How to Choose Deodorant When You Have Psoriasis

By Jené Luciani
Reviewed by Allison Truong, M.D.
April 06, 2022

Psoriasis doesn’t always appear in spots we can see. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, between 21 and 30 percent of people with the condition have a type known as inverse psoriasis. In inverse psoriasis, itchy or painful red patches break out in less visible areas, like the armpits, groin, and underneath the breasts.

When the underarm area is involved, it can make the daily task of putting on deodorant or antiperspirant that much trickier—especially if you have sensitive skin. Dermatologists say it all comes down to looking at the label and pinpointing which ingredients to avoid.

The Sweat Blocker

Aluminum reacts with electrolytes in our sweat to essentially block the ducts in our sweat glands—that’s how many antiperspirant products work. The problem with aluminum is that it can be irritating during a flare.

“When the underarm area is red and inflamed, you really want to avoid anything with aluminum chloride,” says Debra Jaliman, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New York City.

While aluminum chloride is commonly found in antiperspirant and prevents sweating, it can be easily replaced with other nonirritating ingredients. Instead of aluminum, look for a combo of sodium bicarbonate, which helps to neutralize odor-causing bacteria, and tapioca starch, which helps keep you dry, suggests Jaliman. She recommends Native Deodorant, a fragrance-free, no- irritant option.

Use Common Scents

Most people reach for a fragrant deodorant to cover up any potential body odor. But fragrance is also the leading cause of skin irritations, which isn’t what you’d want to apply to already dry and inflamed psoriatic skin, points out Masha Banar, PA-C, a certified physician assistant and founder of the Visage Sculpture clinic in Massachusetts.

Instead of fragrance, Banar suggests opting for a deodorant that has potassium mineral salt, like Crystal Deodorant, which is fragrance-free but still prevents sweat and odors. Like with fragrant products, colorful products may also be irritating because many contain dyes, so stay away from anything with added coloring, too.

Avoid Alcohol

Alcohol makes the skin more acidic, so it’s used in some deodorants to ward off odor-causing bacteria. But using a product with alcohol is a no-no for someone with psoriasis, says Nonna Khachiyan, PA-C, a physician assistant in Massachusetts who specializes in acute skin conditions. “Alcohol is very drying, and with a psoriasis outbreak, the key is to moisturize,” says Khachiyan. “I recommend hypo-allergenic products to my patients, like Dove 0% Aluminum Deodorant Sensitive. Note that this one does contain fragrance, so if you have fragrance sensitivities, it’s best to avoid it.

Know that “sensitive” products aren’t always for everyone with sensitive skin—it all depends on what you’re sensitive to, so it’s important to read the ingredients list closely. If you’re unsure or your skin is very sensitive, you might try Vanicream Aluminum-Free Deodorant, which is aluminum-free, fragrance-free, paraben-free, and alcohol-free.

Not everyone with psoriasis will react to ingredients like aluminum, fragrance, dyes, or alcohol in their deodorant, so if something isn’t causing you irritation, it’s okay to use. But if using a specific product does lead to worsened psoriasis in your armpits, then it’s worth switching to see if that does the trick in reducing your symptoms.

Another way to test if you’re allergic to ingredients in products is to visit a board-certified dermatologist. The doctor may recommend a skin allergy test called comprehensive patch testing to determine if you may have a condition called allergic contact dermatitis (ACD). With the results of this test, your doctor will be able to determine what ingredients you should avoid in the future.

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