When You Skip Deodorant, This Is What Happens

Applying deodorant is a practically-unquestioned rule of hygiene in the United States. It's right up there with other patriotic icons like baseball, apple pie, and super-sized portions. But a surprising number of health and wellness renegades, including up to 40 percent of youth aged 18 to 24, have dared to buck the trend and go au natural — to mixed reviews from family and friends (via YouGov). Here's what's likely to happen if you decide to join them.

The main purpose of deodorant is to cover up unpleasant odors by killing odor-causing bacteria, using antimicrobial agents or alcohol. Deodorants don't actually reduce the amount of sweat produced, though. Antiperspirants, on the other hand, actually work to prevent sweating by plugging underarm sweat ducts, usually with aluminum salts. Both products work to prevent odor, just in different ways.

Both deodorant and antiperspirant reduce odor

Actual underarm B.O. is caused by a reaction between the sweat (which by itself is unscented) and bacteria on the surface of the skin. As research scientist Daniel Bawdon told The Independent, "Those odorless molecules come out from the underarm, they interact with the active microbiota, and they're broken down inside the bacteria." The bacteria then emit an organosulphur compound which, to the discerning nose, smells like onions, meat, or sulphur.

So what happens if you stop using them? Well, as Sharleen St. Surin-Lord, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Visage Dermatology and Aesthetic Center told Best Life, you'll be "vulnerable to body odor." In other words, you're likely to stink. And what's more, bacteria build-up on the skin can lead to underarm rashes over time — so frequent washing is definitely a must.

Also, you might notice a temporary increase in how much you sweat, especially if you normally wear antiperspirant instead of an aluminum-free option (via Well + Good). That, combined with the fact that bacteria multiply easily in damp, warm environments, means the B.O. might get worse before it gets better.