Frenchie Mythbusters - The French & Wearing Deodorant

Continuing on with the Mythbuster series, I'm going try to keep this week's mythbuster short and simple.

When I told my husband that some Americans think the French don't wear deodorant, he got kind of offended. "That's nice. So you think we stink?"

I don't know why people believe this, but I had a surprisingly large number of people ask me about it when I went back to the states after my study abroad. It's not even like deodorant is a new thing in France. They've been wearing it for a long time. I'm guessing the origin of this theory is that a lot of tourists take the metro to get the "real" French experience and they end up passing a few homeless people who really stink? I remember having a couple guys in my university classes in France who elected not to wear any... But this is definitely the exception.

It's like in the U.S. Most people wear it, a few don't. No big deal. It both countries not wearing any is highly frowned on from a social perspective.

Though it might be worth noting, if you ever plan on moving here, that European deodorant is usually the spray kind in a can (it's the Nivea one that looks like a hair product below) or in the liquid roll on kind. If you're a stick fan you might want to stock up beforehand.

This weeks myth is:

Does anyone disagree? Has your experience been different?


  1. In my experience, French people are some of the best smelling people I've ever encountered. Lol. Maybe that was a fluke, but when I was in France it seemed like everyone was wearing really nice smelling perfume/cologne or something. I hadn't ever heard the "French people don't wear deodorant" thing.

  2. Ha thank you so much for this!
    When I moved to the States, I was a young - very nice smelling - au pair and I just never understood this myth! One family even thought it would be a good idea to welcome their French au pair with a basket of deodorant and other bath items!!!! Of course, they had never been there ;)

  3. I can't speak for the French but growing up as a kid in Australia, we were always told the English never bathed and took a whole year to use up a cake of soap. As an adult, I knew it wasn't true but just in case I had any smidgen of a doubt, moving over to London in 2007 proved that they most certainly did - the personal hygiene aisle in Tesco is always packed!

  4. In my experience, the "myth" comes from the fact that a lot of French were antiperspirants and not the antiperspirant/deodorant combo we usually have in the US. So most of those sprays and roll-ons are meant to dry but are not always meant to cover-up odor. Historically-speaking, it's also why the French perfume industry was so-developed - it was meant to cover up body odors.

    But I travel a lot in France, and while I have met a few incredibly smelly people in the countryside (and don't even get me started on the Paris metro lol), on the whole, I've found most people to be pretty much odor-free!

    1. Thanks for stopping by. I love hearing about other peoples experiences abroad. I actually have the opposite problem with deodorant here. I can't find a good antiperspirant here, except for the extra-strong stuff in pharmacies, just deodorant. I like to have both, especially in the summer. I guess I'll have to keep looking :)

    2. A friend tweeted your blog link - love your blog layout, btw! And I've given up trying to find one that works for me here (though the Yves Rocher Green Tea one isn't so bad) - now I just stock up in the US, for both me and my husband. I always wonder what the cashiers think at Target when I come through. :)

  5. I think this is one of those old stereotypes, like maybe from after the war or something. And thank heavens it's not the norm!

  6. I think most Europeans are just ok with leaving things more "natural", but i do think the majority use deodorant! I sweat A LOT and always have a hard time finding my "clinical strength" deoderants in other countries. im currently using the Nivea one that you have in your photo! Feels weird to have cold & wet armpits when i spray it on but im getting used to it, haha.

  7. People actually suggested that I stock up on deodorant before moving to France because the French don't use any... such a bizarre myth.

    My favourite thing here is whenever you go into a perfume store they offer to re-perfume you.... umm, yes please! The French care about smelling good and love their perfumes so I don't know why the rest of the world still think they are a bit smelly.

  8. How did I miss this post? I'm glad you're clearing up myths! This is something I had heard too and wasn't sure if it was really true or not. Glad to know it's not! Heck, there are lots of North American's who wear deodorant, but it's just not strong enough for them, and at the end of a long day outside in the heat, they can start to lose their "fresh" scent. Really, it happens to all of us! (Which is why I carry a stick of deodorant in my purse. You can never be too careful!)


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