Whole-Body Deodorants Are Trending—Here's Why

Get a whiff of these amazing new head-to-toe odor absorbers.

<p>Getty Images</p>

Getty Images

Fun fact: The approximately 25,000 sweat glands in our armpits (yes, you read that right) only constitute 1 percent of the sweat glands found on our bodies. Millions of others exist on our feet, under our breasts, in our groin area, and on our thighs and lower back.

Yet in the past, companies have only targeted the underarm area when it came to deodorant use. That’s all changing. “Women who’ve been applying traditional deodorants off-label for years now have the option of using a formula specially designed for all-over body use,” says Meghan O’Brien, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Tribeca Park Dermatology in New York City.

Known as whole-body or full-body deodorants, these products promise to reduce odor, from head to toe. “Even though body odor is completely natural, some people overcompensate by changing outfits during the day and taking multiple showers, keeping social distance, or using products that are not designed to address odor at the source,” says DiAnne Davis, MD, a board-certified fellowship-trained dermatologist at Hopkins Dermatology. “A whole-body deodorant provides an easy-to-apply solution to these lifestyle issues.”

When bacteria on the skin interact with sweat, the resulting culprit is body odor. “Sweat glands can be found all over our body beyond the underarms - on the thighs, chest, stomach, arms, legs, feet, and external genital areas,” says Maiysha Jones, PhD, a principal scientist at Procter & Gamble. “The beauty of full body deodorants is that they’re designed to tackle odor at the source.”

What makes whole-body deodorants different from regular deodorants? “They’re tested and designed for external use all over the body, whereas regular deodorants are tested and designed for under the arms only,” shares Dr. Jones. “That’s why the instructions on most regular deodorants say ‘apply to underarms only’ as the ingredients in regular deodorants may or may not be suitable for use on other parts of the body.” Whole-body deodorants may also contain stronger fragrances or higher concentrations of moisture-absorbing ingredients, and focus more on antimicrobial properties to combat bacterial growth in areas with higher sweat accumulation.

Available in creams, sprays, sticks, and wipes, you’ll have your pick when deciding which formula is best for you.

Who Should Use

People with more diffuse body odor are great candidates for full-body deodorants. “They’re also ideal for anyone who can’t shower daily,” notes Jeanine Downie, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and the director of image Dermatology.


Dr. Jones recommends them for people who have skin folds where sweat can pool like under their arms or breasts or at the bikini line.

Ingredients to Look For

“When shopping for a full body deodorant, look for something gentle enough to use on the external surfaces of the body, preferably a product that’s made without aluminum salts, parabens, or baking soda to minimize irritation,” says Dr. Davis. Derm-approved ingredients include sodium bicarbonate (to neutralize the acidity of sweat, preventing bacteria from creating an odor), tapioca starch and cornstarch (to absorb moisture), mandelic acid (to lower the skin’s pH to a more acidic level) and tea tree, eucalyptus and peppermint oils (to defuse odor).

Where and How to Apply

<p>Getty Images</p>

Getty Images

Whole-body deodorants can be applied anywhere on the body where you feel moisture or friction or smell odor. “They were designed to be used on the inner thighs, chest, belly, arms, legs, feet, external genital area, and armpits,” shares Diane Keenan, an associate director of research and development at Unilever. “Most products that have been created with the external genital area in mind have been gynecologist-tested to be suitable for external application.”

Whole-body deodorants need to be applied to clean, dry skin and only on external parts. Research by Secret found women prefer to use stick formulas under their breasts, between their thighs, and under their arms, cream formulas where a precise application is needed, like the groin or bikini line, and spray formulas, where a broader application is required, like on the feet. Many companies also offer hygienic, single-use wipes.

When applying creams to the genital area, Dr. O’Brien suggests using disposable gloves, while Dr. Downie notes it’s important to follow the directions on the packaging to prevent clogging pores and irritating the skin. “Never apply a whole-body deodorant on your face,” she adds. “Doing so can irritate sensitive facial skin and result in inflamed bumps called papules and blister-like sores known as pustules.”

Potential Side Effects

Although most formulas have been dermatologist-tested, it’s a good idea to perform a two-day patch test on the inside of your wrist before using a body deodorant on sensitive areas like the genital area and inner thighs.

“Watch for rashes or skin irritation when using these products for the first time as some ingredients and preservatives may affect sensitive skin types or those with contact allergies,” warns Dr. O’Brien. “And don’t apply if you have an active skin rash or an infection."

Frequently Asked Questions

Do full body deodorants stop sweat?

No. “While deodorants contain ingredients that absorb wetness, they do not prevent perspiration,” says Dr. O’Brien. “Deodorants neutralize odors with antimicrobial agents that inhibit bacterial growth, fragrances that mask odors, and ingredients that absorb moisture. An antiperspirant, on the other hand, will physically block sweat glands using ingredients like aluminum chloride.”

Are there other ways can I reduce odor?

Of course! "By wearing cotton underwear, loose-fitting clothing, showering daily and targeting areas like the groin, underarms, and feet with an antibacterial soap, and avoiding a diet that contains garlic, onion, and pungent spices, will go a long way in preventing body odors," shares Dr. O’Brien.

If whole-body deodorants don’t work for me, do I have other options?

Yes. You can try an over-the-counter antiperspirant or talk to your doctor about prescription-strength antiperspirants or wipes, odor-reducing oral medications, and in-office treatments such as miraDry (which uses thermal energy to permanently eliminate sweat glands) and Fractora (a skin resurfacing treatment that employs radio frequency to reduce sweat). “Botox, injected into the armpits, groin, scalp, hands, and feet can also help with lessening odor by reducing sweat,” says Dr. Downie.

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