Will glycolic acid on my underarms really help me to sweat less?

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Chloe Burcham
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It’s a trend doing the rounds on TikTok, but can glycolic acid really help you sweat less? We asked the experts. 

TikTok has been responsible for giving us many a beauty trend. From mixing skincare ingredients to using powder for volumised lashes – when something takes off on TikTok, it becomes hard to ignore. But while some viral beauty trends serve us major inspiration and introduce us to some great beauty products, others are a little more questionable. And this is why it’s always a good idea to get an expert’s opinion on the matter. 

The viral trend doing the rounds at the moment? Using glycolic acid on your underarms to stop excessive sweating. While we all sweat (which is, of course, extremely normal and serves a very useful purpose), if the past few scorching summer weeks have had you googling how to sweat less – you’re not alone. But is glycolic acid really the way forward? 

Glycolic acid – a common AHA used in skincare – works to exfoliate the top layer of skin, revealing fresh, brighter, glowing skin beneath. While this might be great for the skin on our faces, we’re not really sure how it would work on our underarms? Plus, using expensive skincare products on your armpits isn’t going to help you through a cost of living crisis. So, we spoke to three skincare experts to see if we really should be following TikTok’s advice on this one. 

Can glycolic acid help you stop sweating?

“The number of individuals opting to use glycolic acid in favour of a deodorant is somewhat worrying,” says Dr Ross Perry, medical director of Cosmedics skin clinics. “Glycolic acid is said to lower the PH of the underarm, which in turn wards off the bacteria that we call BO. However, this is simply a myth and there is no proof or studies to show this is the case at all.”

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Is it dangerous to apply glycolic acid to your underarms?

“Glycolic acid is considered to be a gentle type of alpha-hydroxy acid so it’s not necessarily dangerous to use, but if you have particularly sensitive skin and are using a treatment with a high concentration of glycolic acid, it may cause some irritation, especially when used in sensitive areas like under your arms,” explains Ada Ooi, a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner and founder of 001 Skincare. “It can also sting if applied to any cuts or cracks in your skin, so it’s best not to use it under your arms if you’ve just shaved as you could irritate the skin where it’s more sensitive.” 

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How can you stop excessive sweating in summer?

OK, so we’ve established that glycolic acid isn’t the way to go, but if you are concerned about sweating, there are things you can do to help. “Try to avoid other substances that worsen sweating, such as spicy food and caffeine,” suggests aesthetic doctor Sophie Shotter. “If you’re struggling significantly, then Botox injections are an excellent solution. This reduces sweat gland activity in the armpits and other areas for three to six months. For many people, this can achieve total dryness, while for others a reduction to a more normal level of sweating.” 

If you’re experiencing long-term excessive sweating or if sweating is affecting your day-to-day life, please make an appointment with your GP to discuss any issues with them in the first instance.

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