First an important note: Deodorant is not the same as Antiperspirant. Deodorant? Use it. Deodorants prevent body odor by killing bacteria before they gobble up your body fluids, and produce stink in the process. Antiperspirants use aluminum to block your sweat glands from doing what they’re supposed to do. And it’s that aluminum, not your sweat, which causes those awful yellow pit stains on shirts. Aluminum frosted pits also freaks out a lot of people in terms of potential health ramifications (hard evidence or not).
I have a tendency to crack a sweat before most. I also hate the feeling of wet armpits. And while it’s taken me a couple of decades to dial it in, I think I’ve learned a lot while pursuing dry underarms (I made all the mistakes one can make.) I tried antiperspirants, but I like my shirts to be stain free. Plus it just felt weird (literally, the feel was odd) to be plugging up my skin. Yet there is a LOT you can do to maximize underarm dryness, while sticking with just deodorant. Your mileage may vary, but here’s 7 strategies that have made a major difference for me and my pits…
#1. Take Cold to Cool Showers
A hot as hell shower jacks up your internal body temperature. And in the warmer months, that’s a recipe for a sweaty disaster. This is one of those things that makes a surprisingly big difference, but is also a shockingly difficult habit to get into. Hot water, frankly, is an enormous, recently developed luxury in our human existence. And many of us are completely addicted. But ratcheting your shower temp down to warm if not cool (cold is a tough bullet to bite) can really keep your core from overheating too quickly.
#2. Start out as Dry as Possible – Don’t overdo Deodorant
We, as men, have a tendency to go overboard when we think we have a solution. And sometimes that exuberance can be counter productive. For example, more deodorant does not = more dryness. Remember, deodorant does NOT prevent wetness. It prevents stink. And you don’t need to go crazy with it for it to be effective. You don’t need 10 – 15 swipes of deodorant under each arm. That just starts you off with wet, mushy pits. Try 4 or 5 swipes. And apply first thing post shower, after toweling off. Then, when getting dressed, put your shirt on LAST. Allow that deodorant to dry/evaporate a bit. Pat your underarms, lightly, with a towel if you’re still moist. You want to still prevent stink, but you don’t want to soak the underarms of your shirt with deodorant goo from the jump.
#3. Strongly Consider Skipping the Cotton Undershirt
Oh boy. It’s almost taboo to speak out against the classic, all cotton undershirt. Some guys were taught by their dads that an undershirt is an absolute must. And God forbid ol’ Pops be wrong. But if you’re not wearing anti-antiperspirant, then your dress shirt is far, far less likely to get stained from the inside out. So at that point, you’re just adding an extra layer. And that extra layer is a sweat trapping, non-wicking, extra close to your core, sheathe of misery. So once you get wet? You stay wet. It’s completely counter-productive to the goal. If you MUST wear an undershirt, make sure it’s one of a technical fabric that aides in evaporation, such as UNIQLO’s Airism or Under Armour’s Performance Vs.
#4. Pick fabrics that are breathable and lightweight
This goes for shirts as well as suit jackets, sportcoats, and blazers. Cotton is king in the world of men’s dress shirts, but there are a couple of brands out there making dress shirts from wicking, super breathable, technical fabric. That said, they ain’t cheap. What you can do when it comes to more affordable cotton shirts is avoid stiff, cheap, non-iron coatings that close up the pores of the shirt. Also, try working in linen or seersucker button downs into your rotation. And when it comes to jackets? Less lining = cooler, while lightweight, loosely knit, tropical wool jackets are much cooler than their crisp, dense, cotton cousins. More jacket options here.
#5. Wear Looser Shirts for Airflow
Yes, this flies in the face of the tailored trend that’s been happening for a decade plus. But like skinny jeans and suit jackets that look like they’re painted on, you can go overboard with a close fit. You want air flow. Breeziness. Super high armholes on your shirts? Sleeves that are glued to your triceps? You’ll never dry out if your shirt fabric is always clinging to the inside of your armpit. Look, they don’t have to be baggy. Just find shirts that aren’t welded to your skin. Think about a wet bath towel. What dries faster? One that’s scrunched up in a pile on the floor? Or one hanging outside on a line in the breeze?
#6. Avoid Caffeine and/or Hot Liquids
Stimulants, while providing a friendly early AM wakeup, also can make you perspire. So can a hot cup of herbal tea on a 90 degree day. If you must have caffeine, try iced or cold brew coffee. Or stick to water when you know it’s going to be brutal out.
#7. Make sure the rest of you is cool and comfortable.
Believe it or not, keeping your underarms dry is not a pinpoint skirmish. This is a multi front battle. Your pits will sweat if your feet are suffocating and your crotch is swampy. So wear lightweight wool socks instead of cotton (wool wicks and keeps you cool, cotton suffocates). And dust your junk with a little body powder on the hottest of days.
#8. Just accept that you’re gonna sweat, and don’t obsess over it.
Sweaty armpits can be a self fulfilling circle of madness. You sweat a bit. You think “aw hell, now my shirt has wet spots under my arms, are people noticing? Do people think I’m gross?” And then that embarrassment causes you to sweat more because you’re uncomfortable inside your own head. Sweating is like a lot of other negatives the internet menswear obsessed like to point and laugh at. It happens, all the time, to everyone. And no one really notices that much in real life.