Is there really a difference between deodorant and antiperspirant? Yes, and the fundamental differences lie in the way these products work, and potentially affect health. Essentially they each use different chemical processes for minimizing body odor. Certain ingredients in either product may be unhealthy, but deodorant is frequently cited as the better alternative.
Antiperspirants contain fragrance, but they also contain chemical compounds that block the pores to stop the discharge of perspiration. No sweat, no odor.
Deodorants allow the release of perspiration, but prevent odor by combating it with antiseptic agents, which kill odor-causing bacteria. Many consumers do not realize how it works, assuming it is simply a fragrance that covers up body odor. Some choose antiperspirant, because rather than cover the odor, they prefer to eliminate it.
Consumer advocacy groups continue to voice concerns over questions regarding common health and beauty products, and certain studies indicate potential health risks associated with aluminum compounds found in many antiperspirants. Similar studies find like risks with parabens found in some deodorants. Both have been tenuously linked to serious illnesses, including breast cancer. Manufacturers and various health agencies claim such studies are flawed, stating concerns are unfounded.
Despite assurances, many health care professionals recommend deodorant, believing that obstructing pores and preventing perspiration may not be the healthiest choice. Consumers are left to make their own judgements.
Those who would rather forgo a typical odor-eliminating product are beginning to look for more natural alternatives. There are several brands of natural deodorant that are currently available. However, these products do not always contain purely organic ingredients, so check labels carefully before purchasing. For the true maverick, a homespun deodorant consists of equal parts cornstarch and baking soda, applied with a damp washcloth.