Product Advisor
Deodorant vs. Antiperspirant

Deodorant vs. Antiperspirant: What’s the Difference?

Everyone’s body is different, and choosing the right underarm product should not be prioritized by which one smells best. That’s not to say that smell isn’t an important factor, but choosing between a deodorant, an antiperspirant, or a combination of both is definitely what you should figure out first.

However, which is which, and how do we decide which one we need? There are some pretty clear differences between antiperspirant and deodorant, and making the mistake of getting the wrong one can be embarrassing if you naturally have strong body odor or heavy sweating. Stinking up the office or getting the dreaded underarm sweat ring in your favorite shirt are two extremely common fears for many people, and we get that – we’ve all been there!

To help you figure out which style is right for you, we’re going to break down the key differences of deodorant vs. antiperspirant. This way, next time you’re heading off to work or out for a night with your friends, you can feel confident knowing you’ll be sweat-free and smelling like a champ.

The difference in usage

The biggest difference between deodorant and antiperspirant lies in their purpose. Depending on whether you suffer from strong odors or heavy sweating (or both), one will be better than the other at helping you control your body.

Deodorant fights odor

Deodorant is what most of us started putting on our armpits as soon as… well, as soon as we were old enough to put anything on our armpits! Deodorant is generally a clear or translucent gel with a strong smell, and its main purpose is to control body odor. If you’ve ever noticed that you have a strong body odor while working out, or even during your workday, this is the type of underarm product that would help control that.

Deodorant basically works by neutralizing body odors through covering them up with a strong, pleasant scent. Deodorants are available in an extremely wide variety of scents; however, given the nature of the product, they do vary quite a bit in effectiveness from brand to brand, despite their common claims of “Full 24-hour Protection!” It’s helpful to experiment with different deodorants until you find one that not only has a scent you’re partial to but actually lasts you the whole day.

Antiperspirant fights sweat

While deodorant is used to cover up odors to get you through the day smelling fresh, antiperspirants are used to help stop excessive sweating. Instead of being a clear gel, antiperspirants are almost always white and chalky. This chalk is more conducive to the ingredients used in antiperspirants; also, the chalky composition helps to soak up sweat and prevent it from reaching your clothes.

Excessive underarm sweating can be caused by a number of things: exercise, heat, stress, or you could just have naturally overactive sweat glands. However, no matter what the cause of your sweat, finding the right antiperspirant is what’s going to help you control it. As mentioned with deodorant, antiperspirants can also vary in effectiveness from brand to brand; so again, we’d recommend experimenting around before settling on one product.

Combination products try to fight both

There are many products that are strictly deodorant or strictly antiperspirant; however, there are some products who offer a combination in an attempt to give you the best of both worlds. These products often lean one way or the other in terms of being more effective as an antiperspirant or deodorant, but if you have issues with both strong odor and excessive sweat, it is a good idea to shop around with these different products to find a winner.

The difference in chemical composition

Contrary to popular belief, deodorants and antiperspirants are not the same product put in different tubes. They each have their own unique chemical makeup that contributes to being effective in controlling the intended side effect. Most products will be clearly labeled as a deodorant, antiperspirant, or combination, but it’s important to know the chemical differences so you’ll know what to look for on the ingredient list if the bottle isn’t clearly labeled.

Common ingredients in deodorant

Deodorant is primarily made of ingredients containing alcohol. Alcohol kills bacteria, which helps control the spread of odor-causing bacteria under your arms. Other commonly included ingredients are sodium chloride and anti-microbials, both of which attempt to fight odor-causing agents that may stem from your sweat glands. Lastly, the most noticeable ingredients in deodorant are those that provide fragrance. Some people can have adverse reactions to different fragrances, but there are good unscented deodorants as well.

Common ingredients in antiperspirant

While the composition of deodorant focuses on fighting odor, the ingredients in an antiperspirant focus on fighting sweat. Probably could’ve guessed that one, right? One series of ingredients that are incredibly good at this, and hence the most commonly used, is metal chlorides. Aluminum chloride, as well as other metal chlorides, react with electrolytes on the surface of the skin to form a barrier of sorts between the sweat glands and the surface of the skin. Antiperspirants’ effectiveness at controlling sweat is generally tied to the amount of metal chloride in them – more chloride means more effective sweat control.

In recent years, that have been several studies claiming that the ingredients used in antiperspirants can be a cause of cancer. However, according to WebMD, who spoke with Ted Gansler, director of medical content for the American Cancer Society, many of the studies were flawed. With that said, TIME Magazine makes a great point when it says “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” In other words, be cautious when using antiperspirants that contain these ingredients. If you start to experience any sort of redness or irritation after using a new product, this may be the cause – and it may be smart to try something new.

Wrapping it up

Taking the necessary steps to prevent sweaty, stinky armpits can go pretty far in the way of improving your daily life. Sweat and body odor can be embarrassing and uncomfortable – and if picking up a small, inexpensive item from the drug store could fix that, it’s not a difficult choice to make that purchase, is it? Knowing the difference between deodorant and antiperspirant is essential to easing your discomfort and avoiding possible negative side effects from the ingredients, as well as potential allergies. Try out a few that match your symptoms and enjoy the confidence of an odor and sweat-free day.

Product Advisor Editorial Team

Product Advisor Editorial Team

Product Advisor is dedicated to bringing the most unbiased product research to consumers based on machine learning, AI and robust product experiments.

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