Beauty 101: Your Scent-Related Problems, Solved


This week’s Beauty 101 covers everything from dealing with body odor to making perfume last longer. You had questions, and your fellow readers have provided the answers:

As always, I’d like to thank everyone who sent in tips via email, or left them in the comments. I can’t post them all, due to space restrictions, but they are all appreciated. And now, a few hints from your fellow readers:

On Dealing With Sweating/Body Odor:

From A, via email:

Start with a clean, dry underarm, and apply anti-perspirant. Wash a few times into the arm pit. The smell comes from bacteria, Tea Tree can be a natural antibacterial. Dr. Bronner makes Tea Tree soap, but you may want to dilute first. Keeping underarm hair trimmed can also help. Give yourself a whif. If things are starting to funk up, look for another anti-persperant/deodorant, it may take a few tries to find the one that works for you. If necessary, reapply anti-persperant/deodorant during the day


From S, via email:

I live and die by Secret Clinical Strength deodorant/antiperspirant.
It’s $8 a stick, which seems excessive when you see other sticks for
$2 but oh my goodness it is worth it. I haven’t had pit sweat since
2008. It’s freeing to not have to worry about whether or not I’m going
to smell excessively funky.
Speaking of funky, sometimes there’s those days when you just DO NOT
feel like taking a shower before work due to
drunkeness/tiredness/laziness. The trick I’ve found is to at least
wash your underarms…even a quick hand soap/washcloth rinse works to
make me feel less like a total hobo. Then put on more secret clinical

From commenter ObservantUnderachiever:

Antiperspirant does exactly what it says- it keeps you from perspiring. It will contain a compound (usually aluminum based) which will actually close up your sweat glands (obviously only temporarily. If sweating is a major issue, they can actually permanently close those glands through with a laser treatment)
Deodorant also does what it says. It gets rid of the odor, or attempts to, depending on how sweaty/stinky you get. It has no effect on how much you sweat, therefore it will wear off as you sweat naturally during the day.
From what I’ve found, deodorant can be enough during winter, but during the summer, I have to have antiperspirant, or I will have pit stains like crazy— the only way I’ve found to get rid of pit stains is to stop them altogether.

From C, via email:

I work retail and I sweat really, really bad. It’s not so much stinky,
just embarrassingly wet. I tried a million antiperspirants until I
found Certain Dri. It’s awesome. It’s the only thing I’ve ever found
that works 100%. I put it on before bed about every third night and I
never, ever have underarm sweat. The other awesome thing is that I
don’t ever get that unsightly yellow staining on the arm pits of my
shirts. However, this antiperspirant isn’t for people with sensitive
skin. I don’t have particularly sensitive skin but if I get too much
of this on, it kind of itches and then kind of starts to burn. If I
realize I got too much on, I just dab it off with a tissue. The
consistency of this stuff is definitely watery, so it’s a pretty easy
to get too much when you first start using it. Also, you do NOT want
to use this stuff after bathing, it will burn like a mofo. Apparently
there’s some sort of chemical reaction with whatever’s in this stuff
and water.

From commenter Lulu-tumalu:

I would suggest avoiding antiperspirants. I used to sweat a LOT, and I kept using stronger and stronger antiperspirants to fight it. Eventually I realized that the strong antiperspirants would only work for a few weeks but then they were actually causing me to sweat more, so I tried an experiment and swore them off entirely for a month. After about two weeks I hardly perspired at all.
Natural food stores carry a nice variety of non-antiperspirant deodorants, and even wal-mart has a couple. I also carry a little sampler bottle of body spray or perfume to use if I start to smell funky later in the day, which really only happens in the summer if I’m walking a lot or if it’s been a couple days since my last shower.
I still use gel antiperspirants if I’m going someplace fancy where I simply cannot afford to sweat. Using them sparingly means that when I need them, they actually work!

From commenter footnotegirl:

Avoiding body odor: Wash frequently, using a ph balanced soap if possible. If you find that no matter how often you wash or what antiperspirant/deodorant you use, you still get an offensive odor quickly, then you might want to see a doctor. Another thing that might help is watching your diet, cutting out onions, garlic, fish, and/or other strongly flavored food as they will come out in your sweat. But if it’s a serious, ongoing issue, see a doctor.

From commenter lastsinglestanding:

To avoid unwanted b.o., I suggest using a mild (NOT anti-bacterial soap) on all the stinky places once a day, applying deodorant or a-p as necessary and finishing with a bit of baby powder (not talc). To freshen up during the day, carry some wet wipes and use accordingly.

On Avoiding/Cleaning Pit Stains:
From A, via email:

Pit stains come from the chemicals in anti-perspirant when it mixes with sweat. You could try a natural deodorant, or try vinegar or borax in the wash. Some people wear undershirts since they are less expensive to replace than clothing, but it could make you more sweaty if you become too hot.

From commenter la.donna.pietra:

It’s actually a chemical reaction between antiperspirant and sweat. For white shirts, try crushing up a couple of aspirin and making a paste with straight hydrogen peroxide, then applying it to the stains. This approach will bleach colored shirts, so you’re probably out of luck there.

On Perfume:
From A, via email:

Too many scents at the same time is distracting. Choose a shampoo/cond
that you really like and keep everything else unscented. I splurge on
Aveda because the smell is rather strong and I love it.

