How Not To Be The Stinky Kid In Class

Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Deodorant is kind of a necessity, provided you don't want to be the stinky kid in class. But unlike other body-care products like cleansers and moisturizers, which come in a veritable bonanza of forms, deodorant wearers have historically been using one type of deo since they first became aware of body odor: Sticks.

Not, of course, that there's anything wrong with antiperspirant and deodorant sticks. They get the job done, as sweaty girls all across the globe can attest to. But they aren't the only option out there. See also: sprays and powders, wipes, and, our current obsession, creams.

The issue with these stink stoppers is that people are either confused about or weirded out by them, or don't know the first thing about how to use them — and in most cases, both. Creams, in particular, aren't intuitive — you have to apply them with your hands, which is something that makes most of us wrinkle our noses in the universal sign of ugh.

But if you can get past that initial reaction, you'll find a superbly effective way to keep the funk away. "Deodorant cream is a frosting-like deodorizing paste," explains Rachel Winard, the mastermind behind the cult, small-batch brand Soapwalla. "I particularly love that with deodorant cream, you apply with your fingers to ensure complete control over where and how much you use."

According to Ron Robinson, cosmetic chemist and founder of BeautyStat, there really is no fundamental difference between a stick and a cream, other than texture preference. Where you'll really see the contrast is in the type of protection.

There are two main types of pit protecters: deodorants and antiperspirants. “Antiperspirants are over-the-counter deodorants that contain FDA-monograph-approved ingredients that interact with the sweat glands to help stop perspiration,” explains Robinson. “Deodorants are products that work to mask underarm odor. They often contain a fragrance or perfume."

With a few exceptions, creams are predominately deodorants. Unlike traditional deodorants, however, most — due to their natural/organic origins — do not contain triclosan, an active ingredient Robinson says prevents the growth of the bacteria that causes oder. While not currently scientifically proven, there have been some studies that indicate that triclosan could alter hormone regulation.

The thing to keep in mind there, according to Neal Schultz, MD, dermatologist and founder of BeautyRx, is that wetness promotes the growth of bacteria, which in turn causes the odor you were trying to prevent in the first place. That's why it's important to make sure you are choosing creams that don't contain water as an ingredient, or, if so, that they also contain some type of anti-bacterial ingredient to prevent bacterial growth.

So about that application process: Winard says that while it may feel weird, they actually allow you versatility and the option to customize. "I apply about two peas' worth under each arm in the morning after I shower, and gently rub it in until it's absorbed," she says. "Then, I'm good to go for the rest of the day. The cream lasts me through 12-hour work days (which often include moving 50-pound boxes and intense production work), followed by kickboxing and hot yoga classes."

Winard does note that there are some things to keep in mind when you first start using a cream deodorant. "If you tend to have sensitive skin or are prone to razor burn or ingrown hairs, I recommend shaving a few hours (or even the night before) application. That will cut down on the chance that the essential oils in the deodorant cream will irritate micro-abrasions that occur when you shave," she says. She also recommends exfoliating the underarm once or twice a week to clear away product build-up.

Finally, "if you're switching over to natural deodorant from years of using commercial antiperspirants, there will be an adjustment period," she notes. "Allow your body a few weeks to allow your skin to unclog and start to function properly. During this transition period, you may need to apply deodorant a few times a day; this need will diminish as your body resets."

Now that you know what a deodorant cream is and how to use it, click through to see some of our favorites.
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Considered by most of the beauty world (including yours truly) as the gold standard of natural and cream deodorants, Soapwalla's vegetable powder and clay-based formula helps sop up dampness while essential oils of lavender, peppermint, and tea tree inhibit the growth of those fun-causing bacteria. Not to mention the gorgeous scent and how rapidly it soaks in.

The cream is also apparently quite versatile — Winard says that she runs any excess product on her hands post-application through her hair, as it doubles as a texturizer. And apparently, some customers also use it on their feet to ward off the dreaded sweaty-boot foot.

Soapwalla Deodorant Cream, $14, available at Soapwalla.
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Anit Mullein from Mullein & Sparrow, one of our fave local brands, is a connoisseur of creams and was happy to share a few of her favorites with us. "My favorite deodorant cream is this one made by Meow Meow Tweet. My favorite is their grapefruit, mainly because its baking-soda free (baking soda irritates my skin and makes it turn red). I have found their texture to be the softest and the easiest to apply."

Robinson concurs about the baking soda as a potential irritant for some. "Given that baking soda is more alkaline and skin is more acidic, it can disrupt the skin’s pH," he notes.

Meow Meow Tweet Baking Soda Free Grapefruit Deodorant Cream, $14, available at Meow Meow Tweet.
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This 30-year-old cream is one of the OG creams and boasts some pretty big claims: It promises to keep you stink-free for up to seven days with just one application. None of us were actually going to try going the distance with it — we do work in an open-floor plan office and if it didn't hold up, that would be bad office etiquette. But since the brand says it was originally formulated for soldiers to fight body odor from permeating the barracks, we're going to go ahead and trust them on that.

Lavilin Underarm Deodorant Cream, $17, available at Lavilin.
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The name alone drew us in here. We mean, how can it not? But what sealed the deal was that it did indeed keep us funk-free.

Our own Kelsey Miller took it out for a test drive on a scorching summer day in NYC and had nothing but rave reviews for it. "This stuff works just as well as any deodorant I've used. I never loved the idea of chemically blocking off my sweat glands and now I realize it might not have been worth it anyway. This stuff is that good."

Oyin Funk Butter Black Cedar Fig Natural Deodorant, $5.49, available at Oyin.
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This one wins points for the best smelling — in addition to this sweet floral, there's also the woody, kind of sexy Cedarwood + Juniper; fresh with a little bit of spice Bergamot + Lime; calming and herbal Lavender + Sage; and, for the scent averse, a fragrance-free version.

Mullein says she loves the scent selection, but notes that the consistency makes it a bit more challenging to apply. "I find myself digging into the jar with my nails just to get some product out — their little spatula doesn't always cut it, especially on cold days." So summertime might be better for this particular cream, when the weather will help soften it up.

Schmidt's Ylang-Ylang + Calendula Deodorant, $8.99, available at Schmidt's.
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Osmia Organics' cream makes it pretty clear exactly what it is, stating that it is not an anti-perspirant, because "we don't believe that blocking sweat glands is healthy."

It is a deodorant that uses sweat absorbers, like tapioca starch and Fuller's earth clay, plus organic oils of shea and jojoba, to calm irritation combined with essential oils to combat stench-causing bacteria.

Osmia Organics Deodorant Cream, $12, available at Osmia Organics.
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This one caught our eye after a reader's rave review. Also, that name — what's not to love about something called Pit Paste? In addition to coming in a variety of scents, it's available in levels of stink protection: regular and strong. Baking soda and arrowroot give it its smelly shield power, while organic coconut butter and shea butter help smooth. Recommend it to your friends for the reaction alone. "Yeah, that deodorant is okay, but I'm all about that Pit Paste."

Primal Pit Paste in Jacked-Up Jasmine, $8.95, available at Primal.
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