What’s the Best Deodorant for Sensitive Skin? We Investigate
Remember when you first started using deodorant? For us, it was sometime in junior high school. We’re not even sure we needed it, but it felt so grown up and glamorous to swipe that overly fragranced floral stick under our arms (right before applying a slick of lip gloss, of course).
Since then, we’ve graduated to more natural picks and a big reason for that has to do with the breakouts we were getting under our arms—which is more common than you’d think. The skin underneath your arms is more sensitive than other areas of your body and can easily become irritated. Not that we had to tell you that; any woman who has ever taken a razor to her pits knows how easy it is to get razor burn.
What causes underarm irritation?
According to Dr. Alicia Barba, a board-certified dermatologist in Miami, many things cause underarm irritation —so it’s important to know exactly what to look out for. For starters, “Dry shaving should be completely off the table,” she says. “Always use a shaving gel or cream to serve as a barrier between your razor and the skin so you don’t over-exfoliate your underarms. Also, I’d recommend shaving at night, so the skin has a chance to heal overnight as you sleep.”
Another surprising culprit of underarm irritation? The weather. “Weather can drastically change and affect the overall condition of underarm skin,” says Babra. “Especially with the colder weather approaching, you’re more susceptible to dryness due to the fluctuations in temperature. Also, the heavier clothing we all wear this time of year like knits and sweaters can further irritate the skin.”
And of course, there are the deodorants themselves. “There are many ingredients in deodorants that may cause an allergic reaction in the skin, which can result in an itchy red rash that requires treatment. Some of the top ingredients to watch out for are preservatives, aluminum, baking soda and fragrance,” advises Dr. Nava Greenfield of Schweiger Dermatology Group in Brooklyn, New York.
So, does this mean I have to switch to an all-natural deodorant?
Not necessarily, as some natural deodorants can still contain potentially irritating ingredients like baking soda and certain essential oils (though it’s typically less often the case than compared to many conventional options).
If you have sensitive skin, it’s more important that you look at the specific ingredients on a label than to solely rely on whether or not it’s natural. Ok, now that we’ve got that clear, let’s talk about the best deodorants for sensitive skin—both natural and not.
1. Briogeo B. Well Tea Tree + Eucalyptus Clean Deodorant
First up, this clean deodorant from cult brand, Briogeo. A plant-based formula that uses potent botanicals like tea tree and eucalyptus to help neutralize odor, it leaves you smelling minty fresh all day long—even after a sweaty spin class or a high stakes meeting at work. Thanks to coconut oil and aloe leaf, it glides onto skin easily without tugging, doesn’t leave any chalky residue behind and feels immediately soothing on skin.
2. Dove Advanced Care Sensitive Anti-Perspirant Deodorant
A top pick from Dr. Babra, this gentle deo was formulated specifically for those of us with sensitive skin. Unscented with no potentially drying alcohols and loaded with ¼ moisturizers to boot, it keeps underarm sweat and odor at bay, while also hydrating your underarms. Longtime fans of this antiperspirant love how mild it is on skin, and how heavy it is on protection (some even claiming up to 48 hours of wear).
3. Vichy 24-Hour Dry-Touch Aluminum Free Deodorant
Another fan favorite, this aluminum- and alcohol- free stick uses zinc gluconate and perlite to absorb moisture and fend off odor-causing bacteria from skin. It also features the brand’s hallmark mineralizing thermal water from the region of Auvergne in France, which is known for its ability to soothe and strengthen your skin’s moisture barrier to prevent future irritation. (Note: This mild formula is meant for low to moderate activity so if you’re, say, training for a marathon or headed to a high-intensity interval class, you may want to toss your deo into your gym bag for a post-workout reapplication.)
4. Schmidt's Natural Deodorant for Sensitive Skin, Jasmine Tea
Calling all people who break out at the mere mention of baking soda in their deodorant: This drugstore favorite uses natural magnesium instead of the aforementioned sodium bicarbonate (or other commonly used and potentially irritating ingredients such as aluminum and propylene glycol) to keep your pits dry. Loaded with coconut oil and shea butter and topped with soothing essential oils, it applies smoothly and keeps you smelling fresh—nay, incredible—for hours. Tip: Hold the stick under your arm for a minute before swiping it across your skin to warm up the formula and get a better glide.
5. Vanicream Anti-Perspirant Deodorant Clinical Strength, 24-Hour Protection
A top pick for Dr. Greenfield, she often recommends this fragrance-free formula to her patients with sensitive skin. “It doesn’t contain any allergens and works well for most people who are prone to reactions like itching and bumpiness from common products,” she says. We took a closer look at the ingredients listed on the label and were surprised by what’s not included: no fragrance, dyes, lanolin, parabens, formaldehyde, formaldehyde releasers, gluten or ethanol—and yet, it offers clinical strength protection that lasts up to 24 hours. Did we mention it doesn’t leave any telltale streaks on your clothes either?
