What is one of the biggest fears of any American living in China? Especially those living in Guang Dong province? Running out of deodorant.
I’m serious. I’ve run into many an exchange student or English teacher who was running low on his/her supply just as the weather was warming, and with fear and embarrassment in his/her eyes asks
“where do you get more deodorant in China?”
I hate to tell them that I get shipments from family or friends or hit up anyone I know who is coming in from America. Truth be told, deodorant (除臭剂) can be bought in China, but as far as I’ve seen antiperspirant (止汗剂) cannot. There is an assortment of roll-ons at Walmart and Watson’s, but they have really strong smells and seem to stain clothes. Not a very good option.
So what can you do until your next shipment comes in?
Well, while Chinese people in general do not use deodorants/antiperspirant, my female coworkers spray perfume under their arms.
More recently, I’ve discovered another alternative:
Baking Soda or Su-Da-fen 苏打粉 (also 小苏打)
Su-da-fen is really cheap and it’s sold in most supermarkets, usually in a little bag.
I found the suggestion to use baking soda online and it peeked my curiosity. Apparently, the baking soda prevents the growth of bacteria which prevents the Odor = cheap deodorant available in China.
Was I skeptical? Yes.
But I don’t really have to impress anyone here in China, so I thought I’d try it.
Well, you can either make a paste of it or just brush it on. The first day was really uncomfortable. I felt self conscious all day and I didn’t think it was working. Day two and day three were much better and I felt fresh and clean so I kept it up. I tried it for about 2 weeks.
I must say I was impressed. Instead of smelling like deodorant, there was no smell at all. My husband has always been fascinated by my deodorant for some strange reason. I think it’s because of all those jokes that foreigners smell and here I am using something to prevent the smell that Chinese people don’t use. Well, I didn’t tell him that I was doing this experiment and he even commented how clean I smelled all the time.
The only downsides, when it’s really hot or you are doing some serious sports, you have to reapply and after a while it kind of irritates the skin because, as a powder, it’s a bit abrasive.
I still have a couple sticks of deodorant/antiperspirant in my stash right now so I don’t think I’ll be dropping the habit anytime soon, but it is nice to know that there is an option available in China.