why all-natural and vegan deodorants get such a bad rap — the ingredients aren’t strong enough to seal away the stink.)
Even if you generally do not have sensitive skin, the skin of your armpits is particularly vulnerable to irritation because:
- It tends to be warm and sweaty under the arms, which creates prime breeding grounds for bacteria.
- The skin under the arms is very thin and easy for chemicals to penetrate.
- There is constant friction against the skin under the arms (clothing, skin, etc.)
So if you have sensitive skin, using certain deodorants can be nothing short of a nightmare. But as the personal care and beauty industries are evolving and improving their formulas (and as people are becoming more educated on the harmful chemicals in some of the products we use every day), there are more deodorants out there that are made with sensitive skin in mind.
Every brand of deodorant has its own formula, but there are some ingredients that are common across the board. That’s because those chemicals are known to be effective in keeping us smelling fresh for as long as possible. But they also can be extremely irritating if you have sensitive skin.
So if you have sensitive skin, steer clear of these ingredients when choosing a deodorant:
- Parabens (any chemical ending in “-paraben,” like methylparaben)
If you’ve been paying attention to beauty industry news, you’re probably sick to death of hearing about parabens. But just in case you don’t know, parabens are preservatives that keep our beauty products from growing mold and bacteria over time. Sounds like a good deal, right? Sure, except for the fact that parabens are suspected to be carcinogens.
Few deodorants have parabens in them these days. Most deodorants are alcohol-based, and alcohol is self-preserving. But if you have sensitive skin, you really don’t want to be using an alcohol-based deodorant, either.
Fragrance or Parfum
Wait, what? No nice-smelling deodorants? What just sounds like a pleasant smell is actually a lot more than that.
When any beauty product has fragrance or parfum listed as an ingredient, it doesn’t just mean that it smells good. The FDA allows brands to use “fragrance” as a catch-all phrase to mean any chemical that contributes to the formula’s smell. It helps brands to keep their formula a secret from competitors.
But on the flipside, if you have sensitive skin, a fragrance is a potential danger. You don’t know exactly what is included in the fragrance, so you won’t know if you’ll get a bad reaction without trial and error. Better just stay away from deodorant with fragrance.
Lucky for you, there’s no shortage of fragrance-free deodorant for sensitive skin. Most beauty companies are aware that people with sensitive skin will avoid fragrances in all topical products.
The majority of deodorants have alcohol in them for two reasons.
Mainly, alcohol helps to dry the deodorant faster. (Through trial and error, I’m sure you probably already know how ineffective non-drying deodorant can be.)
Secondly, it’s a natural bacteria-killer, which helps preserve the formula. The fact that it kills bacteria also helps with keeping you fresh. Why? When it comes down to it, sweat doesn’t have its own smell. When we smell our own body odor, we’re actually smelling the bacteria breaking it down.
So alcohol: doesn’t sound bad, right? Well, it can be if you have sensitive skin. Deodorant with alcohol is going to dry out the sensitive skin under your arms, leading to irritation.
Looking for alcohol-free deodorant for sensitive skin? Try deodorants that use these alcohol substitutes:
- Baking soda
- Antibacterial essential oils, like tea tree oil (Note: Some essential oils can irritate sensitive skin, so always be sure to test the oil diluted with a carrier oil on your skin first.)
- Coconut oil
Aluminum is in most antiperspirants. It’s what clogs up the sweat glands in your armpits and prevents us from sweating. But for some people, it can also cause negative skin reactions, like irritation, itchiness, and rashes.
Truthfully, this will probably be your biggest obstacle in finding a deodorant for sensitive skin that works. The majority of aluminum-free deodorants will probably give up on you if you start to sweat too much. That’s especially true if you live somewhere hot and humid, or if you have a physically demanding job.
Again, B.O. is caused by bacteria, not our actual sweat. So if you’re going aluminum-free, try a deodorant that’s good at killing bacteria.
Deodorant for Sensitive Skin That WORKS
Honestly, finding a gentle deodorant that’s actually effective is a lot of trial and error. Sure, some deodorants are just plain ineffective. But there are a lot of deodorants for sensitive skin that DO work. It all depends on your lifestyle and your own unique body chemistry.
Here are three of some of the best deodorants for sensitive skin:
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