Beach days are around the corner, yay!

And with that, the nagging self-consciousness about certain parts of our bodies becomes louder and louder.

If you’ve been searching for ways to get rid of dark underarms or smelly armpits, you may have come across a trend that recently gained a lot of popularity – glycolic acid for armpits.

And when it comes to glycolic acid products, The Ordinary is one of the brands that instantly comes to mind for any skincare lover.

Today, I take a closer look at everything you need to know about how to use glycolic acid by The Ordinary for underarms. I cover:

  • How do we produce that smelly sweat;
  • How does glycolic acid help with underarm sweat and dark armpits;
  • How to use glycolic acid on armpits to prevent odor and pigmentation;
  • Glycolic acid product overview for your underarms;
  • A comparison between different AHAs for underarms, along with tips for using benzoyl peroxide for armpit smell.

The journey is long but you’ll definitely learn new things, just as I did.

Did you know that the stinky substance is not really stinky when your skin creates it?

Yes, underarm sweat is produced by the apocrine sweat glands, which are responsible for producing a thick, odorless fluid that contains proteins, lipids, and other substances.

Once the sweat reaches the skin’s surface, it comes into contact with bacteria on the skin, which can cause it to develop a strong, unpleasant stink.

Several factors contribute to the level of odor: diet, hormones, stress, and medical conditions.

However, there are plenty of ways to manage underarm sweat and the unpleasant smell associated with it.

While antiperspirants and deodorants are among the most popular products used, they’re not all created equal.

Glycolic acid is among the key ingredients that you should look for and I’ll explain why in the following sections.

What does glycolic acid do in the armpit area?

What Does Glycolic Acid on Armpits Do

Glycolic acid is a powerful alpha-hydroxy acid that can effectively remove dead skin cells.

When used as a deodorant, glycolic acid offers several benefits due to its ability to exfoliate and unclog pores.

It resurfaces smoother, brighter skin and may also help reduce the appearance of dark areas or discoloration, especially in people with darker skin tones.

In addition to exfoliating the skin, glycolic acid is also effective in reducing underarm odor.

But let’s see how glycolic acid deals with the two problems.

Glycolic acid for whitening underarm pigmentation

Glycolic acid works in three ways to effectively diminish armpit pigmentation.

One of the ways in which glycolic acid aids in underarm whitening is by removing dead skin cells which contribute to darkening.

As dead skin cells accumulate on the surface of the skin, they create buildup that results in a dull, uneven look.

Dark armpits can also be a result of regular shaving, as this often leads to the faster reproduction of pigment cells. By exfoliating these dead skin cells, glycolic acid can reveal brighter, more even-toned skin.

Another way that glycolic acid can work to whiten underarm pigmentation is by stimulating cell growth.

New cells replace the pigmentation-causing old cells. As a result, you see lighter, brighter-looking armpits over time.

Finally, glycolic acid helps to reduce the production of melanin in the skin.

Melanin is the pigment that gives skin its color, and when produced in excess, it leads to hyperpigmentation.

By reducing melanin production, glycolic acid helps to minimize underarm darkness.

Glycolic acid for underarms before and after

Glycolic Acid Underarms Before and After

The before-and-after for underarms when using glycolic acid is evident in its effectiveness.

When it comes to underarm whitening, you can see visible changes in the overall look of the armpits.

Glycolic acid for armpit smell

As I shared with you earlier, the actual underarm sweat smell is caused by bacteria that thrive on top of your skin, in warm and moist environments.

Glycolic acid decreases the skin’s pH to around 3, which in itself reduces the number of bacteria, and therefore the smell.

Moreover, the substance works to combat underarm odor by exfoliating the top layer of dead skin cells, which additionally decreases bacteria and the unpleasant smell that comes with it.

Glycolic acid also has antibacterial properties.

It can inhibit the growth of odor-causing bacteria which additionally reduces armpit odor.

And it also unclogs pores, which reduces the amount of sweating. This allows the sweat to easily escape from the skin and results in less fuel for the bacteria that causes the nasty stink.

How to use The Ordinary glycolic acid for underarms

How to Use The Ordinary Glycolic Acid Toner for Underarms

If you’re ready to try The Ordinary for armpit smell or use the brand’s glycolic acid toner for armpits in the fight against odor, I recommend taking the following steps.

Step 1: Start with a patch test – glycolic acid can be highly irritating to sensitive zones, especially the armpits. Apply a tiny amount of product on a small skin area to see how it’ll handle the substance.

Step 2: If everything’s good and your skin can handle this AHA, pour glycolic acid by The Ordinary onto a cotton pad and wipe your underarms gently. It’s best to avoid doing this on recently shaved underarms to avoid some serious stinging.

Step 3: Observe the skin’s reactions and if you notice persistent redness, irritation, or other side effects, wash off.

Step 4: Repeat this process between two and three times a week and see the first results within a week.

How often to use glycolic acid for underarms?

