In the past years, we’ve witnessed the growing backlash against traditional stick deodorants. Concerns regarding aluminium, artificial fragrance and others have fueled a rise in awareness to opt for natural alternatives instead. Some even go for a total deodorant detox.  

Thus, people started to insert a holistic underarm care for this #NoDeodorant trend, including masks, wipes, and even acid toners. The latter has lately gained popularity, with TikTok skincare fans stating that applying Glycolic Acid on your underarms can halt sweating, eliminate body odour, and diminish pigmentation. Over 6 million people have viewed the hashtag #GlycolicAcidAsDeodorant. 

Significantly speaking, does it work—and, more importantly, is it safe? Here’s what we at Beauty Insider think. 

@drwhitneybowe Everything you need to know about glycolic acid, one of the most powerful ingredients in skincare. #thatboweglow #skincycling #exfoliationnight ♬ Coffee – XIANZ

What Is Glycolic Acid? 

Glycolic acid, originated from sugarcane, is a chemical exfoliant known as an alpha-hydroxy acid or AHA. Its tiny particle mass makes it effective and allows it to penetrate deep into the epidermis. It effectively works by dissolving the connections amongst dead skin cells, which aids in the resurfacing of the skin’s top layer. Glycolic acid, when used over time, can help eliminate discoloration and enhance complexion.

Using Glycolic Acid For Underarms

According to the endless TikTok videos, beauty aficionados are now opting for glycolic acid as deodorant for underarms because they prefer a ”safer” alternative and enjoy the notion of a versatile product. Furthermore, glycolic acid is claimed to reduce the pH of the underarm, producing an unfavourable habitat for odour-causing bacteria, which is why many TikTokers advocate using it as a body odour reducer. 

However, according to an article published Refinery29, this is only a theory, and there have been no verified sources to claim glycolic acid can diminish odour. Furthermore, there is minimal proof that glycolic acid lowers perspiration. In fact, perspiration water neutralises glycolic acid, negating any advantages from the acid treatment.

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Is It Safe For Underarms?

The safest answer would be no. Glycolic acid can aggravate sensitive skin, therefore it stands to reason that it might irritate underarm skin as well. Armpit skin is naturally sensitive owing to continual pressure and pressing, as well as a wet and congested environment like Malaysia. 

If you have a treatment of laser hair removal in the underarm area, you should avoid using glycolic acid for underarms at all cost.  Glycolic acid is not suited for everyone, and those with more sensitive skin may experience an unfavourable response. Excessive usage can also result in over-exfoliation, which weakens the skin’s protective barrier and causes inflammation and flakiness. This would be quite unpleasant in the hot and humid climate like Malaysia. 

Useful For Pigmentation Problem

In a sense, any such advantages regarding glycolic acid for underarms are based only on hearsay. But if there is one thing that glycolic acid may assist with is the underarm pigmentation problem. Because glycolic acid exfoliates the skin, it encourages a faster cell turnover and minimises the thickness of the skin that causes underarm pigmentation or discoloration. It is useful in eliminating undesired hyperpigmentation when used appropriately. 

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Disadvantages Of Glycolic Acid For Underarms

Like we mentioned earlier, using a minimal amount or a drop of glycolic on your face is enough, but never for underarms! And because glycolic is focused on repairing your skin’s barrier, by overusing this product, you could expect dryness, flakiness or worse exposure to harmful pollutants and pathogens. 

Allure also noted that glycolic acid is a chemical exfoliator—hence, it can cause irritation, redness, and inflammation, specifically when used excessively. The armpit area is much more sensitive since the skin is thin, making it more susceptible to irritation. As a result, we recommend using products with a glycolic acid content of 10% or less once each day. Doesn’t matter if you approach cautiously, inflammation is still possible. They overlook the thinner, more sensitive skin beneath the arms.

Go For A Natural Deodorants

The best natural deodorants generally have an equal balance of baking soda and high-quality essential oils. You may also want to avoid parabens and propylene glycol, especially if you have sensitive or irritated skin.

It’s also important to consider that people have unique body chemistry. Your body odour may also be caused by different kinds of bacteria, or you may be sensitive to a particular essential oil. That’s why it may take a while to find the best natural deodorant for you!

Read all about natural deodorants here: Shoppers Swear By These 17 Natural Deodorants That’ll Keep Sweaty Armpits At Bay

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