14 Reasons Your Deodorant Isn't Cutting It & What To Do About It

Everyone sweats; it's an essential bodily function that helps to regulate our core temperatures and cool us down. The problem with sweat is that it can result in an unpleasant odor when it comes into contact with bacteria. This can make us feel self-conscious and uncomfortable, which is why we are so diligent about washing our bodies often and using deodorants or antiperspirants (either to mask the odor of sweat or prevent it). 


"We live in a society where body odor is not universally accepted, making deodorant a part of your daily hygiene routine," Dr. Joshua Zeichner told CNN. "There's also a stigma surrounding wetness of the clothes because of sweat, which has pushed antiperspirants into daily skincare routines." But what happens when your favorite product stops doing the job?

Could it be that your body has built up a resistance to your favorite underarm spray? Or is it the result of something more serious like a medical condition, stress, anxiety, or the medications that you're taking? To banish the odor associated with sweating, it's important to understand the cause. So, let's discuss why your deodorant is no longer cutting it and how you can fix this problem.


Ask yourself if you need deodorant or antiperspirants

First things first — it's key to learn the differences between antiperspirant and deodorant. If you're noticing that your deodorant isn't cutting it, it may be because the average deodorant is not a strong enough formula for you, as it is used to mask the odor of sweat, not stop it. This is where antiperspirants come in; they could be just what you've been looking for.


But how do they work? "Most antiperspirants contain aluminum salts," dermatologist and skincare founder Dr. Heather Woolery-Lloyd told HuffPost. "The aluminum salts block the eccrine duct, which is the tube that the sweat comes out of." The potential downside to using antiperspirants is that they may become ineffective after several months, although it is unclear why. A possible suggestion is how the skin reacts to the antiperspirant, potentially building up resistance.

Deodorant, on the other hand, isn't meant to completely prevent sweating — it just covers the smells associated with it. Therefore, if you're looking to decrease the amount of sweat you produce, antiperspirants may be your best bet. 


What you eat could be affecting how you smell

You understand the importance of eating a balanced diet for your body to function properly, but have you ever thought that what you're eating could be affecting how you smell? Foods like allium vegetables — such as garlic and onions — are often associated with bad breath (these foods contain sulfur compounds). Still, they could also affect your deodorant's effectiveness and make your body odor more potent.


The list of potentially smelly foods includes red meat, asparagus, beets, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and pungent spices. "Wearing a deodorant made without aluminum [while eating spicy foods] can help neutralize body odor while absorbing sweat," registered dietitian Jenny Beth Kroplin told Well + Good. "This is better than using an antiperspirant which reduces how much you sweat. The body needs to sweat!"

The good news is some foods will have the opposite effect on your smell. These include cucumbers, which have a high percentage of water and will keep the body hydrated.

Your medication could be to blame

If you have started taking medication and notice a change in your smell, this could be the reason. Drugs that can result in changing your body odor or increase your sweat include antipsychotic and antidepressant medications.


"Their main effect has to do with changing the signaling of one of the main neurotransmitters in the brain, serotonin, which modulates mood," James Murrough, director of the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, told Women's Health. But a side effect of taking an SSRI is it can also affect the hypothalamus, which, among other things, regulates the body's internal temperature. 

If you feel this side effect makes you uncomfortable and self-conscious, you should discuss this with your medical professional. They may be able to suggest deodorants that use stronger formulas or medicated products. Alternatively, if you decide to consider other options for your medication, never make rash decisions, like stopping or switching your medication without consulting your doctor.


You've been feeling stressed out and anxious

Have you been going through a challenging time at work? Or have there been a lot of significant changes in your life recently that have left you feeling overly anxious or stressed out? Stress and anxiety affect the body in many ways, including an increase in how much you sweat, ultimately leading to more body odor than your deodorant can keep up with.


"If your stress level is high, you're triggering the hormone cascade that can lead to increased sweat production," Dr. Sarah Villafranco told Byrdie. "No time like the present to revisit your meditation practice!"

For your deodorant to be effective, you may have to invest in a stronger formula or choose an antiperspirant. But are there other ways you can bring down your stress levels? A lifestyle change that includes a better diet and stress-coping techniques (ranging from deep breathing to tools you use to distract you) could make all the difference.

