I thought the pandemic would be the perfect time to give aluminum-free deodorant a shot. If I’m at home, I thought, no one will be able to smell me as I test different products and give my armpits time to adjust. Fast forward over a year and my pits still, well, stink. I tried natural deodorants that are formulated with ingredients from baking soda to alpha-hydroxy acids or AHAs, but I just couldn’t find the right combination that could beat the funk.
Just as I was about to give up, I tried one more deodorant as a last-ditch effort: Surface-Deep Anti-Odorant Pads ($20). I instantly knew they would be a game-changer. These pads wicked away every bit of stench and kept me feeling fresh and dry all day long. And when the Anti-Odorant Spray ($18) launched, I was even more thrilled to have an option that worked just as well as the pads with far less waste.
Surface Deep Anti-Odorant Spray
This spray is powered by glycolic acid. “The glycolic [acid] is acidifying the skin and keeping the pores unplugged, taking care of some of the oils, which when paired with a high pH can lead to odor,” says Alicia Zalka, MD, dermatologist and founder and CEO of Surface Deep. “If you’re taking some of the oils away, the sebum, and if you’re taking the plugged pores away, and you’re acidifying the skin, awesome. No odor.”
However, glycolic acid alone would be too harsh for skin. So the formula also employs lactobacillus ferment, a soothing postbiotic. “Probiotics are live. You can’t really put a live product into a bottle that sits on your sink because, unless it’s refrigerated, those live organisms are going to perish,” she says. It also has a light dash of eucalyptus to add a gentle fragrance.
Unlike aluminum-based antiperspirants, this spray doesn’t clog your pores, meaning it doesn’t impede sweat. “Your body wants to sweat,” says Dr. Zalka. “Sweat is intentional, but odor is preventative.” However, it’s not sweat that causes odor—it’s sweat mixing with the bacteria on your skin. So without the bacteria, there’s no stench. Plus, you won’t have to worry about yellow sweat stains on clothes. “Yellow comes from the sebum oil interacting with the aluminum salts in, for example, antiperspirants,” she says.
Two spritzes per pit is enough to do the job, says Dr. Zalka. When applying, she says to hold the spray one inch from your body and spray directly in the armpit. Bonus: You can also use it on your feet. “You may use a few more pumps for your foot, and then you just pat it dry so you don’t slip around,” she says.
When using the spray on your pits, it can sting if you apply it directly after shaving, so you may want to avoid that. Though she says the product is generally well-tolerated, if you’re worried about any irritation, you can test it on a small patch of skin before coating your underarms. If your aim isn’t perfect and it feels a bit irritating on the skin around your armpits, Dr. Zalka says you can add a bit of lotion or body oil to the outer rim before you spray to act as a barrier. Just don’t apply lotion directly to your armpits. “If you put a lotion on, unless it was an acidic lotion, you would kind of counteract the chemistry of lowering the pH,” and thus decreasing the stench-beating efficacy.
Dr. Zalka created the spray because she wanted something that worked just as well as the pads but with less waste, as the pads are individually wrapped. However, she says there’s a time and place for both, naturally. The glass bottle is ideal to leave next to your sink and use when you’re home, while the pads are best for when you’re on-the-go. Whichever you use, know that you’ll be able to ditch antiperspirant without worrying about BO.
Surface Deep Anti-Odorant Pads
Glycolic acid is also a key ingredient treating body acne:
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