Oh summer, the feeling of the sun’s rays on your shoulders, dipping your toes in the pool or lake or ocean, enjoying the outdoors and the warm weather. That is, until you start sweating, your thighs are rubbing together, your hair is sticking to your forehead, your makeup is running down your cheeks, and your feet are slipping and sliding in your flats.
We dream of summer all winter long, but once it’s here we remember how it can turn us into a sweaty, chafing, hot uncomfortable mess. I am sharing a series of articles breaking down what I rely on to not be a sweaty, stinky, chafing, miserable mess every summer. Today we’re going to discuss B.O. AKA body odor. While there are all sorts of odors that come from our bodies, this article focuses on the body odor that comes from our armpits.
How to fight sweat and B.O. this summer: products that work
Heat equals sweat, and sweat usually equals body odor. There are many products on the market that will fight odor while letting you sweat, others that block the sweat to prevent the wetness and the smell. I am not here to tell you what is right or wrong, just my experience with both camps:
I don’t want any sweat, no matter what is smells like.
I hear you. I have always been a sweaty person and spent a good portion of my young adult life trying to figure out how to prevent it. A few products that really helped and I still rely on if I need to be on television or somewhere a sweaty brow and stained pits aren’t cool:
SweatBlock are cloths like baby wipes that have ingredients that will literally block you from sweating. I have dabbed it along my hairline, used it on the small of my back, my palms and soles, and my armpits. This works and it works well.
You will find plenty of online reviews from those who deal with hyperhidrosis sharing feedback that SweatBlock is the only product that has helped. Folks have used this on their upper arm, under their breasts, and most anywhere that gets overly sweaty.
SweatBlock comes as individually-wrapped wipes doused in a high concentration of aluminum chloride. Aluminum chloride has a smaller molecular structure than aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex gly, which is the active ingredient in most antiperspirants. Due to the smaller molecules, it is more easily absorbed into the skin, thereby being more effective in blocking sweat.
Apply under your arms or wherever you’re dealing with sweat at night, and have up to seven sweat-free days. SweatBlock directions recommend you do not use this after shaving and I agree. In fact, if you have any skin sensitivity I would do a very small patch test.
My skin does NOT like SweatBlock. If I haven’t used it in a long time and I haven’t shaved or exfoliated or been out in the sun or used anything like retinol or glycolic acid I can use it, feel a bit of burning, but it will go away within 30 minutes and the next day I will be dry. If I try to use it regularly, I will get fiery hot welts on my skin that take days to subside. Take it from me, that is NOT cute on your upper lip or on your forehead.
You may also like: How to Prevent Chub Rub (And How to Heal It if You Get It)
Certain Dri is the OG antiperspirant, and has been available at places like CVS and Target for many years, making it widely known and widely used. Like SweatBlock, you apply Certain Dri at bedtime, and like SweatBlock Certain Dri can cause irritation and a rash.
When I was younger I would use Certain Dri every night from Memorial Day to Halloween. But as I got older, I started having a reaction to it. Like SweatBlock I get a horrible burning rash that can take a couple of days to go away. That reaction was the reason I began on a journey to find the most effective natural deodorant.
That being said, many do not have such a reaction to Certain Dri and it can work quite well. Back in the day, I could easily go two days without deodorant if I had been regularly using Certain Dri. I found it more effective if I used it consistently than say one time the night before a special occasion.
I just want a normal antiperspirant/deodorant that actually works.
I’ve tried dozens of natural deodorants; I have also tried lots of traditional antiperspirant/deodorant combos because as I shared above, I have always been a stinky person. You name it, I’ve likely tried it. Yes Old Spice and Cashmere Mist, and Malin + Goetz and Mitchum, Degree Motion Sense and Secret Clinical Sense, Ban and Vanicream… been there done that.
Between natural deodorants I have often gone to Dove Advanced Care in Cool Essentials, which doesn’t have too strong of a scent (and I like the smell of cucumbers). But my last stick of Dove stopped working for me before I finished it and I was actually leaving my house for one of the first times so I went to the grocery store and got regular Secret Fresh Invisible Solid in Cucumber Water and not only did it work as well as Dove, like Dove I didn’t feel like I had to do some major armpit detox to switch back to natural deodorant.
I have tried all the heavy duty stuff and I haven’t liked any of them. That being said, I can’t deal with a super fragrant deodorant and I cannot handle the smell of warm baby powder or warm lavender on my skin. If those things don’t bother you, there are some great products on the market. But to be honest, I have found the not as fancy basic bitch deodorants to work better for me and they don’t end up over time making me smell like hot metal.
I’m okay with sweat, I just don’t want to stink.
As I mentioned above, after starting to get a reaction from Certain Dri along with not finding traditional deodorant/antiperspirant combinations to be as effective as before, I started using natural deodorants.
I am both a naturally sweaty person and a naturally stinky person. It’s why I don’t buy investment shoes, and it’s why I don’t trust just anyone’s reviews about a product that supposedly kills body odor. And it’s why I write about this topic so much; if I can’t find what works for me I know I am not the only one.
