Scented Versus Unscented Deodorant: Which One Is Better For Your Skin?

Given how commonplace deodorants are today, it's hard to believe that they were ever considered a "niche toiletry." Deodorants were first invented in the late 1800s, but at the time, people generally regarded them as unnecessary and unhealthy. Talking about body odor and body functions was still a taboo subject in the late Victorian age, so most people addressed odor issues by washing themselves more frequently or wearing cotton in their armpits on hot days. Eventually, an enterprising high school student named Edna Murphey invented an antiperspirant she named Odorono (Odor? Oh no!) that she tried to make mainstream. After a shaky start, savvy advertising campaigns boosted interest, leading deodorants to become a blockbuster product that turned into an $18 billion industry a century later (via Smithsonian Magazine).

According to Verywell Health, the root of most body odor is located in the armpits where sweat glands called apocrine glands release sweat when body temperature rises. Bacteria then break down the proteins in your sweat and turn them into acids. It's this acid byproduct that makes your armpits smell. Unfortunately, body odor is a part of being human, but thankfully, there is a variety of deodorants and antiperspirants that can help. That being said, should you be concerned about scented versions having an adverse impact on your skin?

It depends on your preferences and skin sensitivities

Surprisingly, the fragrance in deodorant doesn't eliminate odors. "Deodorants either mask the odor with a fragrance, prevent odor by minimizing the contact of sweat with odor-causing bacteria, or lowering the level of the odor-causing bacteria on the skin," dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner told Cosmopolitan. The key is to find a deodorant that contains the specific ingredients that will be effective in killing the bacteria that cause body odor, such as mandelic acid and magnesium hydroxide.

Even if the scents in deodorants don't help eliminate odor, they are not going to be harmful, either. According to Dr. Zeichner, if you don't have sensitive skin or allergies, you should not worry about fragrance being bad for you.

If you prefer unscented deodorants, one thing to keep in mind is that unscented does not necessarily mean the deodorant is fragrance-free. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), unscented deodorant may still have scented ingredients, but there are chemicals in the product that mask these scents. Fragrance-free products, however, do not contain any masking chemicals. If you want to use a product that contains zero fragrance — even the kind your nose can't detect — be sure to look for the EPA's Safer Choice label and that the product is fragrance-free certified.

Bottom line: Scented deodorants are considered safe for most people. However, if you are concerned about skin sensitivities or allergies, a certified fragrance-free deodorant brand is going to be the safest way to go.