Can Antiperspirants Actually Make You Smell Worse?

Whether you're working out, attending a big job interview, or just lounging on a hot day, it's normal to notice armpit perspiration. According to Healthline, sweat is the body's way of cooling itself or preparing for a stressful situation, and those little beads of moisture are mostly odorless water. However, when they interact with the bacteria on the skin, they can create a foul stench.

Antiperspirants are designed to counteract this. The International Hyperhidrosis Society explains that antiperspirants are a non-invasive way to deal with excessive sweating in the underarms and other areas of the body. When applied to the skin, they work by forming a temporary "plug" in the pores, which stops the release of sweat. Because antiperspirants block sweat, you can also expect less odor.

However, these topical products aren't without drawbacks. Perhaps the biggest concern about antiperspirants is that they may cause breast cancer, though more research is needed to understand if a link exists (per the American Cancer Society). On top of that, antiperspirants may actually make some people smell worse.

Antiperspirants may increase stinky skin bacteria

Antiperspirants — especially when scented — are meant to keep body odor at bay. However, research indicates that they could have the opposite effect. A 2015 study published by Ghent University argues that antiperspirants may increase a certain kind of bacteria on the skin that actually promotes bad odor. "Your armpit microbiome is altered considerably when you wear antiperspirant," Chris Callewaert, the author of the study, told Prevention. "It can contain more of the corynebacteria, and can thus make your armpit odor more unpleasant."

As a heads up, switching to regular deodorant isn't a quick fix. According to the Cleveland Clinic, it's common to have an even stronger body odor at first after quitting antiperspirant.

If your antiperspirant isn't fighting odor the way you had hoped, there are other solutions to reduce unwanted body smells. Healthline suggests showering regularly with soap, wearing breathable clothing, managing stress, and removing body hair in high-sweat areas, such as the armpits. If odor or excessive sweating persists, talk to your doctor. They can determine a cause and may offer stronger treatments, such as Botox injections.