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Does glycolic acid work as deodorant?


By Holly O'Neill
30th Sep 2022
Does glycolic acid work as deodorant?

We're taking a dive into the viral TikTok trend – glycolic acid as a deodorant.

TikTok is a breeding ground for questionable viral beauty hacks, from sunscreen contouring a la Gwyneth Paltrow to at-home face masks made in your kitchen (the next person to ask me if they should rub turmeric or egg whites into their blackheads is getting an invoice).

This curious trend is to use glycolic acid on your armpits, with the hashtag #glycolicacidasdeodorant now at a whopping 12.9million views. According to the trend’s enthusiasts, glycolic acid will stop you sweating, put an end to body odour and reduce pigmentation.

There are a ton of viral videos of gushing devotees to glycolic acid as deodorant, but given how irritating glycolic acid can be on the skin and how sensitive our underarms are, the idea of swiping a cotton pad of glycolic acid on your pits might make you grit your teeth. So is glycolic acid actually effective as a deodorant? And is it safe to use?

Best to take it from the pros – so here’s what Eavanna Breen, founder and senior skin therapist of Akina Beauty and Laser Clinic has to say – and with 28 years of experience, working on over ten thousand faces, she’d know.

What is glycolic acid, and how does it work on the skin?

Glycolic acid is an acid that is used in skincare to exfoliate the skin. It belongs to a group of acids known as alpha-hydroxy acids, and it works by breaking down the bonds between dead skin cells so that they shed at a faster rate. This action, in turn, stimulates cell turnover and encourages collagen production in the skin. Glycolic acid has a very small molecular structure, which can penetrate the skin quickly and easily.

Will glycolic acid work as a deodorant?

Potentially yes! Armpit skin has a pH of between 5.5-6.5, a higher pH than other parts of your skin, making it a less acidic environment. The bacteria that live on our skin and are responsible for causing the odour that we get when we sweat are affected by the pH of our skin. In changing the pH of your underarm skin, using an acid such as glycolic acid that lowers the pH, you can potentially decrease the bacteria that causes body odour.

Is glycolic acid safe to use on armpit skin?

Acids can irritate the skin, and those with sensitive skin should avoid using them on their underarms. If you have recently shaved and then apply glycolic, you are going to feel a sting! Likewise, it is not recommended to use it if you are undergoing a course of laser hair removal. As with all acids, you should start slow and if the skin becomes irritated, stop using it. There are other upsides to using it on the underarms though; it can also help with pigmentation and ingrown hairs.

Sold? We’ve rounded up some of our favourite glycolic acids below – though as the go-to skincare brand for the TikTok age group, The Ordinary’s one is the prevailing favourite among the app’s enthusiasts.

Photography by Jason Lloyd Evans.

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