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Adapting your beauty routine to meet your body's needs is nothing new. After all, we know our bodies best, and different situations call for specific products to keep us feeling optimal. For example, many skin types need multiple rich moisturizers during the winter, and throughout the summer, it's hard to go without an arsenal of setting sprays. This habit of changing our beauty routines to fit various seasons, situations, and skin types is now second nature, at least when it comes to things like skincare and makeup.
But do we need multiple deodorants, or a "deodorant wardrobe," for different sweat-related situations? Read below to learn everything about the science of sweat, as well as if leading dermatologists and experts think you need to build up your deodorant collection.
Types of Sweat
Before we dive into creating a wardrobe, let's begin with the basics of sweating, as there are a couple of primary reasons we sweat. "First, when the body temperature rises due to a warm environment or physical activity, the autonomic nervous system signals eccrine sweat glands to produce sweat to cool the skin and help bring the body temperature down," New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Hadley King shares. "But stress sweat is different and triggers adrenaline, cortisol, and other stress hormones, which then activate the apocrine sweat glands to produce the most stress-related sweat."
So, what is stress sweat, and when does it occur? "[Stress sweat] can happen when someone cuts you off in traffic, you give a speech, you complete a job interview, you go on a first date, you get embarrassed, or you do anything that causes your glands to release your fight or flight hormones," Native's Darren King explains. "Those hormones cause both gland types in your underarms to fire, so you can feel wet and get stinky even when you're not hot or exercising."
Meet the Expert
Dr. Hadley King is a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City, as well as a clinical instructor of dermatology at Cornell University's Weill Medical College.
Darren King is the vice president of research and development at natural deodorant and body care brand Native.
Dr. Joshua Zeichner is the director of cosmetic and clinical research in cosmetology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, as well as a key opinion leader in treating acne and rosacea and a cosmeceuticals, skincare, and cosmetic dermatology expert.
Deodorant vs. Antiperspirant
In the world of sweat care, you need to know the difference between the available options. "Antiperspirants are products that reduce wetness on the surface of the skin," New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner says. "They contain aluminum-based salts that form a plug within the sweat glands themselves. These are best used in the evening when sweat levels tend to be at their lowest, but they don't lower the amount of sweat produced."
On the other hand, deodorants don't address skin moisture but instead neutralize odor. "They may help absorb sweat on the skin, but they do not block it from reaching the skin surface," Zeichner explains. "Deodorants may contain a variety of different ingredients that lower levels of odor-causing bacteria on the skin or help to absorb sweat."
Why Have a Deodorant Wardrobe?
And now to the question at hand: why spend time curating a deodorant wardrobe? Different circumstances can call for a different approach to choosing your sweat protection for the day. To figure out what your body needs, think about your day ahead. If the air is dry, your skin will need more moisture. If you're nervous about a meeting, you'll need extra protection because your apocrine glands kick in and can create tons of stress sweat on your palms, feet, and underarms.
In these stressful situations, you'll need more support. "Look for antiperspirants made with aluminum chloride or aluminum salts," New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Diane Madfes says. "Then, when selecting a deodorant, look for sweat-absorbing formulas with arrowroot powder, charcoal, or tapioca starch."
On most days, you'll still experience sweat, but it's activated by your eccrine glands, which are located virtually all over your skin. "They typically release a mixture of water and salts but are almost odorless, so something with less strength would be acceptable," Fulton & Roark co-founder and CEO Kevin Keller notes.
Meet the Expert
What About Natural Formulas?
There have never been more natural options on the market, and the innovations have made natural alternatives level up to rival their traditional counterparts. Many natural deodorants feature sweat-absorbing ingredients and "even contain coconut oil and tea tree oil help to form a barrier on the skin. They tend to be gentler and combine moisturizing ingredients like shea butter and macula oil with essential oils to mask smells," shares Dr. King.
The efficacy of natural deodorants does vary from person to person because they slow down bacterial growth, which is responsible for the odor, but they don't keep armpits dry—they only help prevent odor. "It's best to apply them to clean, slightly damp skin—ideally right after a bath or shower," she notes.
It's not unreasonable to have a deodorant wardrobe full of antiperspirants, natural options, and traditional sticks to battle different types of sweaty situations. However, there are a few things to keep in mind.
"I have people stick to consistent use of antiperspirants or deodorants," Zeichner says. "It's best to consistently use them for maximal benefits rather than intermittent use of one or switching off with a deodorant that only addresses odor or to a natural formula, which includes a four-week transition period of the pores opening up and your biome finding its new normal."
The bottom line: you don't necessarily need to cultivate a deodorant wardrobe. When it comes to sweat care, consistency is key, and switching between types and formulas does more harm than good. Instead, find the product that best fits your needs, then rest assured knowing you're keeping your sweat production more stable by simplifying your routine.