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Glycolic acid as deodorant: a dermatologist weighs in

TikTok users say the skin care ingredient can help stop sweating and reduce BO.
Woman wearing pink shirt outside, holding her arms up
Tim Robberts / Getty Images

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Glycolic acid is a staple ingredient in facial peels and cleansers thanks to its ability to fade hyperpigmentation and slough away dead skin cells. And now, beauty enthusiasts on TikTok have found a new use for the trendy skin care acid, claiming that it works as a natural deodorant.

The #glycolicacidasdeodorant tag has racked up 4.6 million views with many people saying that they've ditched their deodorant for a glycolic acid formula. Users have claimed that it can stop sweat, reduce odor and even help with armpit discoloration.

We're always looking for new ways to keep our underarms dry and smelling fresh, especially in the heat of the summer. That's why we turned to Dr. Marisa Garshick, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, to get her thoughts on the viral trend.

What is glycolic acid?

Glycolic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) derived from sugar cane. It works as a chemical exfoliant to slough away dead skin cells and brighten complexion. It can also help to reduce areas of discoloration and improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, Garshick said, which makes it a popular ingredient in skin care formulas.

Can glycolic acid be used as deodorant?

While many users on TikTok have claimed that glycolic acid formulas can be a good replacement for your go-to deo, it won't actually keep your armpits dry on hot days. "Applying glycolic acid will not reduce sweating," Garshick said. "In order to be considered an antiperspirant, or a product that blocks sweat, a product must contain an aluminum-based compound that forms a plug to block the release of sweat."

That being said, it may help keep odor at bay. "Glycolic acid is thought to help reduce body odor by reducing the pH of the skin and making it harder for the odor-causing bacteria to survive," Garshick said. "By exfoliating away the dead skin cells and lowering the skin’s pH, it may also help to prevent body odor by preventing buildup and making it less likely for bacteria to lead to foul-smelling odors."

Dermatologist Dr. Lindsey Zubritsky (aka @dermguru), called the trend "legit" in a video that has since gotten more than 23,000 views. She said that it doesn't just get rid of odor, but can also help with ingrown hairs and hyperpigmentation in the area.

Are there any risks?

Glycolic acid, like other exfoliating acids, can be irritating on the skin, especially when used on your armpits, where your skin is thin and the folds rub against each other, Dr. Garshick said. This can lead to redness, flaking and sensitivity.

To reduce your chance of irritation, you should stick to lower concentrations. "The maximum concentration of glycolic acid that can be used on this area is 8 to 10 percent, but even that can be irritating, so the lower the concentration the better," Garshick said. And it should be used sparingly, only one to two times per week.

How to try it:

The Ordinary's Glycolic Acid Toning Solution is a favorite among the supporters of the trend. And while Garshick said the solution is a great option for your face, it's not intended to be used as a deodorant and, as a result, can lead to irritation. Instead, you're likely better off using a deodorant that has glycolic acid built into the formula, as it may contain other ingredients that will minimize sensitivity.

Surface Deep Anti-Odorant Pads

If you want to test glycolic acid's purported odor-quelling abilities for yourself, Garshick said that these deodorant wipes may do the trick. "[They're] formulated with glycolic acid in the form of a biodegradable wipe, but also contain probiotics, aloe leaf juice and glycerin to help hydrate the skin to reduce the chance of irritation," she said. The pack comes with 30 individually wrapped wipes which can be packed in your carry-on, purse or gym bag so you can freshen up while on the go.

"Worked perfectly and kept working into the next day (roughly 20 hours later till my next shower)," wrote one Amazon reviewer. "I even ran and lifted within that 20 to 24-hour window and it still worked! No rashes or itchiness or anything else."

Boscia Prebiotic + Probiotic Freshening All-Over Body Deodorant

Made with glycolic acid, along with a prebiotic and probiotic blend, this deodorant works to reduce odor and strengthen skin. The multi-use formula can be used all over to tackle sweaty areas, from your chest to your feet, and prevent chafing.

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