10 Deodorants That Are Clear on Black Sleeveless Clothes... OR ARE THEY?!

Featuring sniff tests with Nacho the dog.
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Jill L. Ferguson
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Featuring sniff tests with Nacho the dog.

Finding a good deodorant can be a bit like finding a romantic partner — we look for a loyal, effective one, and often they fail us or we don't get what we expect. My friend Michelle said to me, "I tried Secret for a while. It ended up not being the one for me." How many times have you felt this way about someone you've dated — and deodorant?

Unacceptable.

Unacceptable.

Personally, I've been on a mission for the last few years to find the ideal deodorant to wear with my black sleeveless dresses, but many of them claiming to be made for exactly that fall short, leaving white stains around the armholes, especially when it's hot out. 

So in order to find a better-behaving deodorant that fulfilled its promises, I crowdsourced on Facebook, asking for recommendations and for brands my friends hate. My friend Kristen said she loves Crystal Deodorant; Shannon recommended Kiss My Face, and Katriel prefers Mitchum. With these recommendations in my phone's Notes, I went on a deodorant shopping spree, with my faithful companion Nacho, who goes almost everywhere with me.

Shirley, the cashier who rang me up, wanted to know why I had so many deodorants in my basket. She volunteered that she prefers the gel version of Secret because Lady Speed Stick gives her a rash.

The next morning, Nacho and I drove to my best friend Sharon's house determined to test 10 brands that claim to go on clear to answer the question: Is this deodorant sleeveless-black-clothes-worthy?

This was our process:

  1. Examine the ingredients and the fine print on the packaging
  2. Sniff test (often not Nacho's favorite part as some of these are STRONG)
  3. Arm application to determine texture and appearance on skin
  4. Black clothes application to see if it was visible on clothing
  5. Rub arm on black clothes to see if it transferred once it dried (if drying was necessary)
Nacho is very helpful.

Nacho is very helpful.

These are our candid thoughts (though I admit to censoring a few swear words) on each contestant.

Degree Ultra Clear Antiperspirant Deodorant (Pure Clean): This deodorant is a white solid. "Unbeatable on white marks" is on the packaging. I'm not sure exactly what that means and pointed out to Sharry (I call Sharon "Sharry") that it is unclear language (I was an English professor for 13 years and sometimes can't help myself). She then sniffed it and declared it lightly scented and sweet and said the scent lingers for a long time. Nacho had no opinion and lay on my feet. It does go on mostly clear (very faint trace of white) onto the skin but since this is my most frequently used deodorant, I know it leaves marks on clothes (it's the one in the photo above).

Ban Invisible Solid Antiperspirant & Deodorant (Sweet Simplicity): This antiperspirant deodorant claims "24 hours of invisible protection" and is a white solid. Its scent is a bit heavy straight from the container — Sharry said it smells like lemons — but "the scent is not overpowering once it's on." Nacho wasn't a huge fan of the scent on first sniff and walked away. It feels good on the skin but also like something is definitely on your skin. It is mostly clear on the skin, but not clear on black clothes, leaving very white marks.

Herbal Clear Natural Deodorant (Aloe Fresh): The packaging on this product says "new ultimate protection" and that it's now longer-lasting and hypoallergenic. (Makes me wonder how long it lasted before.) The product is a clear solid and has a light aloe scent. Sharry declared it "not a bad scent," and said it "has good ingredients, with vitamins A and E — might be worth a try." It felt a bit cool on the skin during the application, and it left almost no transfer on clothing.

Nacho sniffed it once and then turned his head.

Nacho sniffed it once and then turned his head.

Lady Speed Stick Invisible Dry Antiperspirant Deodorant (Powder Fresh): This product has "dare to wear black" on the packaging, and it contains many ingredients Sharry won't use (such as aluminum, which is true of most deodorants that are also antiperspirants). The white solid smells strongly of baby powder and made Nacho emit a little sneeze. It goes on mostly clear on the skin but transfers very white to clothing. I would not dare to wear this with my dark clothes.

Secret Outlast Invisible Solid Antiperspirant (Completely Clean): This product is a white solid that smells very flowery (a scent Nacho doesn't like and Sharry and I hate), and like all similar products that contain aluminum, the packaging has lots of warnings about not applying to broken skin and consulting with a doctor before use if you have kidney disease. The product does feel smooth on the skin and is clear there, but it does transfer a minimal amount of white to dark clothing — not as much as some of the white solid brands do, though.

Kiss My Face Natural Active Life Deodorant (Cucumber Green Tea): The packaging boldly states "no white marks." Sharry thinks it smells like "cucumbers soaked in alcohol." Nacho doesn't seem to have an opinion as he barely lifted his head to acknowledge my attempt to get him to sniff it. The product is a clear solid, isn't goopy, and goes on clear and leaves no transfer on dark clothing.

Dry Idea Advanced Dry Clear Gel Antiperspirant & Deodorant (Unscented): The packaging says it goes on "extra clear effective" (whatever that means). It smells like a cleaning product, and Nacho ran from his sniff test. This product goes on very wet but clear, and it takes a very long time to dry, which puts me off. By 10 minutes, it went from wet to sticky and eventually dried. However, it does not transfer to dark clothes at all once dry.

Almay Sensitive Skin Clear Gel Antiperspirant & Deodorant (Fragrance Free): This is the only deodorant that was truly scent-free, and I think we all breathed a sigh of relief. The gel goes on wet and stays wet for almost 10 minutes. Sharry joked, "It may not leave white marks, but it will leave wet marks." Eventually, it dried and was invisible on skin and clothing.

Mitchum Advanced Gel Antiperspirant & Deodorant (Power Fresh): This product is a clear gel with a super-strong baby powder scent that was too overpowering for all of us. And it's a scent that was still prevalent hours later even after washing. The gel goes on very wet and stays wet for a while. Once it dries, it is totally clear on dark clothing. About 20 minutes after it dried, I noticed white flakes appearing where the deodorant had been applied, but these still did not make a mess on dark clothing. I personally would not use this product as I couldn't stand the scent or the prolonged wetness.

Crystal Body Deodorant Roll-On: This is Sharry and Kristen's deodorant of choice. It is a clear liquid roll-on that is unscented (though Sharry's container of it smelled a bit like an armpit that was starting to smell). It goes on clear and dried in 30 seconds, and it left no white residue on dark fabric. Kristen had previously told me, "I started using Crystal back in 1994, but then moved on to their roll-on products. I love them both because they don't leave any residue or marks on clothes, especially black." Kristen admits that Crystal may not work on your body right away, and I found that out when I tried it a few years ago and gave up on it after a number of stinky days.

Left to right: Degree, Ban, Herbal Clear, Lady Speed Stick, Secret, Kiss My Face, Dry Idea, Almay, Mitchum, Crystal. 

Left to right: Degree, Ban, Herbal Clear, Lady Speed Stick, Secret, Kiss My Face, Dry Idea, Almay, Mitchum, Crystal. 

The day after we tried this experiment, I washed the black shirt and found that all of the clear deodorant marks and half of the white ones stayed on the shirt. I was thoroughly disappointed! 

The verdict is still out on which ones are good against wetness and odor, but at least I found a few that make good accessories to my little black dresses.