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In 7th grade, I was in line at a Madison Avenue bagel shop near my middle school when the boy I had a crush on remarked that I smelled like shit. His name was ******* *****, not that I’m holding a grudge or anything, and to be honest, he was totally right. I was funky as hell. Like many around me at that time, I had entered the putrid era of puberty, and already occupied with bras and acne, hadn’t yet figured out what to do about it. At the time the only thing to do was spray equally strong scents on top of it, which made both the issue and the school hallways exponentially worse (cue ‘Warm & Cozy’ and ‘Japanese Cherry Blossom’-scented horror flashbacks).
I’m still a naturally very sweaty person. If I’m exercising outside in the summer, if it's cold and I’m wearing a coat, even if it’s very neutral weather and I’m standing completely still, you can guarantee my armpits and underboobs are dripping wet. After trying over-the-counter antiperspirants, prescription deodorants, and every natural product under the sun, I’ve come to accept my natural functions as they are. Your girl’s just damp and hormonal, chronically. I’ve instead learned how to control and manage the smell that comes along with it: I shower multiple times a day, reapply whichever deodorant I’m using, change my clothes often, wash my clothes constantly, and wear only breathable fabrics. I’ve been perfectly happy with this way of life, just operating under the assumption that I would never be able to fully curb this unless I got those monthly Botox shots to my sweat glands.
That is, until I discovered Lume Deodorant.
A BO-Busting System
Lume’s founder, Shannon Klingman, got the idea for Lume while she was in residency to become an OB/GYN. After countless patients coming in with concerns about genital odor and leaving with false BV diagnoses, Klingman was inspired to find a solution that would not result in unnecessarily-prescribed antibiotics––which ironically end up causing a bacterial infection anyway. Of course, as the old adage goes, it’s not supposed to smell like flowers, but certain levels of odor can absolutely be inconvenient or uncomfortable for people. After doing some research, Klingman began to realize that oftentimes odor is an external issue. She found that most body odor occurs when the bacteria on the skin interacts with and consumes bodily fluids like blood, sweat, urine, or semen. This reaction occurs everywhere on our body, not just in the nether-regions.
She found that most body odor occurs when the bacteria on the skin interacts with and consumes bodily fluids like blood, sweat, urine, or semen. This reaction occurs everywhere on our body, not just in the nether-regions.
She set out to make a product that blocks the ability for bacteria to consume those fluids in the first place. Thus, we have Lume –– an all-over body product that helps balance the skin’s pH and stop odor before it starts. What started as a deodorant is now an entire BO-busting system that includes soap, body wash, body butter, wipes, and a pre-laundry treatment.
The Stinky Skeptic
I’ve tried a multitude of deodorizing products. Some have worked better than others in terms of curbing my smell or sweat levels for a while, but I have never found something that does not require reapplication throughout the day. Never in my life. Though I was excited to try something new, I was not expecting anything more than another okay option, something that could supplement but not replace my tried-and-true method of taking multiple 2-minute armpit/crotch showers per day.
I was intrigued by the brand’s reliance on mandelic acid, as I’ve been hearing a lot about the effectiveness of acids for fighting odor-causing bacteria. Mandelic acid is gentle on skin, pH-balancing, and is effective as an antibacterial agent without disrupting your natural skin barrier. Anything that promises to operate on the bacterial level, rather than just mask whatever scent is happening, sounded good to me. The language on the brand’s Instagram is what really made me believe it is the real deal: “Think pits, underboobs, belly buttons, tummy folds, butt cracks, thigh creases, vulvas, balls, and feet.” Blunt and to the point. My kinda girl.
I was intrigued by the brand’s reliance on mandelic acid, as I’ve been hearing a lot about the effectiveness of acids for fighting odor-causing bacteria. Mandelic acid is gentle on skin, pH-balancing, and is effective as an antibacterial agent without disrupting your natural skin barrier.
New World Odor
I decided to get the full monty of Lume products, to really give the whole ecosystem a try. While Lume has a variety of lovely-sounding scents like Jasmine Rose, Lavender Sage, Warm Vanilla, and more, I decided to get everything Unscented. Not only do I have bad experiences with scents not mixing well with my sweat, but I wanted the freedom to still layer with my perfumes and scented lotions with no fear of a bad blend. Plus, it was a good way to see if this stuff really worked instead of just masking my pit stench.