Tight clothing is not doing you any favors

What you wear also impacts how much you smell. This is something to remember when choosing your outfit on a hot day or if you will be very active. Wearing tighter clothes could make the sweat cling to them more. You also want clothing that is moisture-wicking and quick-drying.


"If you're wearing a close-cut rayon blouse on a hot day with natural deodorant on, it's very likely you're going to begin to smell for two reasons," dermatologist Heidi Waldorf told NewBeauty. "One, the tight fit will create friction in the underarm and grab onto the moisture, and two, the odor will be trapped in the fabric."

Sometimes sweat is inevitable, and if you are going to be sweating during hot climates and scorching sunshine, you should take steps to ensure you do not have unsightly sweat marks all over your clothing. To do this, you want to invest in darker colors or refrain from solid-colored fabrics. As fashion designer Christian Siriano told USA Today, clothes with "bold patterns will hide stains much better than solids."


A medical condition could be to blame

It can be challenging to find the cause of increased sweat or a more pungent smell because there are many causes — and this includes medical conditions. "A dermatologist can make sure there are no other underlying conditions causing excessive sweating that need to be treated, such as thyroid or adrenal problems, obesity, diabetes, or amino acid metabolism disturbances," dermatologist Afton Cobb told Allure.


If you have noticed that you are sweating excessively, this could be a medical condition known as hyperhidrosis. Hyperhidrosis causes you to sweat more, making it more challenging to mask the odor of sweat (and could be why your deodorant is not working). Sometimes, the condition may be so bad that you need more than a good deodorant and regular hygiene.

"You may need to take internal medication for your sweating," dermatologist Debra Jaliman told NewBeauty. "For some people, the sweating is so intense that they need to take a pill every day, called anticholinergics, to decrease the swelling."

You haven't changed your deodorant in years

Do you have a signature scent and wouldn't dream of changing it? It's great when you find a product you love that does the job, but what happens when it stops being as effective? Some people find that using the same deodorant regularly could be to blame, and it may be time to change it for a new formula or brand.


"It's not necessary to 'switch it up,' but that's the first action item if your deodorant is failing," dermatologist Rebecca Baxt told PureWow.

But why is your deodorant no longer cutting it? This could have something to do with how your body reacts, as Yale University doctor Dr. David Katz explained to Glamour. "In general, body chemistry can change over time, with hormonal fluctuations, and due to immune system responses." This could result in resistance and cause the product to be less effective.

Not using deodorant at night could lead to an unpleasant smell

When getting dressed in the morning, many people put on deodorant and perfume. You may not have realized this is a deodorant mistake, and its staying power would last much longer if you put it on the night before. As for why this is? Applying deodorant in the morning (especially without a shower first) will not do much to mask the smell of the sweat from the night before. But wearing deodorant at night is practical because we typically sweat less due to a drop in body temperature, so your glands can soak up the deodorant better. 


Nighttime application is especially beneficial for antiperspirants which take time to do the job. "Antiperspirants work by creating a plug near the top of the sweat glands," cosmetic chemist Ni'Kita Wilson told Allure. "These plugs limit the amount of sweat that makes it to the surface of the skin. They need time to form, however, so applying antiperspirant in the evening is best because, under normal conditions, the body is still and its temperature is lower, giving the plugs a chance to form relatively undisturbed."

Menopause could be changing how you smell

Have you noticed that you tend to sweat more when you are perimenopausal? This can be just one of the uncomfortable effects of menopause, and you are not imagining its influence on your excessive body odor, either.


"During perimenopause, your internal temperature control starts going kerflooey," Mary Jane Minkin, clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale School of Medicine, told The Girlfriend. "It's not just the hot flashes. Perimenopausal women tend to sweat more in general." This is partly due to the fluctuating reproductive hormones. 

What is the solution for dealing with the changes that come with menopause? It's important to remember this is a temporary change, and your hormones will regulate again. One thing you are advised against doing is showering too often. "Don't over-cleanse!" Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz, MD, told Oprah Daily. "You don't want to use harsh ingredients that get rid of your healthy bacteria. Wash normally."


