I tried using chemical exfoliant as deodorant and here’s what happened
Chronicles of the perspiration-prone
By Briar Clark
BEAUTYcrew Beauty Editor / June 29 2023
I’m a sweaty b*tch. This may seem like a somewhat graphic oversell of what is, in reality, a rather mundane conundrum but there’s no getting around it – I’m a very sweaty lady.
Bearing this in mind, you’ll no doubt understand the pickle I found myself in when I realised that my skin was starting to get irritated by constant deodorising (and not to mention, shaving, because on top of being a sweaty b*tch, I am also a hairy b*tch).
So naturally, to remedy my irritated underarms, I switched to natural formulas in lieu of aluminium inclusive options. But I’m going to admit, I was left largely unimpressed for the most part when it came to my experience of the category – and I stuck it out for a while..
For over a year I smushed gunky pastes on my pits and rolled on tea tree-infused potions onto my sensitive skin, but all I got for it was a wardrobe full of shirts with weird stains in the underarm seam and a bad case of the funks.
But then, the Internet blessed me with a beauty hack…
Mind you, I’m pretty skeptical when it comes to beauty solutions sourced via the World Wide Web (perhaps writing about terrifying incidents like Gorilla Glue Girl has left me somewhat scarred), and I take any Google findings with a pinch of salt.
But according to the Internet (AKA Refinery29 and TikTok) the solution to my sweating woes could lie in my skin care routine, in the form of my favourite AHA-infused formula.
If you’re not formally acquainted with Paula’s Choice RESIST Daily Smoothing Treatment with 5% AHA, then let us introduce you to this caramel-scented delight of an exfoliant turned deodoriser…
This daily AHA lotion may look like caramel cupcake icing when dispersed but instead of being loaded with sugar, it’s packed full of glycolic acid, which is key for its use as a deodorant.
As Dr Priya Vera told Refinery29, the hydroxy-acid works to “lower the pH of the underarm, creating an inhospitable environment for odour-causing bacteria”. Plus, just like your trusty glycolic toner, this little guy is effective at gently exfoliating skin, lowering the risk of any pesky ingrowns, which is always a nice bonus too.
So can glycolic acid be used in place of deodorant?
First, the downsides: Okay, look, on the days that I shaved my underarms there was an initial sting but admittedly the unpleasant sensation wore off almost instantly. The only other downside is that while glycolic acid addresses odour when it comes to perspiration, you are still going to sweat, so if dry pits are paramount on your list of deodorant needs this probably isn’t the switcheroo for you.
I was admittedly a little bit hesitant about putting glycolic acid on my underarms every day for obvious reasons (hands up who's learned the hard way that a compromised skin barrier ain’t no joke) but Paula’s uber gentle formula was an absolute delight to apply every morning. The sweet caramelised sugar scent is good in an inexpensive, body spray kind of way and the lotion format was hydrating without being slimy or gross. Plus, thanks to the exfoliating powers of glycolic acid, my armpits had never looked smoother or felt softer.
But perhaps most importantly, switching to a hydroxy acid formula cut down on any body odour I was experiencing during the day and in a way that natural deodorant just didn’t satisfy before.
So, call me a convert because it looks like I’m going to be slathering glycolic acid on my armpits for the rest of my life. What a time to be alive.
After a sensitive-skin friendly option? PHAs are the gentle hydroxy acid you need to know about.
Briar is the Beauty Editor at BEAUTYcrew. Her 'down for anything' attitude has resulted in more than a handful of hair transformations, and she doesn't mind being used as a guinea pig for the industry's most unusual products and treatments. Her work has also appeared on Refinery29, Girlfriend and beautyheaven.