My collection now includes the Deodorant Bundle ($27.98), Acidified Body Wash ($19.99), Acidified Body Butter ($34.99), and Biofilm Buster ($19.99). The wash and lotion don’t need much explaining –– just use as you would any similar product, but expect exceptionally smooth, moisturized, clean-feeling skin immediately after use. The deodorant comes in two forms: stick and cream. Both can be used “anywhere you have external odor and wish you didn’t” as the bottle says. The stick is great for pits, bikini line, and underboobs, and I like to use the cream when I have a bit more time in the morning, or to get a little more up-close and personal in my ass-crack and similarly neglected crevices. The low pH, high-acidity level formulas inherent to each of these products work to slow down odor reactions at the source.
The Biofilm Buster is what really takes this operation to the next level. I had never thought about the far-reaching extent of odor-causing bacteria, but it is true that I have certain shirts that always seem to stink no matter how recently I’ve washed them. The bacteria, I now know, lives on in the seams of your clothing and depending on the amount of wear can be resistant to a standard wash cycle alone. Spraying this stuff on pesky stink spots before doing a load is the final nail in the coffin for persistent odor.
Y’all. Y’all. Even though I’ve been using Lume consistently for two weeks, I am still smelling my pits every 5 minutes as I write this just to make sure I’m not bugging. I am absolutely floored at how much this has been working for me.
Y’all. Y’all. Even though I’ve been using Lume consistently for two weeks, I am still smelling my pits every 5 minutes as I write this just to make sure I’m not bugging. I am absolutely floored at how much this has been working for me. Usually, even if I find something that works relatively well on my armpits, it may not be a match for my underboob or groin sweat. Or, it might help when I’m exercising, but is no match for the stronger, more particular odor of stress sweat. This is the only product I’ve ever tried that very effectively takes care of all areas and qualities of odor on my body.
The real test came after two days of use when I covered a 9-hour shift at my old retail job, an environment which usually has me reapplying 1-2 times during the work day. Not only did I not need to reapply at all, when I went home to change for evening drinks and a concert, I didn’t need to shower. I cannot adequately express how much of a huge deal this is to me. I didn’t know it was even possible to truly smell like nothing, but this is what Lume does. After long hours and walks, I do not have any particular scent on me, other than ones I’ve decided to layer on. Pure magic.
Come On, Take A Whiff
I still don’t know how to drive, so I mostly speed walk and bike to get around (you can take the girl out of New York…). This constant, mild exercise exacerbates my already perspirant nature. With Lume I’ve been able to drastically cut down on reapplication and shower time, which is good for my budget, my water bill, and my conscience as it brings me to more drought-friendly levels of water usage.
Lume isn’t supposed to stop me from sweating, which in itself was never what bothered me anyway. And without the accompanying BO, I’ve found that I’m sweating less anyway –– a good amount of my sweat comes from the nervousness and stress around smelling bad in the first place. Cursed.
Yet perhaps more so than any product I’ve yet to review for TQE, it is 1000% worth it. I already have my cart ready to start a subscription on each one of these products, and the thought doesn’t even make me wince.
I’m usually the first to note the price, and if you repeatedly order the whole spectrum of products, it definitely isn’t cheap. Yet perhaps more so than any product I’ve yet to review for TQE, it is 1000% worth it. I already have my cart ready to start a subscription on each one of these products, and the thought doesn’t even make me wince. The only possible reason to not run and buy this stuff immediately is if you’re one of those magical fairies who doesn’t sweat or smell very strongly. In which case, good for you –– stick to rubbing tea tree oil under your pits or whatever low-maintenance wizardry you people can get away with.
5 More Reasons to Love Lume:
- Unlike other natural deodorants, Lume will start working immediately –– no armpit detox necessary! Plus, the odor control lasts for up to 72 hours (no joke)
- These products leave no residue on your skin or clothes, so you don’t have to worry about those unsightly white streaks on your favorite black tee.
- Lume products are completely vegan and cruelty-free. They’re also aluminum-free, paraben-free, and free of artificial fragrances, baking soda, phthalates, sulfates, and talc.
- The products are all mild, great if you have sensitive skin and are wary about trying new products.
- Lume is women-owned, and founded by a licensed OB/GYN –– so you and your parts can trust that you’re being taken care of.
Editor’s Note: In late 2022, Lume announced an overhaul of their scent lineup in response to customer feedback. To address potential allergen and scent duration issues, the brand made the switch from natural to skin safe synthetic fragrances. In addition, Lume’s cream deodorant now has an additional 3 skin-safe ingredients intended to balance the base smell.
To celebrate the updates, they gave their products a fresh look, as well as introducing new fragrances with elements of some old favorites: Clean Tangerine, Peony Rose, and Lavender Sage. We love the brand’s commitment to listening and acting on customer feedback and look forward to trying them all!