It depends on the product that you’re using.

If you’ve decided to use The Ordinary glycolic acid on armpits, I recommend using it no more than twice weekly due to its 7% concentration which is a moderate to high strength.

Glycolic acid is super effective for lightening dark armpits and eliminating smells, but it can be very irritating.

The Ordinary’s glycolic acid is often associated with burning, and itching if overused. If you’re looking for a daily-use product, it’s better to opt for an alternative with a lower concentration of glycolic acid.

I share some product recommendations below.

Best glycolic acid for underarms

Here are my top choices for glycolic acid products for underarms that I’ve tested specifically for whitening and minimizing odor.

I’ve ordered them according to strength, where the glycolic acid by The Ordinary for underarms is the strongest.

If you end up not tolerating that product well, you can always return to this article and check the other options.

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid for armpits – 7%

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution for underarms comes in a bottle of 8 oz (240 ml) and you can find it for around $13.

Because it’s the strongest product on this list, I recommend being very cautious when using it as it can burn the skin, especially if sensitive.

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid Toner for dark underarms has a pH of around 3.6 and its formula contains multiple soothing ingredients, like centaurea cyanus flower water, tasmannia leaf extract, and sucrose. It’s also rich in hydrating agents like alanine, glycine, and serine.

Overall, it’s a potent toner with some skin-loving ingredients in the mix.

Pixi’s Glycolic Acid for underarms – 5%

Pixi’s toner comes in a similar quantity – 8.5 oz (250 ml) for around $20.

The concentration of glycolic acid is slightly lower – 5% but the effects are still visible.

Unlike The Ordinary, Pixi’s glycolic acid can be used more frequently without any irritation. I’d say, up to 3-4 times per week.

The product features a range of soothing ingredients, like aloe vera, witch hazel leaf extract, horse chestnut seed extract, sucrose, and panthenol.

Similarly to The Ordinary, it also has some good hydrating agents like glycerin, urea, and alanine, which combined with the lower percentage of the active results in a much gentler product.

Good Molecules Glycolic Acid Toner for armpits – 3,5%

The last glycolic acid toner for underarms that I’d love to share is also the weakest on this list with a 3.5% glycolic acid.

Good Molecules’ glycolic acid toner is a smaller bottle – 4 oz (120 ml) – and sells for around $18.

Here, the formula features the popular galactomyces ferment, which balances uneven skin tone and helps whiten the underarm area. The product also has niacinamide, another brightening agent, along with moisturizing agents like hyaluronic acid and glycerin.

Soothing ingredients like salicylic acid, aloe vera, and rhododendron chrysanthum leaf extract ensure that gentle skin won’t feel any irritation.

The toner has a pH of 4.2 and it’s fragrance-free and also cruelty-free.

The Ordinary Peeling Solution for underarms

Have you seen the Reddit threads that discuss the use of The Ordinary’s peeling solution for the armpit area?

Personally, I’d abstain from using it there.

The peeling solution is formulated with a whopping 30% AHA!

Even if it stays on the skin for a very short time, it’s still too strong and can cause some serious damage in the form of severe irritation, red patches that stay there for weeks, or even hyperpigmentation.

If you’re looking for a more professional-grade result, chemical peels for the underarm area are a great idea, but they should be discussed and performed by a trained expert who knows different skin types and colors, and how they react to chemical peels.

Should you use glycolic acid or lactic acid for underarms?

You can use both lactic acid and glycolic acid on your armpits. Keep in mind that lactic acid is the gentler of the two. If you’ve tried glycolic acid and you’ve noticed that it causes side effects on your skin or it’s simply not your piece of pie, you can opt for lactic acid.

I recommend The Ordinary’s lactic acid 5% + HA so you can tackle both pigmentation and smell.

Benzoyl peroxide for armpit smell

If the main problem you’re trying to solve is stinky underarms, you can also experiment with benzoyl peroxide.

Benzoyl peroxide is an antibacterial agent commonly used in skin care products for treating acne.

However, it can also be effective in killing those nasty armpit bacteria and preventing underarm smells.

It works by releasing oxygen molecules, which destroy the bacteria that cause underarm odor.

It’s best to use benzoyl peroxide in a wash-off form, as it can bleach your clothes.

And whatever you do, don’t use it on broken or irritated skin, as this can further aggravate it.

I use the PanOxyl 10% BPO Wash as I already use benzoyl peroxide to treat my hormonal acne, so I know that this one works well, but you can use any benzoyl peroxide face wash on your armpits.

Did this article answer all your questions regarding glycolic acid for armpits?

If not, feel free to ask in the comments section, I always reply to my readers.

And if yes, your kind words will mean the world to me, so do drop me a line 🙂

Alternatively, you can read more about benzoyl peroxide and the side effects it can have on your skin sometimes, or you can check the guide that I’ve put about which The Ordinary products should not be used together, and which are safe to layer.

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