Why you Should Be Using A Whole Body Deodorant—And How It Actually Works

Like nearly everyone I know, I have a busy schedule. So, I try to squeeze in activity whenever possible. My solution: bike everywhere—to work, to dates, to drinks with friends, you get the picture. It's an easy way to fit in a workout, but it’s not like I can show up to a nice dinner smelling as if I'd spent hours dancing at a music festival. I needed to find a way to deal with odor and sweat.

And that's when I discovered full-body deodorants.

Most of us are familiar with the funk of BO, which happens when sweat interacts with bacteria that naturally exist on our skin, triggering a reaction that causes odor. But Perspiration isn’t isolated to the armpits—just two percent of our body’s sweat comes from that area. In fact, research shows that we have three types of sweat glands—eccrine, apocrine, and apoeccrine—all over, including on the back, chest, feet, forehead, inner thighs, and genitals. And odor solutions for those areas are now as copious as catfights on an episode of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

The birth of a trend

For decades, people have been creating their own DIY concoctions to tackle head-to-toe stinkiness with things like baby powder, coconut oil, and even lemon juice. “Talc, clays, baking soda, and tapioca starch work to absorb sweat, preventing wetness and odor,” says Ron Robinson, a cosmetic chemist and founder of the skincare brand BeautyStat. But recently, some of these remedies have come under fire, with major class-action lawsuits aimed at Johnson & Johnson, alleging the company's talc-containing products contain known carcinogens like asbestos. Scary health concerns aside, simply figuring out the right balance of ingredients can be tricky to do in your kitchen. So a slew of brands have come out with ready-to-use formulas to step into the void.

You've probably seen one of the biggies on TV or social media recently.

We're talking about LUME, of course—the brand that popularized the idea of full-body deodorants in 2017. Founder Shannon Klingman, MD, an OB/GYN set out offer women a ready-made solution, creating LUME’s most famous product, the Whole Body Deodorant. This formula, with tapioca starch and mandelic acid, works to acidify skin’s pH, preventing odour-causing bacteria from proliferating. Dr. Klingman recommends rubbing a pea-sized amount (“A little goes a long way,” she says.") into smelly areas, including the vulva, under-boob, thigh folds, and underneath the butt cheeks. Since its launch, LUME has expanded its portfolio to include stick deodorants, wipes, body creams, body washes, and acidified cleansing bars that are pH-optimized to control odour.

a woman stretching her shoulders
Lee Morgan

The conversation goes mainstream

Thanks to the huge viral success of LUME—the company now rakes in millions a year—topics that were once considered off-limits for polite conversation—genital odour, under-boob sweat—were lighting up social media. “De-stigmatizing these subjects is the way of the future,” says shape-positivity advocate Katie Sturino, whose own bodycare brand MegaBabe has a suite of head-to-toe odour- and sweat-fighting products, including the Magic Powder, a corn starch-based lotion deodorant.

Soon, major mass market players were getting in on the action: A national survey from beauty powerhouse Unilever (brands include Dove, St. Ives, and Vaseline) conducted last year and found that 15% of Americans were looking for a full-body odour solution, says Megan Smith, Senior Manager of Personal Care R&D the company. Furthermore, videos on TikTok for #FullBodyDeodorants have more than 23 million views and in the United States, searches for body deodorants have increased over 135% in the last three months.

This year alone, [in the US] SheaMoisture launched its Whole Body Deo Cream and Stick, Dove unveiled Whole Body Deodorant Creams and Sticks, and Native now has an entire suite of full-body deodorants, which includes sprays and sticks.

There are formulas for every need and preference: Secret’s Whole Body Deodorant Spray, for example, helps access hard-to-reach areas like the back and address large areas, skin folds, and feet. Speaking of, footcare brand Dr. Scholl’s recently introduced its own Foot Odor Probiotic Spray, which helps rebalance bacteria to tackle foot odor. And deodorant powerhouse Ban introduced an ingenious two-fer, the Thigh & Body Rub Remedy Anti-Friction Stick, to address painful chafing and tackle odor. “For some patients, there was a hole in the market for something that can treat these types of full-body issues—they just didn't feel comfortable using their regular underarm deodorant in other areas,” says Michelle Henry, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City.

An elevated experience

And as the trend evolves, the offerings are getting even more sophisticated. AKT London—a brand that was founded by two professional West End performers in the UK who were looking for a natural deodorant that actually performed—recently introduced Deodorant Balms that offer an elevated olfactory experience.

AKT teamed up with Sozio, a French fragrance house that specialises in clean and natural perfume, to create each of its scents: Orange Grove blends petitgrain, mandarin, and neroli for an uplifting experience; After Thunder combines cedar, eucalyptus, and orange for a refreshing and grounding effecting; The Onsen mixes notes of vetiver, lavandin, and citrus to soothe the mind; Halycon Summers transports you to an Italian villa in the summer thanks to notes of mint, pomelo, and tomato vine; and lastly, Columbia Road transports users to a floral marketed nestled in the midst of a budding city with notes of plant stems, amber, and violet leaf. A swipe of each feels less like applying deodorant and more like trying on an expensive perfume—and FWIW, I’ve used the products during a hot yoga class and can confirm I smelled as good after the class as I did before. Chic and effective.

Fur is another brand aiming to lift the experience of using deodorant above the bar, but with a one-two punch. The company, which was founded to create luxurious pubic hair products, just unveiled its new Ingrown Deodorant, addressing two concerns simultaneously. It sends body odour packing by neutralising offensive aromas with a combination of probiotics and essential oils and it prevents and reduces the formation of ingrown hairs with mildly exfoliating salicylic acid. It’s marketed for underarm use, but the product was gynecologist-tested and proven to be safe for below-the-belt.

What's the difference between deodorants and antiperspirants? Simply put, deodorants work to neutralise body odour, while antiperspirants reduce perspiration with ingredients such as aluminum salts, explains Dr. Henry. Now, you may have heard some chatter about potential health risks, including breast cancer, associated with antiperspirant use, but our experts don't want you to worry. “Some research has found aluminum present in breast tumors, but correlation is not necessarily causation—there is no proof the aluminum is coming from antiperspirant use,” she says. Other common arguments against antiperspirant use is that it's unsafe to block sweat, which prevents our body from purging "toxins." Also untrue: “We have two-to-four million sweat glands on our bodies, so blocking one or two percent of them is insignificant,” says Dr. Henry. "And our body processes potential toxins via the liver and kidneys, not through sweating. Perspiration is merely a mechanism to cool us down."

The smart solution for active women

Products designed to minimise odour all-over are a no-brainer for women who hit the gym, track, or athletic field regularly, like me. I may not be biking to work every day anymore, but my active lifestyle is still in full-swing. And whole body deodorants help me cover my bases from head-to-toe, and I love that these products offer a great olfactory experience and are easy to stash in my backpack or gym bag.

Sweat is normal. Body odour is normal. But feeling helpless about them no longer has to be normal.

You Might Also Like