From commenter footnotegirl:

To get a longer lasting perfume, consider ‘layering’. This is having two or more items of the same scent or scent family such as shower gel dusting powder perfume or moisturizing lotion perfume. Even sachet in underwear drawer perfume. Also, consider a scent locket, where you apply a little perfume to a small disc of cotton or paper and put it in a locket, or put a few drops of perfume on a hair band. It will not wear off as quickly, but it will have a slightly different scent than the perfume on your skin. Apply perfume over moisturized skin rather than dry skin.
Application is ideally to the pulse points, where the perfume will be kept warm. Wrists, behind the ears, cleavage. Small of the back. Also, because scent rises, consider the insides of the heels or the backs of the knee.
Application is also ideally subtle. If you can be smelled by someone not sitting next to you or hugging you, then you are wearing too much. Also, wait at least three to four hours before reapplying if not more, or ask someone else to give you a reality check as to if you still smell pretty, as you will lose the ability to smell your own scent long, long before others do.

From commenter murasaki:

I think how long a perfume lasts depends on one’s body chemistry and the individual formulation. It’s important to remember that perfumes have top notes, middle notes, and base notes, so the scent will change as you wear it. The lingering base note scent may be quite different from the top notes you noticed on the initial application. So, while one may seek a lasting scent, it may not always be possible to achieve this effect without touching up with a fresh spritz at some point in the day. Scents do tend to cling to the clothes, and as some posters have noted, the hair, but they may smell differently on your hair or clothes than they would on your skin.
One may have to try various perfumes to find one that lasts to a satisfactory degree. I like to order small vials while I am in the testing process because department stores and even Sephora offer a limited range of scents. Luckyscent and The Perfumed Court are good sources for inexpensive samples of less pedestrian scents. Remember too that scents are sold in different concentrations: eau de cologne, eau de toilette, eau de parfum. More concentrated scents are more expensive and more lasting, but I often prefer to go light, particularly in warmer weather.
One difference is concentration, as I mentioned above. Another thing to know is that perfumes fall into scent families. Some of the main ones:
Orientals- These tend to be spicy and/or musky. They could also contain amber or vanilla or tonka bean. These perfumes may seem warmer or heavier.
Florals- Most florals today are not meant to replicate a single flower, rather to have a bouquet effect. Older floral perfumes were based more on a single flower, such as one of my favorites, Violetti di Parma, though it does include iris with the violet.
Woodsy- Obviously, these will tend to have components like cedar, sandlewood, or patchouli. They may seem outdoorsy or slightly masculine. Could be smoky or mossy as well.
Fruity- These seem to be very popular in mainstream brands. They may seem younger or less sophisticated. Clinique’s Happy would fall into this category.
Green- These have a natural character and may seem more modern. Could be grassy or herbal or like tea.
Adelhydes- Chanel Number Five would be an example. These synthetic notes seemed modern and daring in the early half of the twentieth century. In my opinion, they can smell a bit soapy.
Gourmands- This is a newer category. It includes perfumes like Angel, which has chocolate and vanilla notes. It would also include Lolita Lempicka, with its vanillish tonka bean and licorice notes.
Marine- This is a newer category meant to evoke water: a thunderstorm or ocean brack, for example. I suppose there is a strong intellectual component to this category.
Fougere- These scents would tend to be masculine and include notes of lavender or other herbal scents. The category is meant to evoke ferns. It could use oakmoss as a base.
Of course, there are further permutations of these categories, such as florals made with white flowers only or florientals or leathery perfumes.
Another way to categorize perfumes would be to set the scents made by parfumers aside from celebrity perfumes. One could also make a distinction between classics (like Arpege, L’Air du Temps, and L’Heure Bleue) and more contemporary scents.

From commenter MySandwich:

Put lip salve on the patch of skin you’re about to apply perfume to – it makes it adhere to you for longer and release more slowly over time.

On Natural Alternatives:
From commenter pashadag:

Since perfumes give me migraines, I’ve been using essential oils like almond/lavender/rose oils as perfumes… just dribble a couple drops into a bottle of water with a spritzer thingie on top and you can use it on clothes, sheets, etc. You can buy them at natural food stores and some beauty supplies places.

From commenter samarkind:

I a) don’t shave my pits and b) am pretty crunchy and like to avoid over-chemicalling myself if I don’t have to. I find that a few drops of tea tree oil rubbed into my pit is quite effective as a deodorant (or an deodorant-refresher). Tea tree is an antibacterial, and it’s the bacteria that feed on your sweat that make the smell, so if you can limit the bacteria, you can limit the smell. And I, personally, like the smell of tea tree, but ymmv.

From commenter Tego:

For a natural scent, you can use essential oils. I pop some essential oil and water in a small spray bottle (both picked up easily from the chemist). You can mix the oils, use one on its own etc. Plus, essential oils aren’t super-duper expensive (usually) and instead of £30+ i have scents i love for under £10 that will last for ages. Right now, i’m going through a lemongrass phase. My mother on the otherhand, sticks to lavender – without fail – she’s never overwhelming others with the smell of lavender but it’s delicate and memorable, just like her.

Didn’t get the answer you were looking for? Be sure to read through yesterday’s thread, which is filled with hundreds of tips, tricks, and product recommendations. Disagree with something you’ve read here? Feel free to set the record straight in the comments. And of course, suggestions for next week’s Beauty 101 are welcome.

Earlier: Beauty 101: “I’d Like To Put Favorite Deodorants And Perfumes Up For Talkies”

Looking for advice on another beauty topic? Check out the other Beauty 101 Q & A sessions:
Beauty 101: Your Summer Beauty Dilemmas, Solved
Beauty 101: Your Blush And Bronzer Questions, Answered
Beauty 101: Your Skincare Questions, Answered
Beauty 101: Your Eye Queries, Answered
Beauty 101: Your Nail Questions, Answered
Beauty 101: Your Lipstick Questions, Answered
Beauty 101:Your Hair Questions, Answered
Beauty 101: Your Waxing/Shaving Questions, Answered
Beauty 101: Your Foundation And Concealer Concerns, Answered
Beauty 101: Your Eyeliner Woes, Solved

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