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TikTok Debunked: Is glycolic acid a safe alternative to deodorant? An expert explains

With the help of a plastic surgeon, we investigated everything you need to know about this TikTok fad.

Welcome to TikTok Debunked, a series where Yahoo Canada digs into the truth behind popular TikTok health, beauty and food trends.

Drops of cosmetic serum and a pipette. A skin care product. White background. Copy space TikTok
On TikTok, people have been using glycolic acid as deodorant. But is it safe? Yahoo Canada investigates. (Photo via Getty Images)

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.

TikTok is full of beauty and lifestyle tips, from dyeing your hair with blackberries to using eye drops to conceal acne.

Over the past while, some of the app's beauty gurus have swapped their deodorant for glycolic acid, which supposedly stops sweat, lessens pigmentation and reduces body odour.

Yahoo Canada were curious — does it actually work? Is glycolic acid safe to use on underarms? With the help of a plastic surgeon, we investigated everything you need to know about this TikTok fad.

The claim — and how it started

  • TikToker @wendyskin shared a video of her explaining that instead of putting glycolic acid on your face, you can put it on your underarms in place of deodorant.

  • "The glycolic acid actually works to banish your body odour. Crazy right!" Wendy said in the clip.

  • Glycolic acid is an exfoliating toning solution that's typically used on your face as part of a skincare routine. It helps to increase cell turnover, reduce acne, even out skin tone and lighten hyperpigmentation.

  • To try it out for yourself, all you have to do is put a small amount of glycolic acid on a cotton pad, and rub it on your armpits as you would deodorant.


  • Since Wendy's video went viral, the trend has continued over time.

  • Beauty and skin experts, as well as general TikTokers, have analyzed the fad or tried it out for themselves.

  • The hashtag #glycolicacidasdeodorant has received almost 30 million views, while the search term "glycolic acid for deodorant" has received a whopping one billion views.

  • Another TikTok user @livjudd has since claimed that glycolic acid is a more natural way to remove bacteria which causes odour. However, that fact has yet to be verified.

  • Judd explained that glycolic acid can be quite strong, so you might want to start small or use a gentle version with a lower per cent.

What TikTok users are saying

On both Wendy and Judd's videos, some people revealed that the hack worked for them.

"I unknowingly started using glycolic acid mainly to reduce hyperpigmentation. But I just realized I don't smell anymore," shared a user.

"I have been using glycolic acid as deodorant in the morning and I'm never smelling again," added another.

"I can confirm this is a great hack!" wrote a TikToker.

However, some users were skeptical of putting the product on their underarms.

"I started using this and I low-key still stink," explained a fan.

"I don't know, this just seems a bit too good to be true," penned someone else.

"Have any medical people actually tested this?" said a TikToker.

Glycolic Acid is a chemical ingredient in beauty product, chemicals used in laboratory.
When using glycolic acid, Dr. Austin recommends starring with a lower concentration. (Photo via Getty Images)

An expert weighs in

To get an expert's opinion on the theory, Yahoo Canada spoke to Plastic Surgeon Dr. Ryan Austin from The Plastic Surgery Clinic/MC Beauty Clinic in Toronto, Ont.

While Austin agreed that glycolic acid can reduce odour, it's not a foolproof replacement for deodorant.

"Glycolic acid can help to improve underarm odour, but it does absolutely nothing to stop or block the production of sweat," he said.

Austin explained that glycolic acid might work to improve odour because it reduces the bacteria that causes acne. For this reason, he said the product can also reduce the bacteria that causes odour (but not sweating).

Regarding benefits, when used appropriately, the doctor said glycolic acid can be safe and effective. However, there are downsides people need to be aware of.

"It can be irritating to some skin types, if used at very high concentrations, or if applied too frequently," Austin said. "For people with darker skin tones, caution should be used at high concentrations, as it can lead to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation."

"Glycolic acid can help to improve underarm odour, but it does absolutely nothing to stop or block the production of sweat."Dr. Ryan Austin

That said, Austin gives people permission to use glycolic acid as deodorant, as long as caution is taken.

To start, he recommends people use a lower concentration, around three to five per cent, to reduce irritation.

"Additionally, look at a glycolic acid containing product that formulated with soothing and hydrating ingredients and is typically safe for all skin types. I recommend starting with a lower concentration, applying it a few times a week, and then scaling up," Austin said.

The expert added that some companies are now making deodorants containing glycolic acid, which could be worth checking out.

Woman holding bottle of spray, thermal water, moisturizing liquid, hydrolat, body lotion. Relaxation and beauty treatments. Natural beauty, daily skincare routine. Moisturizing, cleansing
While glycolic acid is safe to put on underarms, it might not be the right choice for everyone. (Photo via Getty Images)

Is it debunked?

After investigating the trend and learning from an expert, Yahoo Canada has verified this TikTok fad.

However, while it's safe to use glycolic acid as deodorant, Austin wants people to start small, and be aware that it will help odour but not sweating.

Let us know what you think by commenting below and tweeting @YahooStyleCA! Follow us on Twitter and Instagram.