Armpits: Not very cute! Kinda prickly, like a recently shaved porcupine who much prefers winter, when he can wear sweaters and no one will notice. Also, deodorant: Not very popular to write about! All recent talk about it seems to circle around the aluminum debate, oh menacing chemical element that turns our white shirts yellow and hasn’t been proven to give us breast cancer. (Please educate yourself on that.)
Nevertheless, this isn’t about that. This is for those of us who were handed that free sample of baby powder-reeking deodorant in sex-ed “class” and were like, no way, give me that candy-scented Teen Spirit with the pink top. Now, there are so many perfumed deodorants to choose from, and I still love opening all the tops in the Target aisle and sniffing the latest from Dove and Secret, as their names—I’m sorry, “scent expressions”—get more and more hilariously breathless, like romance novel titles. Pasión de Tango.Cocoa Butter Kiss. Nourished Beauty. Kiss From a Rose. The last one is a Seal song, but you get the picture.
For this mission, I investigated the wide array of scented deodorants with my acute nose and pits on several hot summer days to find out which ones smell so good, you can wear it instead of your signature scent. But also which ones smell good, in a subtle way, so you can wear both. Secret Shower Fresh is fine and all, but this rundown is about the romance novel ones, so pour a glass of red wine and let’s do this.
The “I’m A Perfume, So Pay Up”
Sisley’s Eau de Campagne Dedorant has the same fresh-cut grass scent of the perfume version, but there’s a hint of aerosol that I just couldn’t shake. If you’re wearing this, you don’t need much else, which might, just maybe, justify the $82 tag. It kept my personal stench at bay for about half a workday. Please note that it’s alcohol-based, which means your armpits will do the armpit equivalent of Macaulay Culkin slapping his face in Home Alone if you spray it after shaving. Ahhhhh!
Another heavy-hitter is Estee Lauder’s Youth Dew, which is what the youth’s dew must have smelled like in 1953 when the timeless perfume was created—spicy rose, florals, grandma’s powder room kind of stuff. “Shower Fresh” this is not, but it pairs well with white dinner gloves, good manners, and a Sunday matinee.
Carven’s L’eau de Toilette is my favorite of the house’s two perfumed deodorants. The bottles will fit in perfectly alongside your perfume bottle collection, instead of hidden in the medicine cabinet with your “sleep-aid” collection. Another wake-up call on Oh We Must Be Shaving Tuesdays, but alcohol really works in the anti-stink department. The scent is super sweet, very apple-y, very “loves Taylor Swift and puppies.” Wear it to that Grrl Rock-themed SoulCycle class and you’ll fit right in.
Tom Ford’s Neroli Portofino might just be the most beautiful packaging I’ve ever damn seen (before it dropped on my tile floor), and the scent is subtle, sexy, and an ace match to the perfume. Then there was Aesop’s Herbal Deodorant, with the kind of yoga candle vibe I want to live in. Did they pass the grueling stench test from my $10/month gym’s Skyfit cycling session with Kelly from Atlanta who sings along to the spinning soundtrack? Sadly, no, so they’re being tabled for cooler months. Or I’ll rub it on my wrists as perfume. Revolutionary.
The “OMG It’s A Cream And You Use Your Fingers”
I didn’t even know these existed until my never-putrid friend Mackenzie recommended Milk + Honey’s Cream Deodorant. Since it’s from Texas and I’m from Texas, how could I not? But also I’m a gigantic skeptic of natural deodorants, because no one likes to admit it, but most of them Do. Not. Work. So I slapped on some with my own fingers, rubbed it in all nice, and threw a stick of Dove in my purse because I’m not a trusting person.
…but it worked. Like really well. The bay leaf/clove version smells like the Home Sweet Home Yankee Candle a bit, reminding me of Thanksgiving at Aunt Bitsy’s house; the coconut vanilla is just cake frostingly sweet; and the coconut lemongrass is like a bright sorbet and my favorite of everything I tried, hands (pits?) down. They passed a 97 degree subway ride in which I had to hold on to the overhead bar, which means I was confident enough to expose the seated riders below me with my prickly pits. I never thought I’d make the switch from drugstore, aluminum deodorant to this hippie stuff, but I’m a convert.
Another cream I dug was Captain Blankenship’s Lime and Vetiver Deodorant. It smells a little like a gin and tonic, but it’s a light scent that’ll go just fine with your expensive new perfume that smells like the beach or whatever. The one thing about all of these, which are made of coconut oil and baking soda, is that while they successfully mask your eau de gym class, they don’t really stop the tears of your pits. Wetness: There is truly no glamorous way to put it. In a tank top, who cares, but in a sleeved shirt, it might be an issue.
The “High School PE Classics, Upgraded Now That You’re An Adult”
There are two types of stink. One you can live with, when you stick your nose into your pits and deeply inhale, in a high school bathroom stall, at your cubicle as the managing editor walks by, at a bar while you wait for a date. And then there’s the stink that radiates off of your body like a cloud á la Pigpen from Peanuts. These (aluminum) deodorants banish them all. Clarins, a lightly floral perfumed rolly, and Dove’s Clinical Protection in Skin Renew—flowery, ambery, the most sophisticated Dove scent by a landslide. Both of these smell fantastic and fresh, but won’t interfere with your perfume at all.
But deodorant is like all beauty products in that it can be very subjective to your own bod’s whims and whistles. My advice would be to check out these new cream deodorants if you like to experiment and are sick of sweat stains, or to sniff the “Skin Renew” one the next time you’re at Target, doing your thing. And the good news is, you can still find Teen Spirit, thanks to the wonders of the internet.
Photographed by the author. Curated