Do you reach for deodorant or antiperspirant in the morning? Most people don't know the difference between deodorant and antiperspirant, which each serve different purposes.
The term “deodorant” is interchangeably used to describe anything you roll, dab or swipe on your pits, which can cause a lot of confusion. But how does deodorant actually compare to antiperspirant? Today, we're tackling the debate on deodorant vs. antiperspirant and how to choose the best option for you.
What's the Difference Between Deodorant vs. Antiperspirant?
Here’s the key difference between deodorant and antiperspirant: Deodorant combats body odor, while antiperspirant blocks sweat.
We often don’t give it much thought when shopping for these products, assuming most store-bought options can fight both sweat and body odor. But stopping sweat and odor are two different issues that can require different products.
What is Deodorant?
Now that we know deodorant combats body odor, let’s break down some B.O. science.
Your actual sweat doesn’t smell - it’s odorless and colorless. Body odor occurs when the odorless sweat mixes with bacteria on your skin. And, depending on where on your body you’re sweating, your sweat glands can produce a stronger odor due to bacteria production, fat or proteins.
Deodorant prevents bacteria buildup (and by default, body odor.) However, it doesn’t protect against perspiration or wetness.
How to Use Deodorant
Deodorant should be applied directly to the underarms. If body odor is your primary concern, deodorant should be your first line of defense.
Some suggest applying deodorant to other odorous areas of the body, like around the chest area or near the groin, but we advise against doing this. Instead, apply baby powder – a more natural, safer option – to areas outside the underarms that need attention.
Here are a few tips on how to use deodorant properly:
- Apply deodorant after showering (make sure you’re dry first) or before you go to bed when you aren’t prone to producing as much sweat.
- Deodorant is safe to reapply throughout the day if you need extra odor protection, but there’s no need to excessively slather it on (a few swipes usually does the job).
- Deodorants come in a variety of scents, so be sure to select one that doesn’t clash with your cologne or perfume, or choose a fragrance-free option if you’re more sensitive.
Pro-tip: Many name-brand deodorants are also available in smaller travel sizes, so keep one in your car, at the office or in your bag for whenever you need it.
You can tell the difference between deodorant and antiperspirant by looking at the ingredients.
Deodorants contain antibacterials and fragrances to reduce underarm bacteria and mask body odor. Unlike antiperspirants, they do not contain aluminum.
The most commonly used antibacterial agent in deodorant is alcohol, but substances like activated charcoal, baking soda and coconut oil are used in natural deodorants to fight bacteria. (You can even make your own if you're up for it!)
Here are a few more ingredients found in most over-the-counter deodorants:
- Cetyl Alcohol
- Hydrolyzed corn starch
- Propylene glycol
What is the best Deodorant?
There are tons of deodorants available, ranging from popular name brands to natural, chemical-free options. We know it can be hard to find the right one for your needs, but it’s crucial to remember that deodorants aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution. What works for your friend might not work well for you.
We advise checking the labels and comparing ingredients, then conducting a trial-and-error test with your top picks.
Check out Thompson Tee’s favorite deodorant picks, or discover what to expect if you’re considering natural deodorant.
What is Antiperspirant?
Antiperspirants reduce sweating and perspiration.
Aluminum, the active ingredient in antiperspirant, forms a gel when applied. The gel temporarily plugs and blocks the sweat glands on your skin, reducing the amount of sweat that seeps through.
Because antiperspirants prevent sweat formation (a natural, biological body function), the FDA classifies antiperspirants as a drug. And despite what you might hear, aluminum-based antiperspirants ARE safe and do not cause cancer.
There are different types of antiperspirants available, depending on your needs. Clinical or prescription-strength antiperspirants cater to excessive sweaters. While you’re shopping for antiperspirants, make sure to select the right product and strength based on your sweat levels.
How to Use Antiperspirant
Antiperspirant is potent, so make sure you’re applying it correctly and carefully. Follow these tips for best results:
- Apply antiperspirant after showering or the night prior before going to bed (when your sweat glands are least active). Swiping it on right before you head out the door won’t cut it, because the active ingredients need time to kick in.
- You can try gently patting or massaging antiperspirant into your skin to improve its effectiveness.
- You can apply antiperspirant to areas other than the underarms (unlike deodorant).
- Most antiperspirants boast 12 to 48-hour protection, so unless you sweat heavily, you likely won’t need to reapply during the day.
If your product contains any form of aluminum, it’s an antiperspirant.
Types of aluminum commonly used in antiperspirants are aluminum chlorohydrate, aluminum zirconium trichlorohydrex glycine, aluminum hydroxybromid, aluminum sulfate and sodium aluminum chlorohydroxy lactate.
