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What to Do When Your Deodorant Doesn't Work

November 25, 2021 5 min read

deodorant doesn't work

Have you ever experienced that embarrassing situation when your deodorant stops working? You immediately panic, and wonder how noticeable it is for other people around you.

Sadly, your deodorant will likely fail you at some point. It could be a result of the product you’re using or a change in your body chemistry. Don’t fret! Keep reading on what you can do when your deodorant doesn’t work.

This post was originally published in November 2020, and was updated in November 2021.

Deodorant vs. Antiperspirant

Before we get started, it is helpful to know the difference between deodorant and antiperspirant.

While antiperspirants may prevent sweat, they don't necessarily protect you from body odor. Whereas deodorants are designed to prevent your armpits from smelling.

Your sweat - on its own - does not smell. But it does contain proteins, fats, and other waste products. When these interact with bacteria on your skin, the result causes odor. The more bacteria that is produced, the greater your risk of body odor.

The aluminum salts in antiperspirants plug the sweat glands to prevent them from producing too much sweat. Conversely, deodorants rely on alcohol or fragrance to neutralize or mask body odor.

What Makes Deodorant Work?

As mentioned before, it is interaction of bacteria and sweat on your skin that contributes to body odor. That is why many conventional deodorants rely on Triclosan to stop bacteria from multiplying. It works by making your skin too salty for bacteria to survive. Conventional deodorants may also contain alcohol and/or fragrance to mask odors. Other chemicals, such as phthalates and parabens, help to make the fragrance last longer.

Why Is My Deodorant Not Working?

There are a number of reasons why a deodorant may stop working, ranging from body chemistry to medications.

Wrong Formula

Let’s start with the most obvious: you might be using the wrong formula. The only way you know if you’re using the right formula is to actually try it out. Your body will let you know if it needs a different formula.

Not Strong Enough

Sometimes your deodorant doesn’t work because it’s not strong enough. Sure, the fragrance in your deodorant is strong enough to double as cologne. But if it doesn’t have enough antibacterial properties, it won’t stop your underarms from smelling.

why is my deodorant not working

Too Much Buildup

Deodorants can leave a film on your underarm. This may confuse your skin’s natural response to the active ingredient that is working to prevent sweat or odor. When this happens, you may want to take a break from your current product for a few days to allow your skin to rejuvenate.

Medications and Health Status

Certain medications or a change in your health status may also be the culprit. Medical conditions, such as diabetes or metabolic disorders, can cause body odor. When your body chemistry changes, either from a change in medication or an underlying health condition, it will not respond the same as normal to a personal hygiene product. Talk to your doctor to address your concerns. 


Sometimes when your body is exposed to the same formula over a long period of time, it stops responding. If you have been using the same deodorant for years, you may notice that it has become less effective over time. It’s not a bad idea to change up your brand every once in a while, or alternate products each week.

Your Clothes

Another possible reason your deodorant doesn’t work may be the type of clothes you wear. Clothes made from synthetic fabrics, such as polyester or nylon, trap odor, sweat, and bacteria because of how tightly they are woven.

what makes deodorant work

Not Applied Correctly

For many of us, applying deodorant after a morning shower is rote behavior. But this may not be the best application after all. Typically we sweat the least when we are sleeping. As such, applying deodorant or antiperspirant at night allows the formula to work most effectively.

What to Do When Your Deodorant Doesn’t Work

After you’ve identified the reason(s) why deodorant doesn't work, the next step is to reassess and reorganize your daily routine. Here are some actions to take if your deodorant stops working.

Reevaluate your product

Understanding what makes deodorant work and what your deodorant actually contains will help you find the deodorant that works best for you. For example, conventional deodorants that contain high levels of alpha-hydroxy acids kill odor-producing bacteria on your skin. Or, if you encounter problems with odor and sweat, try using a deodorant antiperspirant combination product.

We’ve compiled a few lists of top-rated deodorants to help you find the best product based on your individual preference.

Change Your Wardrobe

If your clothes consist mostly of synthetic fabric, consider changing to garments made from natural fibers. Natural fabrics don’t trap odor as much as synthetic fibers do and they allow your skin to breathe. Also, opt for looser fitting garments as tighter clothes tend to hold on to sweat as they create more friction with your skin.

Change Your Routine

You may not be reaping the full odor-fighting benefit of deodorant if you’re only using it in the morning. Instead, try applying deodorant at night to clean, dry skin. It works best with minimal moisture so be sure to completely dry your armpits before applying. Allow the product to dry before getting dressed for bed.

Deodorants can build up on your skin over time, even if you shower every day.

Take a Break

Just like some relationships, you may need to take a break from your deodorant. Deodorants can build up on your skin over time, even if you shower every day. Taking a break will help your skin get back to its normal state.

This mini “detox” process may take a few days to effectively eliminate the deodorant coating on your skin. During this time, increase your water intake to help flush out the impurities. You can naturally prevent odor by using antibacterial soap, applying natural astringents or exfoliating your armpits. After four or five days, apply your deodorant like normal. If it doesn’t work, consider changing your deodorant.

Improve Your Hygiene

There is no doubt that hygiene plays a role in body odor. Establishing a routine is key to ensuring good hygiene. To start, make sure you bathe everyday and after sweat-inducing activities. Try using an antibacterial soap or shower gel designed to fight body odor. The cleaner your armpits are, the less opportunity bacteria have to multiply.

Make Mental Health & Lifestyle Changes

Mental stress may affect your hormones and hormonal changes may increase your body odor. If you experience more anxiety or stress than normal, incorporate relaxation techniques into your daily routine. Regular physical activity can also help to regulate mood and relieve stress.

Even though it’s embarrassing when your deodorant stops working, there are plenty of ways to get to the source of the problem. Make sure you always smell fresh, by wearing an Ejis undershirt with odor-fighting silver. Check out our line of sweat proof undershirts (buy in our shop or on Amazon) and get maximum protection from body odor and sweat.

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