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10 Deodorant Mistakes You Need to Stop Making

For better personal hygiene, try to avoid these common deodorant mistakes—from applying it in layers to not applying it at the right time of day.

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Deodorant mistakes you need to stop making

It’s a common daily hygiene routine—people apply deodorant to their underarms to keep body odor at bay. But even when you do something every day, there’s still room for error, and there are some common mistakes people make. We asked skin health experts to reveal the most popular deodorant faux pas, and the tips you can use to correct them.

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Not knowing the difference between deodorant and antiperspirant

Here’s a quick lesson: Antiperspirants reduce sweat, while deodorants reduce stink. According to Fayne Frey, dermatologist and founder of FryFace, most antiperspirants contain aluminum salts, sometimes mixed with a zirconium salt, which bind to a protein in the sweat gland ducts. This creates a sweat duct plug that temporarily tamps down sweat production. Deodorants, on the other hand, are topical products that either neutralize odor—using ingredients that kill some of the bacteria that contributes to the development of body odor—or simply mask it. “They do not reduce the amount of sweat expelled and will not keep your armpits dry,” explains Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist in Los Angeles and clinical instructor at the University of Southern California.

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Applying it right after shaving

Be careful when swiping on deodorant or antiperspirant immediately after shaving, especially when using products with a higher alcohol content. These can cause irritation, according to Alisha Plotner, MD, a dermatologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio.

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Layering deodorant

A fresh layer of deodorant won’t keep you fresh if it’s sitting on top of yesterday’s stench. You need to apply product to clean, dry skin so it can adhere directly to the surface. If layered on top of an older product (especially a thick cream or solid) it’s likely to be less effective, explains Dr. Plotner.

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Applying it in the morning

Contrary to popular belief, you should actually be applying deodorant in the evening, before bed. Deodorants and antiperspirants are most effective on skin when sweat ducts are less active and there is minimal moisture, such as while you’re sleeping. “Because deodorant should always be applied to clean, dry skin, it’s best to shower in the evening, pat your skin dry with a towel, and then apply deodorant,” explains Joel Schlessinger, MD, board-certified dermatologist and RealSelf contributor. “If you miss the fresh scent of deodorant, it’s okay to apply again in the morning. However, this is more for your own comfort level than anything else.”

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Not applying it every day

This one can go either way. “Depending on your body and what type of deodorant/antiperspirant you’re using, you may not need to apply every single day,” explains Dove dermatologist, Alicia Barba, MD, in Miami. Some antiperspirants are made to last 48 hours, which means daily application isn’t essential. When in doubt, read the label, or just cleanse and reapply.

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Forgetting to moisturize

Dr. Frey advises applying a dimethicone-based moisturizer, like Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion, to the armpit in the morning to minimize irritation. For a more natural alternative, Sharla Martin, spa director at Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans, recommends moisturizing with coconut oil. “Coconut oil soothes dry skin and can reduce water loss in very dry skin. It has natural antibacterial properties and is incredibly soothing to the skin in those delicate places.”

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Using the wrong product

It’s important to take into consideration your skin type and any skin issues or sensitivities you may have when choosing a deodorant. Higher alcohol content formulas, like sprays and gels, can be irritating to sensitive skin types—as can heavily fragranced formulas, according to Dr. Plotner. “You have to take care of the skin under your arms just like you do the skin on your face,” says Dr. Barba. Her pick: Dove Advanced Care Antiperspirant. “Not only will it give you 48 hours of odor and wetness protection, but it’s also formulated with moisturizers and NutriumMoisture for softer, smoother skin. There’s also Advanced Care Sensitive Antiperspirant that’s fragrance-free for women with underarm sensitivities.”

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Not knowing the difference between regular and clinical strength

Regular antiperspirants must show a 20% reduction in sweat duct plug formation, while clinical strength must show a 30% reduction. “Clinical strength antiperspirants contain a higher concentration of aluminum zirconium salts, and although they may be more effective, they may also be more irritating,” says Dr. Frey. “I advise my patients with sensitive skin to avoid antiperspirants with fragrance as well as extra strength formulas, and to look instead for products that contain dimethicone, which may also prevent irritation in susceptible individuals.”

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Not considering natural formulas

Have you ever thought about using natural deodorant? Before you assume it doesn’t work, you should know this—they can be good alternatives for a few reasons. Natural deodorants may be viable options for people with light sweating, or those who are hoping to camouflage and/or prevent mild odor, according to Dr. Plotner.

7 Reasons to Consider Trying a Natural Deodorant

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Not knowing how to get it off clothes

It’s frustrating to slip on a blouse or sweater and realize you just got white deodorant smudges all over it. Don’t worry, there are a few proven methods to wipe away those dreaded marks. A damp washcloth works well (just be sure to wring it out to avoid soaking your clothes). The Gal Pal Deodorant Be Gone Remover Sponge is an innovation (read: instant deodorant remover) that you might want to have in your arsenal. To avoid white marks all together, simply opt for a clear formula. Looking for an aluminum-free option? Try Crystal Roll-On Deodorant.

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Lindsay Cohn
Lindsay Cohn has a B.A. in Creative Writing & Communications from the University of Miami. Her work has appeared in Reader's Digest, Brides, Fodor's, Travel + Leisure, PureWow, USA Today, and more.