More than a few folks have sung the praises of using glycolic acid as a deodorant across social media platforms. The TikTok hashtag #glycolicacidasdeodorant, which has 12.7 million views at the time I’m writing this, is full of users raving about how their armpits stopped smelling once they started using the acid.
Before we get into evaluating whether it can safely function as a deodorant, first, let’s address the basics. Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that brightens and smooths the skin via chemical exfoliation. Of the AHAs that exist, glycolic acid has the smallest particle size, so “it is the most powerful and effective since it can penetrate our skin the best,” Pittsburg-based board-certified dermatologist Lindsey Zubritsky, MD, previously shared with Allure. That explains why it’s beloved for lightening dark spots and firming the skin to reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
Many TikTokers have specifically highlighted The Ordinary’s Glycolic Acid 7 Percent Toning Solution as the product that changed the game. Users typically add a few drops to a cotton pad or their hands before swiping it onto their pits. One user even transferred the solution to a smaller spray bottle for easier application.
But is the AHA useful as a deodorant? Kind of. Connecticut-based board-certified dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD, confirms that glycolic acid can, indeed, help prevent that dreaded sweaty pit stench. “It sheds dead skin cells and lowers the skin pH so that the bacteria [that causes body odor] can’t survive,” she explains. Thus, the acid can leave your pits scent-free.
However, Dr. Gohara says that glycolic acid won’t stop your underarms from sweating because it lacks the key sweat-blocking ingredient: aluminum salt. So if you don’t want to deal with sweaty pits specifically, stick to an antiperspirant.
Dr. Gohara suggests applying the acid after showering because it should be used on clean pits. “The whole idea is to keep the odor-producing bacteria at bay, so applying [the acid] when the odor is already brewing may not be as effective,” she explains. She believes applying glycolic acid with biodegradable pads is best because it minimizes how long the solution is touching the skin, which in turn can reduce potential irritation.