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Future Fresh: The Next Decade of Deodorants

As a public speaker in the personal care and beauty industry, I gave this talk as part of the 2021 Innovation in Deodorants webinar, hosted by the National Biofilms Innovation Centre and Cosmetics Cluster UK.

In case I haven’t had the chance to meet you yet, I’ll briefly introduce myself:

My name is Deanna Utroske. I am a beauty industry thought leader and business content specialist. You may recognize me from my DUviews video series on LinkedIn (and actually, that series will soon be available on as well) or, you may know me through my work for the beauty business news site, where I’ve been the Editor now for several years, or you may have seen me give any number of presentations or moderate panel discussions at beauty industry events around the world.

But enough about me. Thank you so much for joining us today! And my thanks also to both the National Biofilms Innovation Centre and to Cosmetics Cluster UK for inviting me to speak as part of today’s Innovation in Deodorants webinar.

So today I am speaking about innovations, improvements, and ideas for the next Decade of Deodorants and Antiperspirants.

In our modern moment, wellness, hygiene, and aroma are more central than ever, which means there’s a big opportunity here for deodorants and antiperspirants to take on a new importance in the marketplace and to meet beauty consumer expectations head on.

If we look at these overarching trends—wellness, personal hygiene, aroma therapy, and let’s add self-care here too—and, if we consider skincare and hair care as top performing categories through the pandemic, we start to get a sense of what sorts of deodorant innovations will appeal to beauty consumers today and in the future.

I know we are all eager for that future to be one where our professional and personal lives are not spent reacting to the pandemic.

But the months or years it takes for us to truly get through this pandemic will influence consumer expectations and behavior for even longer than that; so, it’s very much worth noticing how consumers and the industry responds to the pandemic.

So be watching the emerging immunocosmetics movement (learn more here and here) and consider how it can crossover into deodorant, for instance as Triclosan (which may in excess weaken the immune system) falls out of favor.

Pay attention to wellness, personal hygiene, aroma therapy trends; to environmental sustainability and ethical business issues—like fragrance ingredient transparency—and be aware of unexpected competition from popular brands like Hint, the beverage brand led by Kara Goldin, that now includes sun care and, as of January, deodorant in its product portfolio. That’s a beverage brand! But besides the unexpected angle of this product launch, Hint made another wise move in that their deodorant is formulated without a fairly on-trend ingredient: coconut oil, which is an allergen for some people.

Indie Beauty Innovations in Deodorant

As is often the case when we are looking for novel approaches to personal care, for next-generation concepts, and for brands that really resonate with consumers, I want to (for a moment) look at what’s happening in the startup and indie beauty space as it includes deodorant products.

If you’ve heard or seen any of my previous content on deodorants, you’re likely already familiar with a brand called Sway, Founded by Rebecca So in 2017. Sway has since expanded beyond underarm care, but got its start with a 3-step skincare and deodorant routine for underarms—an indication that innovation in this category need not be limited to the most common product benefits.

It’s also important to recognize that a product as widely used as deodorant can be leveraged to effectively introduce consumers to an entirely new approach to beauty care formulation.

It was at least 5 years ago now when Carmen Craig—who was at the time working with Ursa Major—told me that “deodorant is the gateway to natural personal care.” If an ingredient or formulation strategy performs well in this category—in the deodorant category—it’s infinitely easier to sell it across-the-board.

SmartyPits is another brand that I’ve been watching for some time. Stacia Guzzo founded SmartyPits to meet consumer demand for aluminum-free deodorants. But the brand is just as well-known now for its prebiotic approach to deodorant formulation.

And at this point in time, there are numerous brands in the microbiome deo space. But I do want to mention one other here, and that’s Kinkō. This Texas-based brand takes its name from the Japanese language, where as I understand it, Kinkō means ‘balance’.

The brand has a fair amount of consumer–education content about the underarm microbiome on its site; and Kinkō centers its product formulas on a patent-pending combination of pre- and post-biotic ingredients called Microbiomix.

Emerging Ingredient Technologies for Deodorants and Antiperspirants

Which leads us nicely into a discussion of emerging ingredient technologies; though, truth be told, I haven’t seen many new deodorant-specific ingredient launches over the past year.