We debunk the myths behind five controversial toxins in antiperspirant products. While many natural ingredients like witch hazel, mineral salts, hops, baking soda and talc may reduce sweat, aluminum is the only ingredient recognized by the FDA as an antiperspirant. Anything labeled “aluminum-free antiperspirant” isn't guaranteed to stop sweat. (For a complete list of FDA antiperspirants, click here.)The bottom line? Aluminum = Antiperspirant.
Which is the best Antiperspirant?
Antiperspirant is available in many forms, including aerosol sprays, sticks, creams, gel, roll-on or solid sticks. But no matter what application method you choose or prefer, your antiperspirant ultimately needs to be effective at reducing sweat and preventing pit stains.
The next time you shop for an antiperspirant, keep these points in mind:
- Strength: Check the labels - there’s a difference between extra strength, clinical strength and prescription strength.
- Primary ingredient: Most store-bought antiperspirants contain aluminum chloride as the main ingredient. Look at its percentage to determine if the product is suitable for you.
- Your sweat levels: Consider how much you sweat or when you’re prone to sweating. For example, if you want to keep sweat at bay while you workout, a drugstore antiperspirant will likely work just fine. But if you deal with axillary hyperhidrosis or diaphoresis, you’ll want a prescription-strength antiperspirant. (Don’t forget to talk to a doctor about excessive sweating, too).
So What's the Deal With Deodorant-Antiperspirants?
Most brands use the term deodorant interchangeably to describe antiperspirants and deodorants. Antiperspirants that contain fragrance (to minimize body odor) are called deodorant-antiperspirants, or combination deodorants and antiperspirants.
Take Secret’s Clinical Strength Invisible Solid Deodorant. It sports a deodorant label. But if you read the description, you’ll see one of its primary functions is “wetness protection.” It also contains an active antiperspirant ingredient called aluminum zirconium. By the FDA's definition, this product is an antiperspirant.
Now that you know the difference between deodorant vs. antiperspirant, you're probably wondering which one is best.
Antiperspirant vs. Deodorant: Which Is Right For You?
Deodorant is a cosmetic used to mask or neutralize body odor. Antiperspirant, on the other hand, is a “drug” because it temporarily blocks your sweat glands to reduce perspiration. When it comes to deciding between deodorant vs. antiperspirant, it depends on your personal preferences and sweat levels.
If you’re a light sweater and want to prevent body odor, deodorant is a good option. For those who sweat heavily or get substantial underarm sweat stains day in and day out, antiperspirant is the way to go.
But does antiperspirant stop odor, too? Yes and no. Since antiperspirant blocks sweat production, theoretically, there shouldn’t be any perspiration for your skin’s bacteria to cling on to (which means less body odor). On the other hand, using antiperspirant the wrong way can also increase odor-causing bacteria. Learn more here. So make sure you’re applying antiperspirant correctly and using a product that’s most beneficial for you.
Prefer to use deodorant, but still want to put an end to pit stains? Check out our blog post, The Best Deodorants That Stop Underarm Sweat Stains.
Lastly, it’s important to note that deodorant-antiperspirants appear to combine the best of both worlds, but overall, they may not be as effective. You might be better off using a separate deodorant and antiperspirant together. To reap the maximum benefits of deodorant and antiperspirant, use antiperspirant before you go to bed and deodorant in the morning.
The History of Deodorant and Antiperspirant
Deodorant and antiperspirant is a huge money-making industry, but these products are relatively new inventions.
The first deodorant ever created was Mums, trademarked in 1888. The first antiperspirant, Everdry, followed shortly in 1903. At this time, deodorants and antiperspirants were a niche industry (people didn’t like to talk about sweat).
Believe it or not, before deodorant existed, people doused themselves with perfume to keep their stench at bay. Or, they used sweat pads in hot summer months to stop perspiration from seeping through their clothes.
Luckily, we don’t live in the 1900s anymore, and now you can find countless sweat solutions on the market. Although many deodorants and antiperspirants contain aluminum or other chemicals, there are plenty of natural options available as well.
If you’re searching for a natural, safe and effective sweat solution, look no further than the Thompson Tee - the only patented sweat proof undershirt guaranteed to stop 100% of underarm sweat stains.
Natural Alternative to Antiperspirant: The Thompson Tee
The Thompson Tee is an all-natural, chemical-free way to stop underarm sweat from getting out of hand.
This sweat proof undershirt is made with patented Hydro-Shield technology that absorbs sweat and releases it as a vapor. Pair it with deodorant and you’ve got a sweat-blocking, odor-stopping combination that’s hard to beat.
Not a heavy sweater but want to put an end to body odor? Try our new Premium undershirt. Built with revolutionary Odor Shield™ technology this undershirt is designed to keep you smelling fresh all day long.
Want more information on deodorant vs. antiperspirant, and all things sweat-related? Check out Thompson Tee’s Sweat 101 page!