Best ways to mask body odour – no sweat

If you can’t decide what to roll or spray to keep body odour at bay, don’t sweat it. We’ve got you covered.

Anyone who has survived a peak-hour train in summer can attest that body odour is the pits.

But here’s a fun fact.

Anthropologist Louis Leakey believed stench was an important evolutionary defence for our prehistoric ancestors, who smelt so bad predators avoided them as a food source.

Thankfully, we no longer have to evade hungry carnivores, and we have a vast array of products that promise to keep us smelling sweet.

But what’s best – deodorants, antiperspirants or natural alternatives?

What’s the difference between deodorant and antiperspirant?

If you thought deodorants and antiperspirants were basically the same thing, think again.

There’s a key difference: deodorants combat odours, while antiperspirants are designed to prevent perspiration altogether.

Dermatologist Dr Shyamalar Gunatheesan says it’s not your sweat that smells, it’s the bacteria that live off it that give off the pungent aroma.

“Antiperspirants have ingredients such as aluminium chloride that temporarily block our sweat pores, and if you have less sweat, there’s less of a medium for the bacteria living in your armpits to degrade and produce smells,” Dr Gunatheesan says.

“Whereas deodorant works mainly on neutralising odours, either by changing the PH of the skin so bacteria are less likely to grow, or by neutralising the volatile gases bacteria produce.”

Is deodorant or antiperspirant better?

Whether you use deodorant or antiperspirant comes down to personal choice, says Dr Gunatheesan.

If you’re a light sweater and want to prevent body odour, deodorant will do the trick.

But if you are a sweaty individual, antiperspirant may be a better option.

“If you tend to have a strong odour and sweat a lot, you may want to use something that has both antiperspirant and deodorant,” she says.

Should you go aluminium-free?

There’s been a lot of bad press about the use of aluminium-based compounds in antiperspirants, including alarming claims of a link with breast cancer.

But Dr Gunatheesan says aluminium is safe.

“Large clinical studies have shown no obvious link to things like breast cancer,” Dr Gunatheesan says.

This includes a meta-analysis of 19 studies, which concluded there was no scientific evidence to support the claim, and more recently a 2021 study that found no significant association between antiperspirants and breast cancer.

What are the natural alternatives?

If you are still worried about potential nasties on your skin, you’re right on trend, according to a recent poll that found deodorant is increasingly on the nose with younger generations.

The analysis showed 40 per cent of 18-24-year-olds and around a third of 25-34-year-olds didn’t use deodorant or antiperspirant.

Shahrzad Kahrobai, founder of eco-beauty blog The Spot Beauty, has been using natural alternatives from 15 years.

“I don’t like the idea of aluminium on my skin or in my bloodstream,” Shahrzad says.

“Human beings are designed to sweat, and I prefer a more natural product that allows me to do that, but masks the scent.”

Shahrzad says she looks for products with ingredients such as tapioca starch, coconut oil, shea butter and clay.

Or, check out your pantry – these typical kitchen ingredients can also be used as natural hygiene products:

Baking soda: Mix 1/8 teaspoon with a little water, but do a patch test before application.

Lemon juice: can be used undiluted, but don’t apply immediately after having shaving

Rubbing alcohol: Fill a spray bottle and spritz away

Apple cider vinegar: Mix 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with 1 tablespoon of water

Coconut oil: Take 1/4 teaspoon of oil and rub it under your arms.

Written by Dimity Barber.