Why does deodorant work on some days, but not on others?

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Have you noticed on some days it seems like your deodorant doesn’t work at all? We’re not talking about an especially sweaty day when you ran a 5K. We’re talking about normal, not-so-active days, when you may have experienced a strange, “Where the hell did this unruly STENCH come from?” phenomenon. It may feel unfair. Surely we could have done SOMETHING more deserving (like exercise) to make our deodorant go on strike.

If you’ve been curious as to why this happens, it can be due to a myriad of reasons.

As we learned recently, anxiety can cause our bodies to release a different type of sweat that smells more different than usual. Thing is, several factors can lead to a change in body odor, which in turn, can affect just how well our deodorant works that day.

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“Higher stress, whether perceived or not by an individual, medications, hormone levels, skin moisture and even certain food or drinks can add to body odor,” Dr. Michael H. Swann of Swann Dermatology tells HelloGiggles. So if you’re taking antibiotics or eat a bunch of garlic-y hummus for lunch, your deodorant may not be a fighting match for whatever is happening in your glands. Other factors — like your menstrual cycle or what kind of fabric your clothes are made of — might also play a part in your sweat and odor levels.    

Can we become immune to our deodorant?

Dr. Swann says no, so if your favorite peach soufflé-scented deodorant suddenly stops working one day, it doesn’t mean you necessarily need to switch to some maximum strength antiperspirant.

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Speaking of antiperspirant, what’s the deal?

With the natural product trend going strong, some people have been making the switch from an antiperspirant to a natural deodorant. Should there be legit concern in regards to potential effects of longtime antiperspirant use? “Although there are suggestions that because aluminum has the potential to cause genetic or hormone receptor change and that the area nearest the armpit of the breast has a higher incidence of breast cancer, these suggestions have not led to a solid connection between antiperspirant use and breast cancer,” says Dr. Swann.

“ A further implication is the association with nerve or brain damage. Decades ago, aluminum was shown to affect rabbit brains on exposure and is now suggested to be associated with progressive dementia.  These associations are frightening, but have not even been shown to correlate with real cause and effect in humans with exposure to antiperspirant.”

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What about working out? Can an increase in exercise affect deodorant potency?

Again, this relates to other factors. Dr. Swann says: “Producing more water volume in sweat will change the sweat’s concentration. Sweat glass are excretory and some foods and medicines can be excreted in sweat as well.” Basically, whatever you are doing, eating or taking that day can influence your deodorant.

If you’re worried that your deodorant won’t work, you can try to offset the potential stink by doing a few things.

First, you can spritz either apple cider vinegar or white vinegar on your pits — which only cost $2 to $4 — then wipe away. Just don’t do it immediately after shaving to not risk irritation. You can also try using either tea tree oil, which is a natural antiseptic that kills bacteria, or witch hazel which can lower the body’s pH levels and also scares away bad bacteria. Both of these are also just $3 to $6. Finally, opt to wear natural fibers, such as 100% cotton, so your pits can happily breathe. Bodies are so weird, yo.

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