8 Weird Reasons Why Your Deodorant Isn’t Working

Finding the right deodorant can be a tricky task, as some formulas work pretty well while others can bail on your pits in the middle of a heatwave. Yuck.

So, take out the frustration of finding your perfect formula, it’s important to examine all the deodorant blunders that can get in way of dry underarms. Sure it’s so easy to blame your formula, throw up your hands and say "my deodorant stopped working," but additional factors like application (who knew?) and stress can also affect your product's performance.

If you find that your go-to deodorant is not working anymore, or no deodorant works at all, here are eight reasons why your formula probably isn’t doing the job it should.

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You Really Should Be Using an Antiperspirant Instead of a Deodorant
Shopping for deodorants can be ultimately confusing, especially because there are so many brands to choose from. However, New York plastic surgeon Melissa A. Doft, MD, notes that deodorant usually falls into two categories: deodorants and antiperspirants.

But which one works better? Dr. Doft states that antiperspirants are usually recommended for those who sweat more, while deodorants are more helpful in neutralizing underarm bacteria and odor. “Deodorant will neutralize bacteria and absorb odor,” says Dr. Doft. “Antiperspirant will block your eccrine ducts, and thus prevent the escape of sweat.”

You Aren’t Applying Your Formula at Night
Most of us habitually apply our deodorant onto our underarms before heading out for the day, but experts like New York dermatologist Debra Jaliman, MD, find that the best time for deodorant application is at night, right before bed. This allows your underarms to easily absorb your formula, leaving them fresh and dry in the morning.

“Antiperspirants work best at night when the skin is dry,” says Dr. Jaliman. “The aluminum-based ingredient can easily get to the sweat gland, to effectively plug the pore. It then can reduce sweating for up to 24 hours.”

You Also Apply Your Deodorant on a Wet Armpit
Another big application blunder comes when you apply deodorant onto wet armpits, which can fail to allow your formula to be properly absorbed. Skin care expert, Xiomi Frans-Cuber, says that dry underarms are the best way to apply your formula, as sweat and moisture usually prohibit odor and sweat-fighting ingredients from effectively penetrating the skin. 

“When your underarms are wet, the deodorant is not able to penetrate the skin,” adds Frans-Cuber. “The moisture and sweat on your underarms can completely wash away your formula.”

Stress May Be to Blame
Stress can also a surprising cause of your deodorant fails. Frans-Cuber explains that stress produces hormonal changes, which can ultimately cause an increase in odor-causing bacteria. So, while your deodorant may not exactly be to blame in this case, it’s helpful to be aware of how stress hormones can affect the performance of your deodorant.

“Hormonal changes can lead to an increase in sweat output and create a worse odor than you are probably accustomed to,” says Frans-Cuber. “So in this situation, it may not be the deodorant, but rather just a case of stress hormones.” 

Your Formula May Not Be Strong Enough
While it probably makes sense to find the strongest-smelling deodorant possible, sometimes even the most pleasant-scented products can lack the necessary antibacterial properties to neutralize any existing bacteria. If you find that that your deodorant fades too fast, try talking to doctor about treatments, which can help alleviate the problem.

“If your deodorant does not have any or the necessary antibacterial properties, it could be difficult to kill the odor-producing bacteria and minimize body odor,” explains Beverly Hills, CA, dermatologist Tsippora Shainhouse, MD. “If the odor persists after switching deodorants, see your dermatologist about prescription anti-bacterial treatments that can help reduce the bacterial load.”

You Haven’t Tried a Prescription Formula
Another one of your options includes switching to prescription formulas, which are often stronger than over-the-counter products. These formulas often contain higher concentrations of sweat-busting ingredients and work better for those who sweat a lot.

“For some people, over-the-counter antiperspirants are not strong enough and they require prescriptions,” adds Dr. Jaliman. “These are stronger antiperspirants that work better, as they have higher concentrations of the active ingredient.”

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Botox Is an Option
But, if you are looking for stronger underarm relief, Botox can be valid solution to excessive perspiration. Injected into the sweat glands, Newton, MA, plastic surgeon Joseph A. Russo, MD, says that Botox effectively reduces excessive sweating by deactivating the glands responsible for perspiration. This leaves your underarms drier and free of bacteria.

“Botox can be injected into the sweat glands, which block chemical signals from key nerve endings to effectively deactivate the glands and reduce excessive sweating,” adds Dr. Russo. “It is most commonly used to control perspiration in the underarms.”

You May Have a Larger Condition
Without a doubt, sweating is a normal part of life. However, if you find yourself perspiring more than others, you may have a genetic condition called hyperhidrosis. Some warning signs include an excessive amount of sweat, which can affect the hands, feet and armpits. If you find that you sweat more than the average person, it’s good to make a visit to your doctor to talk about treatment options, as conditions like this usually aren’t treated with antiperspirants and deodorant.

“You may need to take internal medication for your sweating,” says Dr. Jaliman. “For some people, the sweating is so intense that they need to take a pill every day to decrease the swelling. These pills are called anticholinergics.”