This Is Why Your Deodorant Isn't Working Anymore

There are three likely reasons why your deodorant stopped working.
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You found it: ​the​ deodorant. The one that glides like magic over your pits. Keeps them moisturized. Eliminates sweatiness and stink. And smells divine, too. It couldn't get better.

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And then one day...​sniff, sniff​. Is that you? It can't be. But it is. Suddenly, you're feeling extra damp and slightly odorous. What the heck happened?

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You might assume that your deodorant or antiperspirant just stopped working one day. But it's unlikely that your body simply adjusted and that formula no longer works for you, Lauren Fine, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Chicago, Illinois, tells LIVESTRONG.com. (Whew, that's great news. There is hope — so don't throw away your stick just yet.)

Antiperspirant vs. Deodorant

First, a chat about the basics might help you understand a little bit about what's going on.

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A deodorant uses ingredients that mask or neutralize the natural scent of your sweat, such as baking soda, Dr. Fine says. On the other hand, "antiperspirants use aluminum chloride to block sweat ducts and prevent sweat from being released," she explains.

That not only keeps your pits dry, but by stopping the sweat, you can stop the smell, too.

Your armpits are an area dotted with a type of sweat gland called apocrine glands.

"The fluid from apocrine glands contains lipids and proteins. When those mix with bacteria on the skin, it creates smelly sweat," Dr. Fine says. "Everyone has a different natural scent because of how this fluid mixes with the bacteria on your skin," she adds.

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So, Why Did Your Deodorant Stop Working?

There may be a few things going on in your body that trigger increased sweat, which could then enhance the odor and give the impression that your product stopped working. However, it may be that your deodorant just isn't strong enough for you right now.

1. It’s Stress

Never let 'em see you sweat, right?

"Sweat is a complex process. While its main function is to regulate your body temperature, your body can sweat in response to a whole host of different stimuli," Dr. Fine says.

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That includes stress and anxiety. That's likely what's behind the change in efficacy of the product, rather than your body building a tolerance to it, she says.

And remember, if you're sweating more, then you'll likely have more B.O.

Think about if something has changed in your life — do you feel more pressed for time? Are your responsibilities at work cresting in a way that feels overwhelming? Really focusing in on stress-management strategies that you enjoy, work for you and fit into your schedule can help improve your wellbeing and may favorably affect your sweat rate, too.

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2. It’s Hyperhidrosis

Hyperhidrosis is a medical condition marked by excessive sweating, and you can develop it at any time in your life, Dr. Fine says.

That's because excessive sweating can be a condition in itself (though one that usually starts in childhood or adolescence), but there's also something called secondary hyperhidrosis, which can be a side effect of medication or occur as the result of an underlying medical condition. (Hyperthyroidism, pregnancy, rheumatoid arthritis and menopause are just a few.)

If you recently started a new medication, are experiencing additional symptoms beyond sweating or have always felt that you perspire far more than most people, talk to your doctor.

3. Your Cleansing Routine Is Too Harsh

There's a whole community of microorganisms that have taken up shop on your skin — and that's completely normal.

But "when your skin microbiome is out of balance, that can cause problems," Dr. Fine says.

Aggressively scrubbing under your arms can affect the flora of your skin and affect your scent, she says. So be sure to avoid over-cleansing this area.

Next Steps to Stop the Sweat

There are a few steps you can take if you feel that your pit product isn't banishing your B.O. the way it once did.

1. Inspect Your Product

Is it deodorant or an antiperspirant? If it's a deodorant, you might want to consider making the switch to antiperspirant.

Already using antiperspirant? Check the label, as they come in different strengths. Consider bumping up to a clinical/prescription-strength product, which will contain higher levels of aluminum chloride, Dr. Fine says.

2. Apply It Correctly

Swipe on an antiperspirant at night to dry skin before bed.

"Antiperspirants will work better if applied at night. The products work over a 24-hour period and can take a little time to become effective," Dr. Fine says.

3. Consider External Factors

As mentioned above, there are many reasons why you might be extra sweaty these days. Working on your stress and anxiety levels isn't a quick fix, but it will pay off for your long-term mental health.

If it may be the result of a medication or you're feeling extra crummy these days (as well as sweaty), you may want to see your doctor to rule out medical causes.

4. See a Dermatologist

If you're stumped as to why you're extra stinky lately and need to stem the sweat, make an appointment with a dermatologist, who can help you find a solution.

It can feel terrible to think that you have to leave your beloved deodorant or antiperspirant, but if you need extra help, Dr. Fine says there is an amazing new product called Qbrexza, which is a medicated wipe that inhibits the neurotransmitters that activate sweat. "It is very effective for the underarm area," she says.

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Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911. If you think you may have COVID-19, use the CDC’s Coronavirus Self-Checker.
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