If you have sensitive skin, are allergic to fragrances, or you just aren’t into strong smells, finding a fragrance-free deodorant that doesn’t irritate your skin when the drugstores are lined with scents like rose, and citrus is legit hard. And even more complicated is finding a deodorant that isn’t just labeled as “unscented” or “fragrance-free” but is still loaded with essential oils (read: not what you want in your sensitive skin products). Lucky for you, I did a deep dive into the world of fragrance-free deodorants, and caught up with dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD to answer all your burning deo questions. Like…
What is the point of unscented deodorant?
K, so I’m about to blow your mind here. Fragrances aren’t actually necessary for deodorant to eliminate body odors. I know, it’s wild. While they can mask the scent of body odors, deodorants and antiperspirants actually prevent odors a few different ways. ”Deodorants either mask the odor with a fragrance, prevent odor by minimizing the contact of sweat with odor-causing bacteria, or lowering the level of the odor-causing bacteria on the skin,” says Dr. Zeichner. Think of it this way: Deodorants can either mask scent, absorb or prevent sweat, or kill bacteria to eliminate odor. Basically, as long as you’ve got a deodorant or antiperspirant that’s made with the right odor-preventing ingredients, you don’t need a fancy scent on top of it to stay ~fresh~.
Why is fragrance in deodorant bad?
In short, it’s not bad. “If you have a normal skin type and you don’t have a history of allergies or sensitivity, you can use fragranced products,” says Dr. Zeichner. But he says that if you do have sensitive skin, fragrances and essential oils can be irritating (causing red, itchy patches on your skin). It’s overwhelming-AF, but don’t stress, ‘cause I did all the hard work for you and found the 12 best fragrance-free deodorants out there that won’t itch or break you out in a rash.
Before you get scrolling, here’s a peek at the best fragrance-free deodorants:
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Best Overall Fragrance-Free Deodorant
Schmidt’s Aluminum Free Natural Deodorant
There’s a reason this fragrance-free deodorant is loved by legit everyone who uses it. The aluminum-free formula keeps you smelling fresh for up to 24 hours and is made with natural ingredients (like shea butter and jojoba oil) to keep your pits from getting dry and itchy.
Best Brightening Fragrance-Free Deodorant
Kosas Chemistry AHA Serum Deodorant
Hyperpigmentation under your armpits is totally normal, but if you’re not feeling it, a deodorant with AHA’s can help fade your discoloration by gently exfoliating the skin. This fragrance-free one from Kosas is packed with AHAs and soothing aloe vera to combat irritation.
Best Fragrance-Free Deodorant with Charcoal
Alaffia EveryDay Shea Dry Finish Deodorant Unscented
This fragrance-free deodorant is made with charcoal powder, making it a great option for heavy sweaters.“Think of charcoal as a magnet,” says Dr. Zeichner. “It helps absorb excess moisture to minimize wetness and prevent your sweat from mixing with bacteria on the skin and causing unwanted odor.”
Best Fragrance-Free Antiperspirant
Almay Sensitive Skin Anti-Perspirant & Deodorant Clear Gel
A good deodorant is fine for stopping smell, but it certainly doesn’t prevent sweating. So if wetness if your main concern, this fragrance-free antiperspirant has all the benefits of being blissfully scentless, but with the added bonus of keeping your pits dry, thanks to aluminum. The best thing about antiperspirants like this one? It’s a clear gel, so it won’t cover every shirt you own in white residue.
Best Fragrance-Free Deodorant for Sensitive Skin
Bravo Sierra Unscented Deodorant
If you have sensitive skin, perfumes and fragrances are not your friend since they can be majorly aggravating—but another allergen you need to watch out for? Baking soda, which is a very common ingredient in natural deodorants. Thankfully this bb is made without it, plus a dose of jojoba oil to keep your skin moisturized.
Best Anti-Bacterial Fragrance-Free Deodorant
Drunk Elephant Sweet Pitti Deodorant Cream
Mandelic acid (which low-key sounds like a Harry Potter potion amiright??) is the MVP of this fragrance-free deodorant. Not only does it kill bacteria that causes body odor, it helps fade hyperpigmentation (just like glycolic acid does). Heads up, though: Light can make this ingredient ineffective, so choose a formula (like this one) that has opaque packaging.
Best Multitasking Fragrance-Free Deodorant
Native Unscented Deodorant
With over 58,000 reviews (!) on Amazon, this fragrance-free deodorant does it all. It’s got magnesium hydroxide and baking soda to neutralize odor, moisture-absorbing ingredients like tapioca starch and arrowroot powder, and moisturizing ingredients like jojoba oil, castor oil, and coconut oil to prevent your pits from drying out.
Best Eco-Friendly Fragrance-Free Deodorant
Attitude Plastic-Free Deodorant
The trap of “unscented” deodorants is that, as Dr. Zeichner, says, “It means that there’s no perceivable smell, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a fragrance in the product.” They can often be made with essential oils, which, fine for someone who just wants a more natural-based scent, isn’t ideal at all for someone who has sensitive skin (and why if you’re sensitive, you shouldn’t be throwing essential oils on your face). This one is fragrance and essential-oil free, and it comes in sustainable paper packaging, which is a win for the planet.
Best Fragrance-Free Deodorant on Amazon
Lume Natural Deodorant
If I haven’t hammered it home enough already, the thing that causes underarm odor isn’t actually your sweat, but the armpit-loving bacteria that grows there and produces the odor. The magic ingredient in this fragrance-free deodorant is mandelic acid, which kills that bacteria and its not-so-cute smells, too.
Best Soothing Fragrance-Free Deodorant
Piper Wai Scentless Natural Deodorant Stick
If you want to reduce wetness but don’t like antiperspirants, look for a natural deodorant like this one—it’s formulated with moisture-absorbing ingredients like charcoal and tapioca starch. Plus it’s made with anti-inflammatory and antibacterial witch hazel to reduce irritation and keep odor-causing bacteria in check too.
Best Unscented Deodorant
Tom’s of Maine Long-Lasting Unscented Deodorant
An unscented deodorant (but not fully fragrance-free—hi, plant-derived hops extract) like this one from Tom’s is fine for anyone with non-sensitive skin who just prefers no scent at all. You can layer this deodorant on without worrying about it overpowering your senses or competing with the fragrance from your body spray or perfume.
Best Long-Lasting Fragrance-Free Deodorant
Hume Supernatural Plant-Based Deodorant
Natural deodorants don’t have aluminum salts to block sweat or silver for killing bacteria, so you want to look for a formula that has their natural equivalents. This one has tapioca starch (sweat-absorbing) and lactobacillus ferment (antimicrobial), so it truly keeps your armpits feeling dry and smelling fresh all day.
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