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.
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.