Your guide to finding the deodorant that's best for you
Find yourself catching a whiff of something? It might be a little B.O. (that's body odor...). Here's what to know.
Ok, real talk: There are many things about puberty that are totally normal—breakouts, body hair and yep, body odor among them. And while going through physical changes isn't exactly a choice, what to do about them is. Sure, some girls don't want to bother with (or don't believe in ) spot-treating or shaving. Stinking, on the other hand, can be, well, kinda the pits.
If you are among those seeking a little extra help in the smelling department, welcome.
Let us be the first to say that body odor doesn't mean you're dirty or gross—it just means you're human. "The surge of hormones that goes along with entering puberty is the reason you start to sweat more and smell," explains dermatologist Dr. Alicia Zalka. So if you're feeling a little funky, that simply means your body is doing its job.
Why do I smell?
The short answer? Puberty. The slightly longer answer? A combo of sweat, bacteria and hormones. "When these mix together, it creates the perfect storm," says Dr. Zalka. "Sweat is actually odorless, but it helps breed bacteria when it sits on the skin. And that's what makes it smell." The areas of your body that typically smell (underarms most noticeably) have sweat glands, which rev up as your body develops.
Best sweat stopper: Secret Unscented Invisible Solid Antiperspirant & Deodorant, $4, target.com
Do I want a deodorant or an antiperspirant?
Your first step is to decide whether you want something that covers your natural scent, one that stops sweat from happening or one that eliminates the bacteria that causes smelly pits. Once you figure that out, you'll be able to choose the right formula and ingredients.
"Antiperspirants reduce sweat by blocking it from leaving your pores with an ingredient called aluminum, while deodorant masks odor," explains Katie Sturino, founder of Megababe. Both products work to prevent you from stinking, but antiperspirant will keep you drier.
Best aluminum-free: Megababe Soapy Pits Daily Deodorant, $14, megababebeauty.com
Deodorants often use a combination of fragrances from essential oils like sage, eucalyptus and tea tree oil to cover up B.O. and baking soda or magnesium hydroxide to soak up moisture. The downside? These ingredients can cause irritation among those with sensitive skin.
If you want to avoid antiperspirant and skin irritation, look for deos with soothers like aloe, glycerin and shea butter. Or opt for products with a combo of glycolic acid and probiotics. "The pH of glycolic acid makes your underarms inhospitable for bacteria, so it won't be able to flourish and cause odor," explains Dr. Zalka. "And probiotics support your skin's barrier function, so it stays strong and healthy."
Best skin saver: Dove Ultimate Antiperspirant Deodorant, $10, target.com
Stick or spray?
Once you choose between antiperspirant and deodorant, it's time to figure out what formulation you like best. Which to pick? That comes down to personal preference—and your body's unique chemistry.
"The most common kind of deodorant is a solid stick, but you can also try sprays or roll-ons," says Sturino, who suggests experimenting with various formulas to find what works for you. "Remember, your best friend's or sister's favorite deodorant might not work for you—everyone's armpits are different."
Sticks and roll-ons apply a layer of deodorant onto the skin, while sprays are a quick way to add a bit of product without the residue you might find from solid products, explains Dr. Zalka. In need of a quick touch-up after gym class? Keep a pack of deodorant wipes handy.
Wait, but doesn't antiperspirant give people cancer?
There are some rumors that plugging up your sweat glands with aluminum can cause health concerns. We asked the doc to set the record straight: "No major health issues have ever been proven to be related to the amount of aluminum that you would get from using an antiperspirant," Dr. Zalka says. So breathe easy about that and confidently swipe away.
Best aha deodorant: Nécessaire The Deodorant Gel, $15, sephora.com
What do I do if it's not working?
It's important to remember that every body is different," shares Sturino. Your hormones change a lot in your teens. That means that whatever you're using now to prevent odor might not be as effective next year (or even next month)—so switch it up if you sense some stink.
Best unscented: Native Unscented Deodorant, $13, target.com
And if your B.O. or sweating seem excessive? Make an appointment with your derm doc. You could have a condition that can be treated with an oral medication, says Dr. Zalka. No matter what, there's nothing to be embarrassed about. Don't sweat it (sorry, had to).
Hey, girl! Just wanted to let you know that this story originally ran in our August/September 2022 issue. Want more? Read the print mag for free *today* when you click HERE.
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