Mornings are hard. With the memory of sleep mere moments ago, our set-in-stone a.m. routine is sometimes all that keeps us from dropping back into the sheets. Face washed, teeth brushed, deodorant on? There’s no turning back now, this day’s officially a go.

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While we're not ones to question the zombie-to-person transformation that happens every morning, we recently learned that we've been applying deodorant all wrong—or at least not at the optimal time. And because we are all about the most efficient way to do things, brace yourself for change: It turns out antiperspirants actually work much better if they’re applied at night. “Remarkably, this gives the best possible result, but almost no one does it," says Jeffrey Dover, M.D., a Boston-based dermatologist.

Technically, deodorants and antiperspirants are two separate beasts. Deodorant is basically a fragrance fixer-upper: It covers up body odor with scents like "Shower Fresh" or "Dark Temptation," and wears off after a few hours. Antiperspirants, on the other hand, target sweat production with aluminum compounds, temporarily plugging your sweat ducts to keep things dry. Confusingly, many of the products we call deodorant are actually hybrids with antiperspirant qualities—just look at the label and see if aluminum is one of the active ingredients.

It's better to apply antiperspirants at night because our natural sweating rate is decreased, says A. Yasmine Kirkorian, M.D., an assistant professor of dermatology at Children's National Health System. Using it in the morning is like trying to plug a dam as water rushes in; applying at night builds a stronger dam before the storm hits.

Some products, like Secret Clinical, include directions to use before bedtime, but this advice goes for any antiperspirant on the market, says Soheil Simzar, M.D., a dermatologist in Santa Clara, CA. And if you want to bump up your sweat protection a notch above that, you can apply again in the morning, Simzar says.

The Takeaway

Night is right. If you want your antiperspirant to work at full capacity, try applying it at bedtime, either instead of (or in addition to) the morning swipe. But for the good of everyone, keep the deodorant going. There’s no downside to frequent application, although antiperspirants can last for several days, Kirkorian says. And now that your morning routine is a bit shorter, you can get to work a few minutes earlier—or just sleep in. Probably just sleep in.

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