TikTok Thinks Glycolic Acid Can Replace Your Deodorant — OK, But Can It?
All products featured on Allure are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
More than a few folks have sung the praises of using glycolic acid as a deodorant across social media platforms. The TikTok hashtag #glycolicacidasdeodorant, which has 12.7 million views at the time I'm writing this, is full of users raving about how their armpits stopped smelling once they started using the acid.
Before we get into evaluating whether it can safely function as a deodorant, first, let's address the basics. Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that brightens and smooths the skin via chemical exfoliation. Of the AHAs that exist, glycolic acid has the smallest particle size, so "it is the most powerful and effective since it can penetrate our skin the best," Pittsburg-based board-certified dermatologist Lindsey Zubritsky, MD, previously shared with Allure. That explains why it's beloved for lightening dark spots and firming the skin to reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
Many TikTokers have specifically highlighted The Ordinary's Glycolic Acid 7 Percent Toning Solution as the product that changed the game. Users typically add a few drops to a cotton pad or their hands before swiping it onto their pits. One user even transferred the solution to a smaller spray bottle for easier application.
But is the AHA useful as a deodorant? Kind of. Connecticut-based board-certified dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD, confirms that glycolic acid can, indeed, help prevent that dreaded sweaty pit stench. "It sheds dead skin cells and lowers the skin pH so that the bacteria [that causes body odor] can't survive," she explains. Thus, the acid can leave your pits scent-free.
However, Dr. Gohara says that glycolic acid won't stop your underarms from sweating because it lacks the key sweat-blocking ingredient: aluminum salt. So if you don't want to deal with sweaty pits specifically, stick to an antiperspirant.
Dr. Gohara suggests applying the acid after showering because it should be used on clean pits. "The whole idea is to keep the odor-producing bacteria at bay, so applying [the acid] when the odor is already brewing may not be as effective," she explains. She believes applying glycolic acid with biodegradable pads is best because it minimizes how long the solution is touching the skin, which in turn can reduce potential irritation.
Because glycolic acid is a chemical exfoliant, irritation, redness, and inflammation are all possible side effects, especially when used too frequently. Dr. Zubritsky previously noted to Allure that dryness and breakouts can also occur from overuse of AHAs. The armpit area is particularly sensitive because the skin is thinner, so it's even more prone to irritation. That's why Dr. Gohara suggests sticking to products with a concentration of 10 percent glycolic acid or lower and using once per day.
Even if you proceed with caution, inflammation is still likely to happen because many of the glycolic-acid-based products that have become popular for use on the armpits are formulated specifically for the face or body. They don't take into account the thinner, more sensitive skin under the arms.
That's why Dr. Gohara loves Surface Deep's Anti-Odorant Pads, which contain glycolic acid and are specifically made for the armpits. She notes that the brand was founded by a fellow Connecticut-based board-certified dermatologist by the name of Alicia Zalka, MD. Each biodegradable pad is formulated with moisturizing aloe vera juice and glycerin, which can combat potential dryness from the acids, alongside the AHA.
Allure commerce writer Jennifer Hussein swears these pads are sweaty-girl-approved. "As a sweaty girl with sensitive skin that's prone to B.O, I like that they actually take care of odor. These were still very gentle, and they don't feel sticky on the pits like other AHA-powered deodorants do," she shares.
Similar to Surface Deep, there are also other brands that have created deodorants formulated with AHAs. Kosas Chemistry AHA Serum Deodorant works well for folks who don't like traditional deodorant sticks. The serum is packed with three AHAs (mandelic, shikimic, and lactic acid) plus hydrating ingredients such as aloe vera and hyaluronic acid. It comes in three scent options including a fragrance-free one for sensitive-skinned folks. We also recommend the mandelic-acid infused Lume Natural Solid Deodorant Stick, which is available unscented and in four other scents.
The clock app was right about glycolic's odor-eliminating powers. Thankfully, you don't have to settle for using your glycolic facial toner or serum on your pits because there are options specifically made for the armpits, limiting the potential for irritation.
By Gabi Thorne
By Aliza Kelly
By Anya Meyerowitz
Read more stories about skin-care acids:
Now enjoy this cosmetic surgeon's daily routine:
Don’t forget to follow Allure on Instagram and Twitter.
News by day
3 of October 2022