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Did You Know? You Can Actually Use Chemical Exfoliants As Deodorant

And why you should make the switch.
Did You Know? You Can Actually Use Chemical Exfoliants As Deodorant
ILLUSTRATOR Igi Talao
And why you should make the switch.

Like most people, my underarms have lines, hyperpigmentation, and chicken skin that I want to get rid of. I don’t really smell when I sweat, but I do get the occasional B.O. when I don’t put on deodorant before a workout or on hot days.

I've been trying to find a better alternative for deodorant (did you know that formulations with aluminum can cause dark armpits?), when I read that exfoliating acids like AHA and BHA can be used in place of it. Of course, I was doubtful and scared that it would not do anything, and it might damage my underarms more, but no, it was the opposite of that, and since making switch, I haven't looked back.

What are the benefits of using chemical exfoliants on your underarms?

According to Michelle Wong, chemistry PhD and skincare science expert, body odor comes from bacteria and odor-forming chemicals in the armpits. It forms when our apocrine sweat glands produce sweat that contains chemicals and nutrients that bacterial growth can feed on, leading to that foul smell we all hate. 

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So how do exfoliating acids work on getting rid of armpit odor? Our underarms usually have a pH of 5.5-6.5, and lowering our skin's pH has the potential to decrease the bacteria that makes it stink. Here's where acids come in: Having a pH level of 3-4, it instantly lowers the chance of bacterial growth, helping us stay fresh everyday.

Using exfoliating acids as deodorant not only stops you from stinking, it also helps with brightening the armpits, reducing ingrown hairs, and fading hyperpigmentation. So if you have AHA, PHA or BHA products you can't seem to finish, use it as deo or incorporate it into your routine for exfoliation instead. With all the effects and actual results, it’s definitely worth trying.

In fact, I tried it myself and used The Ordinary's glycolic acid toner for a month as my "deodorant." The effect I immediately noticed was that I had no B.O. at all. I would even say that using glycolic acid was better at dispelling any foul odor than using my normal deo. Although I was still sweating as the acids didn't work as an antiperspirant, I didn't smell bad at all!

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At the end of my one-month trial, my armpits were also visibly smoother and brighter. I'm satisfied with the results and it has definitely boosted my self-confidence. So will I continue doing this? Yes, since my skin tolerates the acid and has been doing wonders ever since. But is it a miracle? I wouldn't say so, but here’s real science behind why it works and I've experienced the benefits firsthand.

How do you use chemical exfoliants on your underarms?

A word of caution: Just like with all your skincare, do a patch test first to assess if your skin can handle the acids to make sure that you won't have adverse reactions. Consult a dermatologist if needed! Also, do not apply the exfoliants after shaving, waxing, and undergoing laser treatments. Start slow with using the acids once a week, moving up to more days per week once your skin is able to tolerate it more. Do not overuse to avoid over-exfoliating your underarms!

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Want to try this trick? Shop the products below!

1. The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

To target dullness and uneven texture, use this toner for mild exfoliation. Aside from glycolic acid, the toner is also formulated with ginseng root and aloe vera to prevent the skin from drying out and helps soothe the skin even with constant use. It's also free from irritants, vegan, cruelty-free, and is suitable for all skin types.

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Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution, P1100, THE ORDINARY, Lazada

2. CosRX BHA Power Liquid

Since BHA is more powerful and penetrates deeper into the skin, this product will help clear clogged pores and exfoliate dead skin cells. Another key ingredient of this product is the white willow bark, which has anti-inflammatory properties to help with any form of irritation and redness that may occur.

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BHA Blackhead Power Liquid, P990, COSRX, Lazada

3. The Inkey List Lactic Acid

For those with dry or sensitive skin, this is the best product to use for underarms because lactic acid is a milder exfoliator than other AHAs, and the serum itself was made with hyaluronic acid to moisturize and hydrate the skin, making it softer and smoother.

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Lactic Acid Serum, P930, THE INKEY LIST, Sephora.ph

4. Paula's Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant

This cult-favorite made with salicylic acid can be used on the underarms to smooth rough texture, brighten the skin, and unclog trapped sebum and dirt. It's gentle enough for daily use and will help the skin become radiant looking.

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2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant, P975, PAULA'S CHOICE, Beautymnl

5. Drunk Elephant Sweet Pitti Deodorant Cream

The Drunk Elephant deodorant keeps the odor at bay from its mixture of shea butter and mandelic acid. Shea butter has emollient properties and keeps the skin barrier protected while the mandelic acid kills odor-causing bacteria, so you can stay fresh all day long.

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Sweet Pitti Deodorant Cream, P910, DRUNK ELEPHANT, Sephora.ph

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