Although it's something I don't put much thought to, picking out deodorant is a weird task. Having started out with the neon, sweet smelling dream known as Teen Spirit, most of us have no idea what we're really looking for and just go with whatever has the cutest packaging or the least-repugnant floral scent. But as it turns out, that's not exactly best practice when it comes to what's good for our bodies.
Contrary to how the deodorant aisle may appear, all D.O. is not created equal. There are sprays, gels, and solids, various strength options from clinical to regular, and so many different fragrances that it can actually make your head spin. (Seriously — I wouldn't recommend trying to sniff more than three during a single CVS trip. Trust me.) So how in the heck are we supposed to know which one to choose now that our bodies have decided to rudely age out of being able to rely on Teen Spirit? (Can you tell how much I loved that stuff?)
I took one for the team and consulted with Dove Dermatologist Dr. Alicia Barba, who answered all of the deodorant-related questions you've always wondered about but have been too afraid to ask. Here are 8 things to keep in mind next time you need to reach for some D.O. for your B.O.
1. There Actually Is A Difference Between Regular & Clinical Strength Deodorant
And It's not just that it's more expensive. "Clinical strength antiperspirants contain a slightly higher concentration of the active ingredients: the aluminum-based salts that temporarily block the sweat glands from releasing sweat," says Dr. Barba. "For example, Dove Advanced Care Deodorant contains 15.2 perent of the aluminum salt, while the Clinical version contains 20 percent." Some women (me) simply just need to stop more sweat from reaching the surface of the skin, so they (we) need to grab for a stronger strength wetness protection agent.
2. Gel Versus Solid Versus Spray Comes Down To Personal Choice
As it turns out, the delivery method of your deodorant doesn't make any real difference as far as the quality of the product is concerned. "It’s all about the difference in delivering the active ingredients, and oftentimes, that comes down to personal preference," says Dr. Barba. "I like Dove Dry Spray Antiperspirant because it goes on instantly dry and I can just spray and go. Sometimes, gels can feel cool or wet on your skin, and you have to wait a bit to get dressed."
3. Sharing Deodorant Isn't OK
My friends and I have gotten so comfortable using each other's deodorant, we barely even ask before we grab anymore. As it turns out, that is not an OK thing to do. "It is not recommended to share stick or gel deodorant, as that can lead to the transfer of bacteria," says Dr. Barba. If you’re in a pinch you can share spray deodorant (like the ones they have in the SoulCycle locker room), but you should always keep your gels and solids to yourself. Whoops!
4. Deodorant Expires
The expiration date is always listed on the packaging, but considering you probably (hopefully) use your D.O. every day there is literally no way it will last until it expires.
5. Be Wary Of Applying After Shaving
This is tricky for us morning shower-and-shavers, but it can cause irritation under our arms if we shave and deodorize one after the other. "If you have sensitive skin after shaving, it’s ideal to shave in the evening, and apply antiperspirant in the morning after your skin has had a chance to recover overnight," says Dr. Barba. If you really can't kick your a.m. pit shaving habit, you can also look into a fragrance-free antiperspirant for sensitive skin that has moisturizers, which can be gentler on recently shaved skin.
6. Anti-Perspirant Isn't Actually Bad For You
There have been various reports over the years about the danger of aluminum, the active ingredient in antiperspirant, but as it turns out it's really not that bad. "Extensive research and the overwhelming majority of third-party experts and organizations – including the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) – have shown there is no reliable evidence that aluminum is linked to health issues," says Dr. Barba. "Aluminum based salts in antiperspirants are regulated as over the counter drugs by the FDA."
7. Your Armpits Need Moisturizer Too
We're all completely obsessed with moisturizing the rest of our bodies, but usually forget to give your pits the hydration-love they need. "Your underarms take a beating from aggressive hair removal methods, like shaving and waxing, and are also exposed to constant friction, both from skin on skin and skin on clothes," says Dr. Barba. "This area is sensitive, and we need to remember to treat it as such. Deodorant is a product we apply every single day, so we want to make sure that it is providing benefits beyond the standard odor and wetness protection." She suggests Dove Dry Spray, which offers skincare benefits through its one fourth moisturizing formula in addition to its 48-hour wetness protection.
8. Your Options Are Pretty Much Endless
Dove Dry Spray Clear Tone, $4, Amazon
As anyone who has ever visited the deodorant aisle of the drugstore knows, there are literally a zillion choices out there. "Not only are there a variety of brands and scents, but there are also options for those of us with sensitive skin — fragrance-free — as well as those of us that suffer from hyper-pigmentation or dark marks under our arms from friction and/or shaving," says Dr. Barba. Dove’s Clear Tone variant is formulated with calendula, which is an ingredient known to help restore skin to its natural tone, which is perfect for anyone with darkened skin under their arms.
Images: Cora Foxx; Courtesy of brands