People are using glycolic acid as deodorant — but does it work and, more importantly, is it safe?
When it comes to skincare, there is no shortage of hacks on TikTok. As strange (and unsafe!) as some of them may be, there are some tricks that are actually pretty smart — or, at the least, worth looking into more on your own. Take, for example, the latest trend making its rounds on the video sharing platform: using glycolic acid as deodorant.
“Not to be dramatic, but I’m about to change your life,” TikTok user Cara Cardwell says in a video before recommending glycolic acid as an alternative to traditional deodorant. “This stuff balances the pH of your underarms, kills the bacteria that causes odor, and lightens your underarms.”
“I’ve been using this stuff instead of deodorant, and it has worked way better than deodorant ever has for me,” Cardwell claims, referencing a bottle of The Ordinary’s Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution. She’s not the only beauty enthusiast making such bold claims, either — the tag #glycolicacidasdeodorant has amassed over 1.5 million views on the platform.
Intriguing, right? While the benefits of using glycolic acid as deodorant certainly sound ideal, especially as summer starts to heat up, we have to wonder if it actually works — and more importantly, is it safe? So we asked a dermatologist to weigh in.
Does using glycolic acid as deodorant actually work?
First, it’s important to understand what glycolic acid is and how it works. Glycolic acid is a chemical exfoliating ingredient that is part of the alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) family. It works to resurface the upper layers of the skin (aka the epidermis) by dissolving dead cells and pore-clogging debris.
Of course, this has many benefits when applied to the face, ranging from brightening the complexion to smoothing fine lines and even keeping blemishes at bay. As for the underarms? Yes, it appears to work on some level here, too.
“Applying a toner to your underarms makes the underarm environment less hospitable to bacteria that is responsible for odor,” explains Dr. Hadley King, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. However, she points out that while glycolic acid may block BO, it will not stop you from sweating.
The thought is that acidic products may temporarily lower the skin’s pH level, making it less alkaline and protecting it against the growth of odor-causing bacteria. In addition to blocking body odor, glycolic acid can also help with hyperpigmentation and ingrown hairs by speeding up cell turnover.
Is using glycolic acid as deodorant safe?
Generally speaking, yes. But it’s important to keep in mind that the skin on underarm area is sensitive, made more so by hair removal methods like shaving and waxing and chafing caused by excess moisture. With that said, Dr. King advises you to proceed with caution.
She recommends looking for a product with a low concentration of glycolic acid and little to no alcohol to avoid irritation, uncomfortable stinging or an itching sensation. You should also look for a formula that contains soothing and moisturizing ingredients to counteract the potential for adverse reactions, she adds.
“If you experience any irritation, stop using the product immediately and apply moisturizers until the skin has healed,” says Dr. King. “If you want to give it another shot, decrease the amount you are applying and the frequency of application.” Keep in mind that the daily use of glycolic acid — applied anywhere on the body for that matter — can cause discomfort, especially for those with sensitive skin.
Willing to give it a try? Check out some glycolic acid toners that may do double duty as odor-blocking deodorant below. Simply apply to a cotton round, sweep over your armpits, and you’re good to go — or so they say on the ‘Tok.
Glycolic Acid Products to Try As Deodorant
Formulated with 7% glycolic acid, plus soothing aloe vera and cornflower water, this simple toning solution will get the job done. Also nice: It’s free of potentially-irritating alcohol, fragrance, and mineral oils, as well as parabens, formaldehyde, and other ingredients you probably don’t want to put on your pits.
This lightweight liquid combines 10% glycolic acid with witch hazel, a natural astringent that’s been used as a natural alternative to deodorant for many years; it also helps prohibit odor-causing bacteria and rids skin of excess moisture. Products by The Inkey List are certified “Clean at Sephora,” too, meaning they are formulated without a list of over 50 ingredients, including parabens, phthalates, and more.
Those looking for a solution that’s a little more mild may prefer this toner by Paula’s Choice. It’s formulated with a lesser concentration of glycolic acid at 5%, plus it contains anti-inflammatory vitamin E, soothing bisabolol and allantoin, and hydrating ceramides to keep the delicate skin from drying out.
Sure, this product is a splurge if you’re only using it on your underarms, but keep in mind that it works wonders on the face (where it’s intended for use) too. What we like most about this solution is that it’s formulated with a low percentage of glycolic acid (5%) and has a pH delivery system that’s at a level closer to the skin’s natural pH. It also contains soothing licorice root extract and antioxidants.
This tried-and-true resurfacing toner is a reliable choice for many reasons: It’s alcohol-free and contains only a 2% glycolic acid concentration, which means it’s super gentle and less likely to irritate skin. What’s more, it’s also formulated with a good amount of soothing aloe vera leaf juice and anti-inflammatory grapefruit extract.
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