Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.

People's Pharmacy: Body odor rebound without antiperspirant

  • 0

Q. I stopped using antiperspirant about 18 months ago. At first, my armpits had more odor.

Plain deodorant didn’t work well enough right away. Instead, I neutralized the smell every few days by dabbing diluted tea tree oil on my underarms with a cotton ball and powdering with baking soda daily to keep my underarms from feeling sticky. I also alternated with vinegar on a cotton ball if the tea tree oil was sometimes too strong. After a few weeks, I was able to simply wash my underarm, apply deodorant (without antiperspirant) and go about my day odor-free.

During the past year, I’ve attempted to use an antiperspirant a few times for long days at the beach or other all-day events where I’m very physically active. However, I didn’t get good results. My underarms would sweat even more than normal when I reintroduced the antiperspirant, and it was stinky sweat. Plain deodorant works much better. If I’m doing sweaty activities, I just reapply it after rewashing my underarms with soap and water.

From my experience, my sweat has a more natural scent that isn’t as odorous as when using the antiperspirant. I’m never going back. In fact, I’m trying to get my husband off antiperspirant. Although he wears it 24/7, his armpits still smell from the buildup of bacteria.

A. Our skin is inhabited by bacterial communities that vary from one person to another (Peer J, Feb. 2, 2016). Use of antiperspirants, deodorants or other products in our underarms has an impact on the armpit microbiome.

We heard decades ago that applying milk of magnesia to the armpit could reduce underarm odor. Although we can find no clinical studies of this strategy, readers have reported success. In addition, some people find wiping the armpits with rubbing alcohol (or vodka) is an effective approach. Others use white vinegar, lemon juice or old-fashioned amber Listerine.

To learn more about alternatives to antiperspirants, you may wish to read our eGuide to Favorite Home Remedies. This online resource is located under the Health eGuides tab at

Q. You have written about angular cheilitis, painful cracks at the corners of the mouth. We have had great success with cabbage juice, either squeezed out and applied or by holding cut cabbage against the sore. A cabbage salad accompaniment doesn’t hurt! Healing begins almost immediately.

A. Cabbage is loaded with nutrients. We don’t know why it would help angular cheilitis, but it certainly can’t hurt.

Q. Can you overdose on folic acid? I am taking a high-potency folate supplement and wonder if I am getting too much. I often feel nauseated and fatigued, and I am having a lot of trouble sleeping. My appetite is gone, and I have lost quite a bit of weight. What really worries me is my lack of concentration. Maybe that is just due to poor sleep. This supplement was recommended by a smart friend, but I now suspect it might not be right for me.

A. Excess folate can lead to problems. Nausea and loss of appetite are potential consequences. Older adults may also experience confusion and trouble sleeping. Some people complain of gas and stomachache, while others are irritable or depressed.

The recommended dietary allowance for folic acid is 400 micrograms for adults. You might be taking a supplement at the upper limit, 1,000 mcg. We suggest you ask your doctor for a blood test and switch to a supplement that does not provide quite so much.

Questions for Joe and Teresa Graedon can be emailed via their website:


Be the first to know

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

Listen now and subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | RSS Feed | Omny Studio

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


Breaking News

News Alert