You don't want to stink — so you really get up in your pits with the deodorant. But how many swipes is too many? Or not enough? You really want that balance of stink-stopping without the white streaks all over your clothing and little white clumps in your pits.
First, a quick reminder on how deodorant actually works. "Deodorants are designed to mask odor associated with sweating. They may also contain ingredients that help to absorb moisture, but they are not truly blocking or decreasing the release of sweat," New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Marisa Garshick, MD, tells LIVESTRONG.com. (Products that block sweat glands fit into the antiperspirant category.)
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Even though applying deodorant is something most of us are doing on the daily (nearly 300 million Americans use antiperspirants or deodorants, according to market and consumer data research group Statista), we don't always get it right. In fact, there's way more to putting on deodorant than doing the simple swipe-and-go. Read on for exactly how to do it to stay odor-free all day.
How to Put on Deodorant
Follow these four steps to freshness:
1. Swipe in the A.M.
Dr. Garshick recommends applying deodorant in the morning to tame odor during the day. That might sound confusing because it's generally advised to apply antiperspirants at night after a shower when skin is dry, which is when sweat ducts can absorb more of the active ingredient (usually aluminum) to become properly plugged.
If you are using an antiperspirant/deodorant combo product, use this at night post-shower. Otherwise, deodorant should be applied in the morning before heading out.
2. Limit Your Swipes
When it comes to how much deodorant to use, stick to the rule of two to three:
- Stick: You only need two to three swipes of stick deodorant for sufficient underarm coverage, Dr. Garshick says.
- Roll-on: Using a roll-on deodorant? Then that's two or three rolls.
- Spray: For spray deodorant, shake the can and spray for two to three seconds from several inches away, she advises.
- Gel: Twist the bottom so that the gel looks beaded at the top; twisting too much will make it so that you'll end up applying too much. Again, two to three strokes are all that's needed: "A thin layer is sufficient for it to be effective, so it's important to remember that applying more will not necessarily make it more effective," Dr. Garshick says.
Pro tip: Make sure you're smoothing it all over your pits (rather than just the same spot) for full coverage.
3. Allow Time to Dry
Before throwing your shirt over your head, give your underarms a couple minutes to air out in order to allow the deodorant to dry, Dr. Garshick says. This is particularly pertinent if you're using roll-on, gel or spray formulas, which typically have a wetter texture compared to stick.
4. Reapply, if Needed
What's that smell? If it's you, then go ahead and reapply during the day if needed.
How to Know if Your Deodorant Isn’t Working for You
If you're dealing with sweat and wetness buildup, then it might be time to switch to an antiperspirant (or add an antiperspirant), Dr. Garshick says. Continually reapplying deodorant may not be enough, because deodorant isn't formulated to stop sweat.
Also, if you regularly notice a foul odor, then that formula, brand or set of ingredients isn't working for you. "In that case, it may be best to switch to a different deodorant or consider an antiperspirant," she says.
On the other hand, if you feel your deodorant is working just fine but you're stressed out about the constant streaks on your clothes (that seriously won't come out, no matter how hard you rub), it might not be time to switch formulas just yet. You might just be using too much deodorant (stick to that two-to-three swipe rule) or not allowing it to absorb before getting dressed. Another option is to buy a clear roll-on formula, which is often the best bet for one that "goes on clear and stays clear," says Dr. Garshick.
Cheers to fresh pits!
If you make changes and your deodorant or antiperspirant still isn't working for you, it might be helpful to visit a dermatologist to check for underlying causes behind the odor.
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.