One notable exception is from Vytrus Biotech; and I know that an expert from that company is speaking later on in this webinar. So I will just share here that the Vytrus ingredient DEOBIOME NONI is based on prebiotic technology and is being referred to as a biological deodorant.

Another relatively new deo ingredient is CareMag D from ICL, a specialty ingredient maker based in Israel. According to ICL promotional materials, the ingredient is a molecule sourced from Dead Sea minerals and “works by controlling the odor-causing bacteria on the skin’s surface.”

It promises to support deodorant formulation without aluminum, alcohol, antibacterials, or paraben. It also purports to provide sweat and sebum absorption and anti-stain protection, among other benefits.

A fairly new brand called Pit Liquor from Erica Feucht and Jason Feucht of Colorado is seeing good results with their formula of organic distilled vodka, local whiskey, and teas with antimicrobial properties. So while some are saying that alcohol is on its way out as a deodorant ingredient, this brand as well as carbon capture technology (which I’ll mention again later on) seem to indicate otherwise.

Italy-based cosmetic and pharma ingredient maker KaliChem has an ingredient called DeoHap DRY, which is a biomemetic hydroxyapatite, that the company is promoting as an alternative to aluminum salts as a sweat-control ingredient in deodorant formulations.

And P&G’s Secret brand launched Secret DERMA+ this past February, which is formulated with vitamin B5 and something that the company calls DERMA-Shield, a “proprietary and innovative combination of skin conditioning ingredients.” So here we’re seeing skincare influence deodorant formulation and benefit claims.

Deodorant Innovations Will Be Grounded in Microbiome Science

Thinking about relevant microbiome science, I’ll read a bit now from a 2019 article published in the peer-reviewed journal BCM Biology titled, The impact of skin care products on skin chemistry and microbiome dynamics.

This article is the work of 20 contributing authors. And the lead authors are Amina Bouslimani and Ricardo da Silva from the Collaborative Mass Spectrometry Innovation Center at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences in San Diego, California.

“Mass spectrometry and 16S rRNA inventories of the skin revealed decreases in chemical as well as in bacterial and archaeal diversity on halting deodorant use. Specific compounds from beauty products used before the study remain detectable with half-lives of 0.5–1.9 weeks. The deodorant and foot powder increased molecular, bacterial, and archaeal diversity, while arm and face lotions had little effect on bacterial and archaeal but increased chemical diversity. Personal care product effects last for weeks and produce highly individualized responses, including alterations in steroid and pheromone levels and in bacterial and archaeal ecosystem structure and dynamics.”

What’s so interesting here is that the easy assumption for casual observers to make is that personal care products, especially those formulated with conventional preservative ingredients, would diminish microbial populations. (Curious to learn more? Here’s a talk I gave in 2019 about all things beauty and bacteria.)

While I am not a scientist and certainly don’t read all the literature and research on the human skin microbiome, I am sure that we have infinitely more to learn when it comes to the microbiome.

I am sure that even though highly accomplished teams at companies from L’Oréal to IFF (newly rebranded following an acquisition by DuPont Nutrition and Biosciences) have been dedicated to learning about the human skin microbiome for some 10 years, if not longer, and applying that knowledge to skincare, scalp care, body care…I am sure that we have more to learn, that new knowledge will be emerging for decades to come.

The Many Shapes and Forms of Deodorant

Now when it comes to deodorant product format, it can be a bit more challenging to find something truly new.

There are liquid, gel, and solid-stick deodorants as well as deodorant bars. There are sprays, powers, pastes, creams, crystals, balms, deodorant pads and deodorant wipes. And there are even deodorant-from-within products, edible or ingestible candies and gums that are often formulated with geraniol from roses and may be more accurately called fragrance-from-within products. But, all the same, I suspect there just may be something to this deodorant-from-within concept, as supplements have seen a lift in consumer interest in recent months. (This press release includes a couple mentions of chlorophyll-in-drinking-water as a natural deodorant.)

The array of deodorant formats to consider when developing a next innovative product isn’t limited to a select few of those I’ve just mentioned… many—if not all—of those deo formats are doing well in the market place today and will continue to be go-to options for personal care consumers in the future.

AKT, for instance, a brand out of London, sells deodorant balm in a squeezable aluminum tube and sells a Gua sha – like applicator meant to help with lymphatic drainage.

