Whole-Body Deodorant Is Everywhere—But Do You Actually Need It?

If you’ve ever applied deodorant somewhere other than your armpits, you’re not alone. Whether it’s your thighs, underboob, or lower back—sweat (and the super-fun smells that come with it!) is a full-body experience. And yet for some reason, antiperspirants and deodorants have only been marketed for our underarms. That is, until recently.

You might have noticed that whole-body deodorants suddenly seem to be everywhere. The Lumē commercials alone are ubiquitous, but now body care brands like Secret, Dove, and Native have products aimed at our entire bods. What’s the deal?

“In a fairytale world we wouldn’t sweat at all. But in reality we all sweat—and not just from our underarms,” says Ed Currie, cofounder of whole-body-deodorant brand AKT London. Currie and Andy Coxon are former performers on London’s West End who created their hero product, The Deodorant Balm, to help fellow cast members feel—and smell—fresh after long days under the stage lights. “Our colleagues would use AKT on their foreheads, forearms, underbreasts, and pubic area. Of course the underarms are the main culprit, but often it just relieves that anxiety in other areas too.”

Whole-body deodorants promise to reduce uncomfortable sweat and smells from head to toe—but do they actually work? Ahead, experts answer all your questions about full-body deos—plus, our top product picks.

What is full-body deodorant?

First, a quick reminder that deodorant and antiperspirant are, in fact, different things.

At its simplest, “deodorant is designed to control body odor by neutralizing or masking the smell of sweat produced,” explains Teresa Song, MD, board-certified dermatologist at Marmur Medical in New York City. “Deodorants may contain antimicrobial agents to inhibit bacterial growth, fragrances to mask odors, and ingredients to absorb moisture.” Keyword: absorb. On the other hand, antiperspirants contain aluminum salts, which physically block sweat glands and are therefore more generally more effective at reducing moisture.

Originally, both antiperspirants and deodorants were designed for our underarms because they’re the main culprits for serious sweat and BO. But anyone with a body knows they’re not the only culprits. People have used underarm-specific products for off-label uses for, well, ever, so it was only a matter of time before formulas developed for the rest of the body were created. “Since we can sweat anywhere on the body and cause unwanted odor to develop, full-body antiperspirant can be applied throughout the body,” says Dr. Song.

Can you actually use full-body deodorant everywhere?

Pretty much! But there are caveats. As Dr. Song points out, it’s important to pay attention to the active ingredients. “Certain antiperspirants may contain aluminum chloride, which can cause irritation on sensitive skin on the body, such as groin folds,” says the dermatologist. “While other deodorants may only contain humidity-absorbing powders, which is less likely to cause irritation and can also be applied elsewhere.”

Currie explains that AKT was designed to be used anywhere externally on the body—including the face; the product is even used on movie sets under wig laces. “It’s more hygienic to apply as it’s a balm—you can simply wash your hands before applying to your face,” says Currie.

One area brands like to spotlight is the privates, but Dr. Song says you should proceed with caution there. “If you’re applying deodorant in the genital areas, it is important to use hypoallergenic and fragrance-free products,” says Dr. Song, who also says to only use the product on the outer, dry areas of skin.

Stephanie Hack, MD, an ob-gyn and host of the podcast Lady Parts Doctor, also stresses that fragrance-free is the way to go.

“Essential oils and fragrances might irritate sensitive skin, such as the vulva and the area near the vaginal opening, as well as the anus,” she explains. “To decrease the risk of irritation and discomfort, you should use caution and avoid applying these products directly to these sensitive areas.” That being said, she agrees that “for regions like the groin or mons pubis, these deodorants can be more suitable.”

No matter where you want to apply a full-body deodorant, Dr. Hack recommends conducting a patch test on a small, less sensitive area of the skin first to ensure you don’t have an adverse reaction.

How is full-body deodorant different from regular deodorant?

If you’ve used your standard underarm stick under your boobs from time to time, don’t worry. “Most formulations of regular deodorants can be used on other parts of the body,” assures Dr. Song. However, she points out that “full-body deodorants may have different formulations to accommodate different areas of the body.”

What’s the difference? “They may contain additional ingredients such as stronger fragrances or ingredients to absorb moisture, as these areas may produce more sweat than the underarms,” says the derm. “Additionally, some full-body deodorants may focus more on antimicrobial properties to combat bacterial growth in areas with higher sweat accumulation.”

What is the best full-body deodorant?

The full-body products on the market right now are all aluminum-free, so the choice comes down to the form factor (cream, stick, or spray), scented versus fragrance-free, and what ingredients it might contain.

“Look for products containing sodium bicarbonate and cornstarch, which help to keep moisture low in the area to prevent bacteria overgrowth,” recommends Dr. Song. “Antimicrobial ingredients are also helpful to decrease bacterial growth on the skin. Aluminum chloride is a great antiperspirant that has been used throughout history, and is great for less sensitive areas that produce excessive sweat.”