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What is the Difference Between Antiperspirant and Deodorant?

By Sherry Holetzky
Updated May 21, 2024
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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.

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Discussion Comments

By anon351317 — On Oct 12, 2013

I think we should use anti-perspirants and deodorants if we have to work or meet people. Once in a while, however, during inactive days, it would be advisable to just take a bath and give our armpits a rest from chemicals.

By Lucy123 — On Apr 29, 2013

Lavilin has been great at unclogging the pores under my arms. Before finding this product, my armpits were always clogged with oil, leading to unpleasant odors. Lavilin is free of aluminum salts and has eliminated my oil buildup and unclogged my pores. Such a huge change for me!

By anon267167 — On May 09, 2012

I believe a natural deodorant is better because it does not disturb your body's natural sweating process.

By Colby — On May 07, 2012

It can be harmful to suppress your body's natural sweat process. The sweating releases toxins from your body and helps to regulate body temperature. Unless you suffer from excess sweating symptoms, it is far better to just use deodorants that eliminate the odor rather than antiperspirants that eliminate the sweat. Unfortunately, the bacteria causing the odor can eventually become resistant to chemical deodorants and some deodorants can even block the sweat gland (not a good idea). Natural deodorants are a far better option.

Mama Nature's ProSkin Athlete for Men contains essential oils that kill the bacteria and what's more, the bacteria will not become resistant to it. I have done a lot of research on this subject and ProSkin is the best I have came across. I would not using anything else. The only negatives for me is that it is not available in the US and it is pricey. The second negative is only a minor one as it does last ages (in my case about three months).

By axillarymike — On May 03, 2011

There are non suppressive deodorants on the market that do not contain any alum salts. I did not see any like Herbalix Restoratives makes. We also should be concerned about the man-made alum salts in food coloring, canned and processed foods medicines (to name a few) that contain alum fillers that need to flush out from the underarm.

We also know many markets are protecting their products using cosmetic claims rather than science. Has anyone seen any science on the effects of alum residual in the underarm from long term use of a crystal or antiperspirant?

One poster describing her husband's accumulated aluminum salts and blocked and infected lymph nodes should say enough about why we need to change. The FDA considers the crystal and antiperspirant drugs in that these products change the physiological function of the underarm. One needs to periodically cleanse with a detox deodorant.

By anon112062 — On Sep 18, 2010

Well i used to sweat too much but this year my wife introduced an anti-perspirant called Certain Dri and it works like magic. I just got a new one today at Target and it's the deodorant which works the same as I used it yesterday and it works for 72 hours.

What i do is to use on my armpit before bedtime or from 8 p.m. when i stay on the bed and then the next morning, i just take my bath and dress up and throughout the day i don't sweat a bit. Magic!

I told my wife this is the best gift after every other gift and why she allowed me to sweat for years. lol. I have so much confidence now to wear my dress shirts and not sweat even after doing hectic walk around at the office.

I have gotten over my embarrassment now and thank God for introducing my wife to this product. Just try it and have confidence. best of luck. waste no time.

By anon101666 — On Aug 04, 2010

Deodorant is better and I agree with the definitions above. What baffles me is that after living in Toronto for over 20 years I cannot find deodorant for ladies anywhere, let alone the expected major drugstores. And I'm not talking about the boring organic stuff. To top out further, the few deodorants brands that are available are odorless and placed on the lowest shelves at drugstores. Why?

What does North America have against deodorant for ladies? In Europe you find it everywhere. Help.

By anon95680 — On Jul 13, 2010

With so many beauty products on the market, it can be tough to decide which ones are right for you. I have severe allergies so wearing fragrances or any product with a scent can be tough. Lavanila products work great and smell amazing! Truly glad I discovered them online.

By anon91567 — On Jun 22, 2010

I see someone has already mentioned the new deodorant by In Love Bodycare on here and I would like to add that not only is this the best deodorant I have ever used for eliminating odor, but it also really does cut back on perspiration. They don't claim it as an anti-perspirant because it doesn't have aluminum but it works for me better than antiperspirants and it is all natural!

This is the one that everyone should try, because it really was a miracle to find when I had given up on finding a natural deodorant that works.

By anon73443 — On Mar 27, 2010

OK here's what I think why deodorants alone won't keep you away from smelling like a swine. Here's the thing: deodorants they say only blocks or prevent the bad bacteria that causing body odor. Just think about it, if you sweat, you will notice does not stink, it smells like your deodorant, but if this "sweat" dries up in your clothes, it will not just leave a yellow bird stain on your white shirts but also it will stink after few hours.

So if you don't want to use antiperspirants, because "they are harmful" use deodorants instead but always remember, when you sweat and your clothes get wet, it's time to change your shirt, because for anyone and for everyone once the sweat dries up, you'll get a swamp smell like.

By anon49319 — On Oct 19, 2009

I have tried using natural deodorants in the past because I believe the ingredients in antiperspirants are potentially harmful. However, I haven't found one that works so I have continued using antiperspirants even though I know better. I sweat, and I would rather not stink -- bottom line. This year I got lucky. There is a new, natural deodorant on the market by a company called In Love With Body Care. It works really well, and the ingredients are pure: aluminum and paraben free. Check it out.

By anon43933 — On Sep 03, 2009

How do I get the smell of the perspiration out of clothing? There is no stain but no matter what I wash the clothing with when it is worn again the smell comes back. After washing the garmet the smell is gone but once worn it is there again.

By anon33661 — On Jun 09, 2009

You may believe that deodorant works as well as antiperspirant, but think again. If you use deodorant alone, forget it. You will still smell like a water buffalo. You *need* antiperspirant to smell good. I don't know the exact science, I just know the difference from experience.

By anon30739 — On Apr 23, 2009

If deodorants work by killing odor causing bacteria, wouldn't your normal skin flora adapt to the chemicals like how pathogens adapt to hospital antibiotics? I have always preferred antiperspirants because I sweat like a rain forest and end up with pit stains the size of truck tires.

Sean W.

By anon19554 — On Oct 14, 2008

A very useful article. and to you anon18658 - I live in Israel so it's also mostly hot and sunny, I have tried all sorts of deo/anti and non of them lasted more than an hour after leaving home, some - a lot less... Then I discovered ADIDAS deo. they have all kinds but i don't really notice the name - it doesn't matter because they are all good. just be careful of the one with the gray cap - it smells of cinnamon...of course they are all for men but who cares... hope it's helpful.

By anon18658 — On Sep 27, 2008

I have had the worst time finding a deodorant that works for me. I used Dry Idea gel for a number of years before it stopped working. I tried at least a dozen different types and brands to no avail. They either didn't control odor or gave me a rash. I finally found a really cheap, generic solid made by Revlon that seamed to control odor well and did not irritate my skin. Now several years later this one has stopped working also, leading me on another quest to find a new deodorant. I've tried the new $10 "clinical strength" deodorants but they're not working for me either! What is up with my body chemistry? Do you have any advice on how to find the right deodorant for me? I'm a female that lives in Florida so it's almost always hot here! I've even tried men's deodorant but those don't work either. HELP!!!

By anon3580 — On Sep 06, 2007

Very insightful article. My husband (64 years old) has just experienced for the first time, blocked sweat glands under both armpits. They were huge and very infected. The internist and surgeon he saw on the same day questioned the deodorant/antiperspirant he was using. The surgeon said he most likely will have to have the glands surgically removed. Since this has never happened, I think it is the Brut deod/antip. that he recently changed to from Old Spice. Thank you for the article. It sheds new light on the situation.

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