You need to give your deodorant time to dry

You've just stepped out of the shower, and you go to grab your deodorant. But wait ... this could be one of the mistakes you are making that is reducing the effectiveness of your favorite product. If your underarms have had time to dry, your deodorant will work so much better.


You don't have to take our word for it, but Dove dermatologist Ellen Marmur told Byrdie the importance of having clean and dry skin. "It's best if you apply it after you've toweled off and your underarms have dried completely — the main point is that your skin is clean and dry," Dr. Marmur explained.

You also need to give your deodorant time to dry, which could take a few minutes. If you're in a rush, try standing in front of a fan. Skipping this step could reduce your deodorant's effectiveness and cause unpleasant stains on your clothing. And if this has happened to you, you know what a challenge these white marks can be to remove.

Are you applying your deodorant correctly?

Who knew there was a technique to applying deodorant and that you could be doing it incorrectly after all this time? If you have noticed a change in your smell or increased sweat, it could be down to a few simple steps.


Some people use deodorant fresh from the shower or apply it to damp or moist skin, but as we covered, it works better on dry skin. This is not the only helpful tip you need to be aware of when it comes to antiperspirant application, though, as there is a fine line you have to walk when applying the amount of product. You want to ensure that you are not using too much antiperspirant but at the same time taking care to ensure the sweat glands are covered. 

When using an antiperspirant, you may be a little overzealous. In this case, less is more — and experts argue that you don't even need to use an antiperspirant daily. "Apply two strokes up and two strokes down to each armpit. You should only need to do this once or twice a week," Dr. Dawn Harper told Cosmopolitan. When using a standard deodorant, it's best to apply it daily. But don't only focus on the underarms! Is this a hot spot for sweat? Sure, but other parts of the body — like under the breasts or at the back of the knees — could also benefit from the application of antiperspirant.


You're adding it over already-sweaty skin

There are many mistakes you may not have even realized when it comes to wearing deodorant. This includes the application, and one of the most common things many of us do is use deodorant over already-sweaty skin. It may seem like a good idea, and it could be a quick fix, but by this stage, bacteria and odor are already present, so reapplying your deodorant is not going to do much to mask the smell.


"Bad smells are exacerbated when sweat is allowed to sit in a cool, damp place for an extended period of time as smells are produced when moisture reacts to bacteria on the skin," Dr. Joshua Zeichner told USA Today. A solution (when you cannot jump into the shower in the middle of the day) would be to use wipes to clean under your arms, removing some of the bacteria, and then go ahead with the deodorant. 

You're not cleaning your body enough (or too much)

There is a link between sweating and increased odor, and one of the simplest ways to counteract this is to focus on your hygiene. We all understand the importance of regular showers, and a clean body already smells good, making it easier for your deodorant to do its job.


"The most important aspect of preventing body odor is keeping skin and hair clean by washing regularly to prevent buildup of dead skin cells, sebum, dirt, and bacteria, which can all contribute," dermatologist Rebecca Marcus told Allure. "Keeping the skin clean and dry will go a long way in terms of preventing body odor." But could you be overwashing?

It may seem impossible to ever be too clean, but washing too often (or excessively scrubbing) can change the complex balance of your skin microbiome. Antiperspirants and deodorants can be used for sweat (either by preventing it or masking the odor). Still, they are not miracle treatments, so keeping your body clean is essential to banishing the odor.


Your daily activities may be a contributing factor

Taking into consideration a change in your daily activities may seem obvious, but sometimes we overlook the simplest solutions. The weather or an increased period of exercising could result in unusually smelly pits. While a good shower and washing your hair after a sweaty workout can help you feel fresh again, you must also consider how you use your deodorant.


For those who need a little extra help, you could benefit from specialized products designed to target bad smells safely. "To reduce foul-smelling odor, try cleansing the underarms and groin areas twice daily and after exercise/sweating with Lasercyn Spray, aka stabilized hypochlorous, which is a very safe, effective, and nonirritating anti-microbial," dermatologist Heidi Waldorf told NewBeauty.

If you are concerned that your body odor could be due to something more serious, it's always best to seek the help of a dermatologist.