Deodorant Pastes, like the one sold by Australia-based Black Chicken Remedies, are quite popular, particularly among natural beauty consumers.

Ethique, the New Zealand – based brand, well known for its plastic-free solid beauty and personal care products, makes deodorant bars as does the Singapore-based brand called Smood Natural Deodorants.

Brands including Pacifica, EO, whish, and LA Fresh all have deodorant wipes in their product portfolios. And near the start of 2019, Unilever got in on the deodorant wipe trend with wipes for use not only on underarms but also on the neck and chest.

There are also brands creating customized or personalized deodorants, like Vancouver, Canada – based Nala. (And this #duviews video includes info on the DIY deo brand Make This Universe.)

And when we look at the spectrum of deodorant packaging, we see plastic, glass, paperboard and even cylindrical tubes made of stainless steel like the ones used by Noniko, a brand that gets its metal packaging from a company called Verity. There are deodorants in crushable aluminum tube like AKT, which I mentioned earlier. And brands like Type-A put deodorant into the plastic tubes more commonly associated with sun care or body care products.

There are refillable deodorant packages and some made of mono-material plastic that are truly recyclable as well. (And Piper Wai, founded by Sarah Tibner, uses ocean plastic for its deo packaging.)

Now, I don’t pretend that my knowledge of deodorants is exhaustive by any means, but a few things that I have not seen are deodorants with the range of sensorial properties like we see in skincare, or deodorants that change phase or format upon dispensing or application. I have not seen bi-phase deodorants. And, I have not seen deodorant pearls or beads or ampules; or rinse-off shower products that promise deo benefits in the same way that some exfoliating scrubs promise all-day moisturization.

And there are further opportunities for deodorants in terms of perhaps novel dispensing mechanisms or applicators, and certainly in terms of addressing the expectations and benefits of diverse consumers, including the baby boomer generation and consumers in any age bracket over 40. (Teens, tweens, and kids could fall under the heading of ‘diverse consumers’ here too.)

Thinking Further about Odor and Microbes and Innovation

And before I finish, I want to say a few things about odor or deodorant beyond the underarm, because there is always an opportunity to transfer innovation across categories and to find inspiration in unlikely places.

A new brand in the oral care space called Mouth Off! has launched a dissolving gum that cleans the breath and is being marketed as more sustainable than similar products in that it’s essentially ingestible and eliminates post-consumer product waste—which with conventional mouthwash or gum requires the used product to be spit out.

An essential oils educational platform called the Tisserand Institute has an interesting post on their site about the potential of essential oils as deodorant ingredients and how the efficacy of various oils may depend on site-specific microbe populations. It discusses the use of cypress oil as an underarm deodorant ingredient and juniper berry oil as a deodorant for the feet.

There is also potential for informed personal care product innovation as knowledge of the vaginal microbiome increases. I say ‘informed innovation’ because a recent item published in the Expert Review of Anti-infective Therapy journal from Taylor & Francis explains that, “The mechanism by which some vaginal cleansing products cause health problems is linked to disruptions in the vaginal microbiome.” And that “vaginal deodorants have…been shown to alter the vaginal microbiome over a period of time.”

(And if you’re thinking about marketing any sort of deo to women, this may be a worthwhile read.)

A couple of other ideas I’ve been wondering about when it comes to odor and scent and microbes are odor-pairing or encapsulation technologies like we see used in home care.

I know several companies have developed and patented microbes and I wonder if this could extend to a sort of biotherapeutic approach to deodorant, maybe editing microbes to off-gas pleasant scents and adding them to the skin (I realize that there are many variables between this idea and putting it into practice; but it’s intriguing.)

And I suspect that carbon capture technology, such as we’re seeing from companies like LanzaTech, which produces an ethanol made using captured carbon that Coty plans to use in fragrance formulas…I suspect that this sort of tech will give new life (at least for a while) to alcohols in other personal care product formulas, including deodorants.

With that said, again, my thanks goes to both the National Biofilms Innovation Centre and to Cosmetics Cluster UK for inviting me here today. And, I thank you for watching. Please do enjoy the rest of this Innovation in Deodorants webinar!

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this DUviews item was originally posted to LinkedIn and now appears on


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