Friday, June 14, 2024

Does Full-Body Deodorant Work?


Are full-body deodorants really worth the spend?

Our extreme aversion to body odor is a relatively new blip on the humans-are-weird timeline. While our fascination with perfumes and fragrances dates back to pre-history, the first deodorant designed for destroying body odor didn’t arrive until the late 1800s. That’s not to say humans didn’t stink back then — manual labor was a way of life for most people and bathing was far less frequent than it is today. But our ancestors also ate cleaner and weren’t exposed to the hormone-disrupting chemicals pervasive today that can put our bodies, and the odors they make, into a stinky, sweaty tailspin. There’s also science that says our skin’s natural microbiome can do a lot of the work of tempering odors (and other issues like breakouts) if we just leave it mostly alone to do its thing.

It’s fair to say that we’ve moved well beyond all of that, though; the U.S. body care and deodorant market was valued at more than $9 billion last year — a rise of more than 14 percent over 2022, according to recent Mintel data. The category is expected to surpass $36 billion within the next five years. And our obsession with deodorizing is no longer relegated to just our underarms, either. Leading personal care brands such as Dove, Secret, and Old Spice are responding to the demand with innovative solutions for the entire body — from sprays and sticks to pastes and lotions. Unilever conducted research that found 15 percent of Americans are in search of a product capable of addressing whole-body odor, while a Dove Men + Care survey revealed that 76 percent of men are open to trying full-body deodorant, despite only two percent currently using such products.

Do we really stink that bad?

Battle of the body odor

“We’re finding that people are just struggling with body odor in general,” Megan Smith, Unilever’s senior manager of personal care R&D, shared with WWD. Freddy Bharucha, the president of the North America personal care and beauty ecosystem at Proctor & Gamble Beauty, attributes the rising popularity of full-body deodorants to an increase in open discussions about body odor, facilitated in large part by social media platforms. “Body odor is one of those topics that when people find the courage to open up and discuss, it creates even more conversation and commonality,” Bharucha said.

Woman showing off armpits.
Photo courtesy Billie

Full-body deodorants are, as their name implies, formulated to combat odor and provide freshness across all areas of the body, recognizing that sweat and bacteria, the primary culprits behind body odor, are not exclusive to the underarms. Leading the dialogue about whole-body odor since 2017 is Lumē, a line created by OB-GYN Dr. Shannon Klingman who candidly talks about where to use it in a series of popular ad campaigns that show her simulating application across various areas of the body. Klingman identified a gap in the market for effective odor control solutions, particularly for odors misattributed to conditions like bacterial vaginosis. Lumē’s use of mandelic acid to neutralize odor, along with Klingman’s disarming approach in the ads, has led to its success, with sales exceeding $100 million annually.

The evolution of full-body deodorants has also led to innovations in product formulations and application methods with cream deodorants — applied like a paste — on the rise. And just like there has been a growing demand for natural and clean personal care products in recent years — particularly aluminum-free deodorant — there’s now also an increase in demand for clean full-body deodorant options. Consumers are increasingly seeking products that are not only effective but also formulated without harmful chemicals and synthetic fragrances.

Using full-body deodorant

Full-body deodorant is specifically crafted to be gentle yet effective for use on various parts of the body, including the chest, back, feet, and even more sensitive areas. Its versatility is a key attribute, making it an essential addition to one’s daily hygiene routine. Unlike traditional deodorants and antiperspirants that are designed solely for underarm use, full-body deodorants are created with formulations that are safe and suitable for a wider skin surface area.

The question of whether full-body deodorants work is met with positive feedback from users who have experienced significant benefits in odor control and overall skin health. Reddit is full of threads on the subject as is TikTok. These products are designed to target and neutralize odor-causing bacteria on the skin’s surface, reducing body odor effectively. The efficacy of full-body deodorants can vary based on the formulation, the individual’s body chemistry, and the level of physical activity. However, many find that these deodorants provide a noticeable improvement in managing body odor.

