Here's how to know when it's the stick—or just your stench
Deodorant falls into the “set it and forget it” category of grooming. You pick one. You put it on every morning. You don’t think about it again.
Until one day, your armpit stench has returned to its natural state. It’s a hostile landscape—unfamiliar and foreboding. “Did I forget to put on deodorant?” you think. But no, you’re sure you did. So what went wrong?
“Men may be using the wrong products for the wrong needs,” says Terence Keaney, a board certified dermatologist who works with Dove Men+Care. Not sure what product is right for you? Here’s the rundown.
Deodorant: Perfume for Your Pits
Deodorant, a clear blue or green stick, is just a scent cover. It doesn't stop you from sweating, it just adds some masculine zing to what comes out. When the seasons change, it might stop working.
"In the winter you're not sweating as much and you want to smell nice," says Keaney.
"Then in summer, your sweat glands fire up and you'll beat your deodorant."
Suddenly, the volume of sweat is diluting the scent, and it's no longer the woody musk you chose for your ski vacation.
Time to turn things up a notch.
Antiperspirant: Tiny Plugs for Your Sweat Faucets
Antiperspirant is most likely a white stick. It contains aluminum chloride—a salt crystal that plugs the sweat gland.
Why does this matter in terms of how you smell? Because you have two kinds of glands under your arm: Eccrine glands (which create sweat) and the apocrine glands.
“Apocrine glands are another set of glands that secrete more lipids,” says Brendan Camp, a board certified dermatologist based in northern Virginia.
“And bacteria on your skin digest the product from apocrine glands and create an odorous byproduct.”
Yes, you read that right. Tiny organisms living on your skin drink your armpit secretions and then… let’s leave it at that. The important thing is to dry out.
Doctor’s orders? To maximize your antiperspirant, put it on in the morning and at night. Apply it to dry pits.
“If you’ve already started sweating, that sweat is a film that can cause the product to pool in different areas and skip spots,” says Keaney.
He recommends the Dove Men+Care Dry Spray for easy, even application.
But beware: Into every life a little sweat must drip.
“Antiperspirant isn’t perfection,” says Keaney. “It might work well 90% of the time, but in NYC in August when there’s no wind and you’re walking five blocks—you could bathe in it and you’re still going to break through.”
Botox: An Off Switch for Your Sweat Signals
What if you could just tell your armpits to skip the sweat? In fact, you can. With Botox.
The same injection that freezes your facial muscles can stop your sweat glands. In fact, the neurotransmitter responsible for involuntary muscle movement is the one that signals for sweating. Compared to a stick of antiperspirant, it's astronomically more expensive; but think about special occasions here.
"I've done a whole party of groomsmen," says Marina Peredo, a board certified dermatologist and founder of NYC's Skinfluence. "Especially if it's a black tie affair. You're in a tuxedo. It's hot. You take the jacket off. You don't want to see sweat rings."
Like other Botox treatments, it costs a couple hundred bucks and lasts three to six months. That’s enough for the summer. But what if you never want to sweat again?
MiraDry: A Blow Torch for Body Odor
For those with hyperhidrosis—the clinical name for excessive sweating that happens for no apparent reason—a more drastic treatment has been gaining ground in recent years, called MiraDry.
In this one, a practitioner with a futuristic-looking ray gun uses electromagnetic energy to send a targeted heat wave underneath your armpit skin. It destroys both sweat and odor glands and, after some swelling and recovery time, you aren't supposed to sweat again.
The cons? Typically you need two treatments a couple months apart, the recovery period can be painful, and it will cost you thousands of dollars.
Now that you know the options, you can decide. Just don’t sweat it.
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