6. Kopari Coconut Deodorant
Coconut meet charcoal. This non-toxic (and baking soda free) blend has garnered quite the fan base in recent years thanks to its ability to keep your skin soft, dry and smelling like a tropical island in all temps. Packed with the aforementioned coconut and activated charcoal, it cuts down on odor-causing bacteria, while leaving your underarms silky smooth and not in the least inflamed. (We’ve found it in our beau’s dopp kit on more than one occasion.)
7. Personalized Nala Deodorant
Created by a Canadian mother-daughter duo, this chic line of made-to-order deodorants is the first of its kind. Using only all-natural and organic ingredients, you can customize both the desired scent and strength of your stick. And for the easily irritated, you can always opt for the sensitive skin option, which is completely unscented and free of baking soda. Instead it relies on arrowroot powder, tapioca powder and kaolin clay to absorb sweat and odors so your underarms feel fresh all day.
8. Crystal Mineral Deodorant Stick, Unscented
This hidden gem was discovered by chance when the founder noticed a mineral salt that was being used to purify water in France. He quickly realized that this same salt could be used as a natural deodorant and began importing and shaping them by hand to sell. (The name? Le Crystal Naturel.)
With zero perfumes or added chemicals, the crystal stick is comprised solely of said naturally-occurring mineral salt to create an invisible barrier that blocks body odor. Using the crystal deo is, admittedly, an interesting experience at first, as you have to wet the top of the stick before applying it (liberally) to skin. It’s important to note here that you’ll want to apply more than you would a conventional deodorant to get adequate coverage. Equally important to note is how you store the stick: always upside down so it dries off properly (which will get you up to a year of use, according to the over 3,000 reviews on Amazon).
9. Kaia Naturals The Takesumi Detox Bamboo Charcoal Deodorant
Borrowing from bamboo charcoal or takesumi, as it’s known in Japanese, this deodorant is unique in that it works to draw out toxins from your pores, while also fighting odor-causing bacteria. That said, the brand does state up front that you may experience a detoxification period during the first two to four weeks of use, as your body purges any built-up toxins from your sweat glands. Rest assured, once you make it through the initial transition period, you can expect a decline in moisture and odor-causing bacteria. In the meantime, the artisanally-blended scents will help mask any less than savory odors. (We’re partial to English Lime Mint in the summers and Cold Pressed Rose pretty much all year round.)
10. Meow Meow Tweet Baking Soda Free Sensitive Skin Grapefruit Deodorant
Designed with sensitive pits in mind, this deodorant cream is highly effective at keeping your underarms fresh and dry all day. Formulated sans baking soda or clay, it instead uses magnesium and arrowroot powders to absorb sweat, while a crisp blend of citrus essential oils leaves you smelling as delightful as the name of the product itself. To use, simply scoop a pea-sized amount for each armpit and gently rub it into your skin until fully absorbed. And if that sounds like too much of a mess for you, there’s always the travel stick.
11. DermaDoctor Total Nonscents Ultra Gentle Brightening Antiperspirant
Ok, fine, we admit: We were initially drawn to this antiperspirant because of its punny name, but it’s made its way into our permanent rotation because of how dry it keeps our underarms—even during peak summer months. We also appreciate that the water-based formula and rollerball head make application a dream (and it doesn’t stain our clothes).
12. Almay Clear Gel, Anti-Perspirant and Deodorant, Fragrance Free
“It’s the only deodorant that doesn’t break me out into an itchy rash,” exclaimed one friend when we asked her to name her go-to stick recently (at a dinner party, no less). And there are several factors that make it so agreeable for the easily irritated. For starters, it’s free of any fragrance or artificial dyes. Then, to be extra safe, it’s also been tested by dermatologists against any potential allergens so you can swipe with confidence.
13. Aesop Spray Deodorant
We don’t know what we love more about this spray deodorant, the fact that it sprays on or its addictive vetiver scent. (Oh, and the chic apothecary packaging doesn’t hurt the cause.) Formulated with 11 essential oils and no aluminum, this Australian import makes deodorant somehow glam again. Aesthetics aside, it made the list because it didn’t burn or sting when spritzed on our skin. Plus, it gets extra marks for not leaving any marks on our clothing thanks to that genius spray application.
14. Green Tidings Organic All-Natural Deodorant, Unscented
Possibly the greenest and cleanest of the bunch, this fan favorite (it has over 6,000 reviews and four stars on Amazon) relies on tapioca starch and magnesium oil to absorb any excess moisture from your underarms, while organic coconut oil works as an anti-microbial against odor. Add to that some unrefined shea butter for a silky smooth glide and you can see why this deo is so universally loved. Though it comes in several scents like lavender, vetiver citrus, floral spice and jasmine rose, we recommend sticking to the unscented version if you’re prone to irritation.