Full-body deodorant benefits

The advantages of incorporating full-body deodorant into your personal care regimen are numerous. Primarily, it offers comprehensive protection against body odor by addressing sweat and bacteria production across the entire body. This holistic approach ensures that you remain as odor-free as possible, boosting confidence and comfort. Additionally, full-body deodorants often contain ingredients that can nourish and care for the skin, offering hydration and soothing properties alongside odor protection. This can reduce the need for multiple skincare products, cutting down on waste and offering cost savings.

Natural and clean full-body deodorant brands

Natural full-body deodorants often feature ingredients such as essential oils, baking soda, and plant extracts, which provide odor protection while being gentle on the skin.

Lumē Deodorant

Lumē offers a clinically proven 72-hour odor control deodorant that is safe for use on the entire body. It’s designed to target odor-causing bacteria without the use of aluminum or baking soda, making it suitable for sensitive skin.

Lume tangerine deodorant.

Native Deodorant

Native focuses on simple, effective ingredients like coconut oil and shea butter to combat odor. Its formulas are designed for underarms but gentle enough for full-body use, emphasizing the importance of natural, clean ingredients. With a range of teen- and tween-focused scents, it’s a popular choice for young people who may be struggling with hormonal imbalances and unwanted odors.

Native Whole Body Spray Deodorant Cucumber.


PiperWai uses activated charcoal as the main ingredient in its deodorant to absorb moisture and fight odor. Its gentle, natural formula is designed for sensitive skin and can be applied anywhere on the body.

Piper Wai deodorant.

Ursa Major

Ursa Major offers a deodorant with a blend of natural ingredients designed to provide long-lasting odor protection without the use of aluminum, baking soda, or synthetic fragrances. Its formula is suitable for all skin types and can be used across the body.

Ursa Major spray deodorant sage.

Schmidt’s Naturals

A longtime leader in natural deodorant, Schmidt’s Naturals provides a range of deodorants with natural formulations that include ingredients like magnesium and essential oils for natural odor protection. Its products are free from aluminum, propylene glycol, and artificial fragrances.

Schmidt's Natural Deodorant.
How do full-body deodorants impact the skin’s microbiome over long-term use?

The impact of full-body deodorants on the skin’s microbiome over the long term is a nuanced subject. The skin’s microbiome, a complex ecosystem of bacteria, fungi, and viruses, plays a critical role in protecting against pathogens, managing inflammation, and even producing natural moisturizers. The introduction of any topical product, including full-body deodorants, can potentially alter this delicate balance. Natural ingredient-based deodorants may be designed to minimize disruption and support the skin’s natural defenses, but individual responses can vary widely. Research into the long-term effects of these products on the microbiome is ongoing, and it would be beneficial for consumers to look for products that have been tested for compatibility with the skin’s natural flora.

What are the environmental impacts of producing and disposing of full-body deodorant products, especially as the demand for these products increases?

Many brands are adopting practices such as using biodegradable ingredients, recyclable or reusable packaging, and reducing carbon footprints through sustainable sourcing and manufacturing processes. However, the specifics can vary significantly from one brand to another. Consumers interested in minimizing their environmental impact may need to research brands that prioritize sustainability in their production and packaging practices.

Are there any documented side effects or adverse reactions associated with the use of full-body deodorants, particularly those containing essential oils, baking soda, or other natural ingredients, which can sometimes be irritants or allergens for sensitive individuals?

It’s important to keep in mind that natural does not always mean irritation-free. Essential oils, while beneficial in many respects, can cause allergic reactions or skin sensitivities in some individuals. Baking soda, known for its odor-absorbing properties, can also cause irritation or dryness for some skin types. Consumers should perform patch tests before using new products broadly, particularly for products intended for use across larger areas of the body. Additionally, manufacturers often provide guidelines and warnings about potential sensitivities, and consulting with a dermatologist can offer personalized advice based on an individual’s skin history and sensitivities.

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