After undergoing breast cancer surgery — such as mastectomy, lumpectomy, or lymph node removal — you’ll want to take care of your skin as best as you can. If your surgery involved your underarm or armpit skin, you might be hesitant to use products like deodorant.
MyBCTeam members have turned to others with questions about their favorite deodorants or alternatives they’ve used after surgery. “I’m nervous about wearing deodorant after my lumpectomy. Does anyone have recommendations?” one member asked. ”I tried cornstarch and alcohol, but it didn’t work. Please help. I’m starting to smell like a bull!”
In this article, we’ll go over which safe and gentle deodorants and alternatives help MyBCTeam members manage body odor. We’ll also cover when it’s safe to start using deodorant after surgery and which ingredients to avoid.
Surgery is a common breast cancer treatment used to remove some or all of your breast tissue. Depending on how far your cancer has spread, your doctor or oncologist may recommend a procedure, such as:
After surgery, your skin will be extremely sensitive as your incision heals. You’ll likely have gauze or bandages to protect it. During the first week after surgery, your doctor or surgeon will advise you to avoid using deodorant to prevent skin irritation and protect the incision area. It’s also best not to shave your armpits until your incisions have healed to avoid the risk of infected hair follicles.
Some MyBCTeam members have shared that their underarm odor has become much more noticeable after lymph node removal or breast surgery. One member wrote, “I had a mastectomy four months ago and a lymph node dissection. Recently, I’ve had horrid axillary body odor, just from that side. Even after a shower, it’s still there. Has this happened to anyone else?”
Another replied, “Are you wearing deodorant on that side? There are several non-aluminum breast cancer-approved ones. I have to wear clinical deodorant because I smell. I’ve found Crystal Essence helps.”
Once your doctor or surgeon gives you the green light to start wearing deodorant again, you might be wondering what your options are. Many MyBCTeam members have recommended using all-natural deodorants and powders after breast cancer surgery.
“Is there a specific kind of deodorant to wear? Or can you just use any kind? I have been told different things and I would just like some input on the subject,” asked one member. Several others replied with their suggestions:
Some members have noted that they still have underarm odor, even after using their preferred deodorant. One shared, “I use Arm & Hammer and it works well. However, some of my gowns smell awful, especially the ones I’ve had on during hot flashes.”
Another member suggested an alternative to deodorant, “Ammens Medicated Powder, instead of deodorant, has helped me. It comes in a white 11-ounce bottle with blue lettering. I’m still using it after five and a half years.”
When choosing a deodorant, you’ll find that some are labeled as ”deodorants” and others are labeled as ”antiperspirants.” Deodorants only help treat body odor, while antiperspirants temporarily block your sweat glands to stop you from perspiring (sweating). The most common antiperspirant ingredients are aluminum salts.
Parabens are chemicals also found in deodorants and antiperspirants that help prevent bacteria and mold from growing in products. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), parabens are safe and are commonly used in other cosmetic products like makeup.
If you’ve done some research, you’ve likely seen theories that aluminum salts or parabens can be harmful and increase the risk of breast cancer. This information can be scary after you’ve received a diagnosis and had surgery to treat your cancer. Fortunately, these myths have been debunked — studies show that using deodorant with antiperspirant ingredients doesn’t increase your risk of breast cancer.
However, these ingredients can be irritating to sensitive skin, especially skin that’s recently healed after surgery. Antiperspirants temporarily clog your pores to stop you from sweating, but for many people, these ingredients can do more harm than good.
Some people are allergic to aluminum salts found in antiperspirants, causing skin itching and discoloration. Other ingredients found in deodorants that can cause allergic reactions include fragrances, propylene glycol, and lanolin.
When you’re shopping for a deodorant in your local grocery store or pharmacy, try to avoid deodorants and antiperspirants with these ingredients. You can also use an all-natural deodorant under your affected arm and an antiperspirant under your unaffected arm.
For more suggestions on deodorant brands and instructions on when they’re safe to use, talk to your doctor or oncologist.
MyBCTeam is the social network for people with breast cancer and their loved ones. On MyBCTeam, more than 64,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their tips with others who understand life with breast cancer.
What deodorants or alternatives have you used after your lymph node removal surgery or mastectomy? Do you have any recommendations? Share your thoughts in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.