Whole-Body Deodorant: Is It Safe, Necessary and How Does It Work?

Imagine a world where every inch of you stays as fresh as a daisy on a spring morning. It may seem far-fetched if you often find yourself drenched in sweat and not smelling your best. Enter deodorant products for the entire body, also known as whole-body deodorant, which has risen as a trend in the early 2020s. Both niche and mainstream brands such as Dove, Secret, Lume, Mando, Shea Moisture and Native have launched or expanded their product lines to include whole-body deodorants, increasing the product’s popularity. 

But what exactly is whole-body deodorant? And is whole-body deodorant necessary and, most importantly, safe? 

What is whole-body deodorant vs. antiperspirant? 

Whole-body products cater to those seeking comprehensive odor and moisture management for multiple areas of their body. However, the key difference between whole-body deodorant and antiperspirant lies in their primary functions.  

“Deodorants mask body odor associated with sweating but do not affect how much we sweat,” Dr. Nkem Ugonabo, a board-certified dermatologist and assistant professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, told CNET. “In contrast, antiperspirants work to actually block us from sweating, typically with aluminum compounds that block sweat ducts.” 

In other words, deodorants can prevent the growth of bacteria that cause odor while masking these smells, and antiperspirants can reduce sweat production. Combined, whole-body deodorants and antiperspirants can ensure dryness and reduce odor in areas prone to sweating, such as the underarms, feet and groin.

Whole-body deodorants can come in the form of sprays, creams or wipes, catering to different application preferences and body areas. Since they are ideal for managing body odor without altering natural sweating, this makes whole-body deodorants suitable for everyday use and mild to moderate odor concerns. 

Do whole-body deodorants work? 

When sweating occurs, this is your body’s attempt at regulating its temperature. However, as soon as sweat mixes with the bacteria on your skin, there may be concern about this producing odor in areas other than your underarms. Although whole-body deodorants are designed to fight the odor-causing bacteria and manage overall body odor, some may question if they actually work. According to Dr. Ugonabo, they do. 

“In my experience, body deodorant can be helpful in keeping areas of the body fresh and reducing body odor,” Dr. Ugonabo said. “It is formulated slightly differently from regular deodorant to allow it to be applied widely on the body.” 

Everyone’s body is different, so to gauge the effectiveness of your whole-body deodorant, monitor your overall scent throughout the day. Check for reduced body odor and prolonged freshness in areas of application. If a specific whole-body deodorant isn’t effectively combating body odor, consider switching brands to one with different active ingredients. There may be a formulation that targets bacteria more effectively or one that better suits your body’s needs. 

Is whole-body deodorant necessary? 

Whole-body deodorant isn’t necessary, but anyone looking to expand their overall hygiene routine and feel more confident in how they smell can benefit from the additional odor protection offered by whole-body deodorants. Since whole-body deodorant largely works to address odor in areas prone to moisture and bacteria, they can provide comprehensive odor control, making them a potentially ideal addition to personal care routines. 

Whole-body deodorants can be particularly useful for active individuals who engage in intense physical activities or sports. Additionally, for individuals residing in warm or humid climates, whole-body deodorants can help maintain freshness throughout the day. 

“I would recommend [whole-body deodorant] for areas like folds and high-friction areas like the groin and perhaps underneath the breasts,” said Dr. Ugonabo. “However, it does not do much to reduce the amount of sweat.” 

That being the case, whole-body antiperspirants might be beneficial if you tend to sweat when stressed or often have long days during which managing sweat will make you more comfortable. Lume is one brand that offers a combo deodorant-antiperspirant, combating sweat and body odor simultaneously with one product. 

While not mandatory, whole-body deodorant caters to a specific need, making it a valuable option for many.

A man in light blue boxer shorts spraying deodorant on under his armpits in a bathroom with a couple's sink.

LaylaBird/Getty Images

Is whole-body deodorant safe? 

Whole-body deodorants are generally considered safe. Many believe this is because they use milder ingredients and do not contain aluminum. However, the safety of antiperspirants is a subject of debate. 

As FDA-regulated, over-the-counter drugs, antiperspirants must prove their safety. While the FDA considers aluminum-based compounds safe and effective within a concentration range of 15% to 25%, depending on the compound, concerns over aluminum’s safety persist due to its potential link to cancer — particularly breast cancer. However, there has been no conclusive evidence linking antiperspirant use to cancer risk. For example, a 2021 Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care study found no conclusive evidence linking aluminum-containing antiperspirants and hair color use to breast cancer risk. 

Whole-body deodorant ingredients 

There may not be cause for concern due to the absence of aluminum. Still, similar to natural deodorant, whole-body deodorant may contain other ingredients people should look out for when choosing the best product. 

As Dr. Ugonabo said, whole-body versions are often formulated with milder ingredients compared to regular underarm deodorants, making them safe for use on various body parts, including sensitive areas. If you examine the list of ingredients, you’ll see brands typically use plant- and mineral-based ingredients, essential oils and acids to combat odor-causing bacteria. However, caution must still be exercised with these types of products. 

According to US Dermatology Partners, people with sensitive skin should avoid products containing certain ingredients, such as fragrances, parabens and baking soda. These ingredients are common in deodorants and antiperspirants and can irritate the skin. 

“In general, individuals who have sensitive skin should be careful with items that have fragrance in them, as this can cause irritation. It is always helpful to start with a test spot before applying widely. Also, avoid applying any of these products on broken or open skin,” Dr. Ugonabo said. 

People with sensitive skin may also want to choose products that are labeled as hypoallergenic, fragrance-free and explicitly designed for sensitive skin. 

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Other ways to prevent sweat and body odor 

While whole-body deodorants and antiperspirants are effective solutions, other ways exist to manage and prevent these issues. Incorporating simple practices into your daily routine can significantly reduce sweat and odor, helping you feel fresh and clean throughout the day.  

To prevent sweat and body odor, Cleveland Clinic recommends:

  • Regular showering: Daily showers with antibacterial soap help remove sweat and bacteria, reducing body odor.
  • Wearing breathable fabrics: Breathable fabrics and loose-fitting clothes allow the skin to breathe and help manage sweat.
  • Maintaining a healthy diet: Avoid strong-smelling foods like garlic and onions that can contribute to body odor.
  • Shaving or trimming body hair: Reducing body hair in sweat-prone areas can minimize bacterial growth and odor.
  • Managing stress: Stress can trigger sweating, so finding ways to reduce stress levels can limit sweating.  
  • Limiting alcohol: Alcohol can increase sweat production, even causing night sweats, so reducing intake may help. 

For a potentially more effective approach, Dr. Ugonabo encourages exploration beyond lifestyle changes, stating, “Some people may consider using a benzoyl peroxide or glycolic acid underneath the arms, which can help reduce body odor by killing bacteria under the arm that may contribute to it. Aside from antiperspirants, I recommend patients consider seeing a dermatologist who may be able to prescribe a topical or oral medication, or perform botulinum toxin (“botox”) underarm, which helps significantly reduce underarm sweating.”