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Smelly underarms? Should you use glycolic acid to combat it?


The world of skincare is ever-evolving, with new trends emerging regularly. While some of these trends, like double cleansing and the 60-second rule, can prove to be beneficial — others may do more harm than good.

One recent trend making waves on social media is the use of glycolic acid as a deodorant, with claims that it can help reduce excessive sweating and body odour. But is this trend truly effective? Let’s delve into it with insights from experts.

Firstly, what exactly is glycolic acid?

“Glycolic acid is a type of alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) derived from sugarcane,” explains Dr Chytra Anand, a celebrity dermatologist and the founder of SkinQ & Kosmoderma Clinics.

It is renowned for its exfoliating properties and its ability to address various skin concerns, including fine lines, acne, and uneven skin texture.

“When applied topically, glycolic acid penetrates the skin, promoting the shedding of dead skin cells and stimulating collagen production, resulting in smoother, brighter, and healthier-looking skin,” she further shares.

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Can it be used as a deodorant?

Deodorants and antiperspirants are specifically designed to combat body odour and excessive sweating.

“Glycolic acid, while an exceptional skincare ingredient, is not typically used to address underarm sweating or body odour. Excessive sweating and body odour are usually linked to overactive sweat glands and the growth of odour-causing bacteria. Glycolic acid is not formulated to target these specific issues,” clarifies Dr Anand.

On the other hand, Dr Mrunal Shah Modi, cosmetic dermatologist, trichologist & dermato surgeon, founder & director, Shine Skin, Hair & Laser Clinic noted that glycolic acid can be effective in addressing body odour. This is because glycolic acid possesses antibacterial properties. Furthermore, it serves as an exfoliant, sloughing off superficial dead skin cells and eliminating the bacterial load on the skin’s surface. This action may contribute to a reduction in underarm or body odor.

However, Dr Modi cautioned that using a high concentration of glycolic acid in sensitive areas, such as the underarms, can potentially lead to skin irritation or burns. Therefore, it’s imperative to exercise great care when applying glycolic acid, opting for milder concentrations, especially when using it to combat body odour.

So, what are its actual uses?

According to Dr Anand, glycolic acid is primarily used for skincare purposes, including:

  1. Exfoliation: It aids in the removal of dead skin cells, promoting a more youthful and radiant complexion.
  2. Acne treatment: It can help unclog pores and reduce acne breakouts.
  3. Fine lines and wrinkles: With repeated use, glycolic acid can diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
  4. Hyperpigmentation: It can lighten dark spots and even out skin tone.

So, how can you combat body odour and excessive sweating effectively?

deodorant, glycolic acid, excessive sweating, body odour Over-the-counter or prescription-strength deodorants and antiperspirants are also beneficial. (Source: Freepik)

Dr Anand recommends using clinical-strength antiperspirants containing aluminum chloride. “These products can effectively reduce sweat production,” she explains.

In certain cases, procedures like Botox injections or miraDry, which permanently reduce sweat gland activity, may be considered.

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“To combat body odour, it’s crucial to maintain good hygiene practices. Regular washing with antibacterial soaps and the use of antibacterial products can help. Over-the-counter or prescription-strength deodorants and antiperspirants are also beneficial. Wearing loose, breathable cotton clothing can also reduce sweating,” Dr Anand suggests.

In conclusion, while glycolic acid has its merits in skincare, it is not a suitable replacement for deodorants and antiperspirants when addressing issues related to body odour and excessive sweating.

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