You may also like: Natural Deodorants Reviews (including one for Lume)
The most effective natural deodorant I’ve found: Apothekari
I continue to use Apothekari roll-on natural deodorant; I find it consistently more effective than other natural deodorants. I would find one that seemed perfect and 3-6 weeks later I would be smelling like B.O. and cat pee. I have used Apothekari for over a year now and continue to use it.
Apothekari is a brand by Sharmani Pillay, a Canadian pharmacist who is also a woman of color. Her line of evidence-based cruelty-free products goes beyond just deodorants to offer skincare, body care, as well as a vaginal moisturizer that has been getting rave reviews.
Because I have raved before about Apothekari (read my natural deodorant reviews), Apothekari is offering an exclusive discount code for Wardrobe Oxygen readers. Use wardrobe10 at checkout to get 10% off your order!
I heard wiping my pits with rubbing alcohol would kill body odor.
My husband has a friend who always smells great but admitted he doesn’t wear deodorant. He just wipes his pits with isopropyl (AKA “rubbing”) alcohol each morning. I’ve hugged him after a night dancing at a concert, after him working in the garden, after him working on his car and he has never smelled like B.O., just normal warm human. I was sold and decided to try it myself.
That evening getting ready for bed, sniffed my pits. Showered in the morning, applied natural deodorant after but by that point in the evening I was a bit musty. I put some rubbing alcohol on a reusable cotton pad and wiped and the smell I smelled was immediately gone. I waved a magazine at my pits so the alcohol would dry and once it did, I no longer smelled like a doctor’s office. I smelled like nothing at all. This. Is. Awesome.
The next day, I showered, then wiped my pits with alcohol, then applied my deodorant. The following day I tried just the rubbing alcohol, no deodorant. While wiping my pits with rubbing alcohol seemed to extend the “life” of my natural deodorant, it was NOT a replacement for deodorant and I stunk in less than two hours.
I also found that after a week of wiping my underarms with rubbing alcohol, my skin was dried out and so sensitized my tried and true Apothekari natural deodorant was irritating my skin.
I heard wiping my pits with Stridex can stop B.O.
I also read that Stridex pads (the ones in the tub with the red label) can also kill the bacteria that causes body odor. I am allergic to salicylic acid which is in Stridex but I heard glycolic acid achieved the same results.
I tried these wipes from Colleen Rothschild, I tried Pixi Glow Tonic on a reusable cotton round, and it worked a little bit, like a lighter version of what I got from rubbing alcohol. Not enough to justify the cost of dousing a cotton round with Pixi Glow Tonic twice a day.
I looked to kill the B.O. bacteria with Megababe Space Bar Underarm Soap
Megababe makes some genius products and I saw the brand began selling an underarm soap called Space Bar. Made with charcoal and tea tree, this soap claims to absorb and wash away odor-causing impurities in just 60 seconds. Reviews said it made their natural deodorant finally work for them. I was sold and placed an order.
This works as effectively… as the rubbing alcohol but isn’t drying. It’s not perfect; I can wash my pits with Megababe Space Bar Underarm Soap and apply deodorant and I can still smell horrific after a 45-minute HIIT and Hills on my Peloton.
Megababe Space Bar Underarm Soap smells very strong of tea tree. Some love that smell; others like yours truly worked as a trainer for The Body Shop in the early aughts and am okay with not smelling much of tea tree ever again. I still shudder thinking about this man who would come in my store every Friday and buy three bottles to burn in his aroma jar/diffuser because, “the ladies love it.” Anyway… this soap may be effective for you, but I am mainly using it this summer on my feet in hopes to elongate the life of some lovely new sandals.
I heard Hibiclens kills body odor
I don’t recall where I was, either TikTok or Reddit, but I read something that could have been a hack or a lie about how using Hibiclens as soap on your pits can kill body odor. That made a lot of sense; anyone in the medical profession knows Hibiclens is an antimicrobial liquid soap. It’s a cherry red color, smells a bit antiseptic, thinner than your typical hand soap or body wash. You can find it on Amazon, at Target, CVS, Walgreens, etc., and is usually in the first aid aisle.
At least for me, this stuff works. I keep it in the shower and wash my pits with it and then wash the rest of me as usual with my usual products. It has been a month and if I haven’t taken a shower that day and I do a Peloton ride I can smell ripe; but if I shower that day washing with Hibiclens and then after go with Apothekari deodorant, I am good.
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This article may be a bit TMI, but I know after writing this blog for over 15 years that if I am dealing with something, someone else is also dealing with it. And if I can’t easily find an answer on the internet, other people are also struggling to find an answer. So I am happy to share what I have learned and honest product reviews of what actually works.
Let me know if you like the idea of this series. Future topics may cover chub rub and dealing with chafing, skin sticking to skin in the summer, and other topics. What would you like featured?