If you’ve ever wondered about the difference between deodorant and antiperspirant, you’re not alone.
It can be daunting trying to choose one product among a supermarket shelf full of products that seem the same.
But when you know the facts about antiperspirants and deodorants, you’ll be able to make the right choice without breaking a sweat.
The Difference Between Deodorant and Antiperspirant
The main difference between deodorant and antiperspirant is hinted at by the names.
A deodorant is designed to deodorize by reducing the bacteria that produce body odour and masking odour.
An antiperspirant reduces the amount of perspiration (i.e. sweat) produced by blocking the sweat glands (most often with an aluminum-based ingredient).
As a secondary benefit, less perspiration means a drier, less favourable environment for odour-causing bacteria. In this way, an antiperspirant is also a type of deodorant.
Is it Better to Use Antiperspirant or Deodorant?
When it comes to antiperspirant vs deodorant, what right for you comes down to personal preference.
Everyone has a different intensity of body odour, and different levels of motivation to mask it. Similarly, the amount of sweat produced differs from person to person.
If you sweat a lot, even when not doing intense physical activity, an antiperspirant may be a good choice for you.
No one likes showing up to a meeting or a date with sweat stains on their clothing, after all!
On the other hand, if you’re not so prone to sweating, you may find that deodorant is enough to keep you feeling clean and fresh.
Is it OK to Use Antiperspirant Every Day?
You may have heard some scary things about antiperspirants, but not all of them are true.
Let’s take a look at some rumoured and actual side effects of antiperspirant and deodorants so you can decide if it’s ok to use either of these products every day.
Side Effects of Antiperspirant
Antiperspirant has been linked to some pretty serious health problems attributed to the aluminum it contains, though much of the research is not conclusive.
Some studies in the early 2000s indicated that aluminum in antiperspirants may contribute to a higher chance of developing breast cancer.
However, more recent research has countered this earlier research, saying it’s unlikely that cancer-causing toxins will end up in the breast tissue through the pores in the underarms.
Another potential side effect linked to aluminum in many antiperspirants is the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
This misconception came from a study that found the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s contain more aluminum than the brains of people without the disease.
However, none of the follow-up studies designed to test this found any evidence that antiperspirants causes Alzheimer’s.
Now that we’ve set the record straight on rumoured side effects, let’s look at some real side effects of antiperspirants:
- Allergic reaction
Experiencing itchiness, irritation, or redness in your underarms is the most common side effect of both antiperspirants and deodorants. This could be caused by baking soda (the most common culprit) or artificial ingredients like synthetic fragrances and dyes, so if you have sensitive skin you may want to choose a natural option. The packaging on most natural deodorants will tell you plainly when they are free of baking soda (also called sodium bicarbonate), perfumes and dyes.
- Hormone disruption
Some ingredients used in antiperspirants are hormone disruptors which some studies suggest interfere with your thyroid function. These have also been associated with the risk of breast cancer we discussed above. Many brands have removed these, but it’s always a good idea to check the label to make sure there are no parabens, phthalates, triclosan, BHTs, or other hormone disruptors.
- Kidney Disease
Studies indicate that antiperspirants may lead to dementia in people who have impaired kidney function, primarily due to the aluminum content. Accordingly, the FDA requires antiperspirants to carry the warning "Ask a doctor before use if you have kidney disease."
- Altered armpit microbiome
There are certain bacteria living in the skin under your arms (and elsewhere in your body!). These are perfectly natural. Any, and any products you apply can impact the type of bacteria that live there. It’s not yet known what this means, but it’s something to be aware of!
Side Effects of Deodorant
Some of the side effects of deodorant can be the same as those of antiperspirant, depending on which type of deodorant you are using.
For example, if you opt for a deodorant that uses baking soda, synthetic fragrance or dyes, then you may experience irritation or itchiness.
You may also experience a stinging sensation when you apply deodorant to freshly shaved underarms.
Antiperspirant vs Deodorant: Which is Better? According to an Expert…
Understandably, you may want to reduce the amount you sweat in certain situations, such as when you have to go to the office during the summer. But keep in mind that sweating is a natural reaction to help your body regulate your body temperature.
Plus, when you use an antiperspirant, your body still produces sweat; it just doesn’t reach the surface of your skin because the antiperspirant blocks the sweat glands.
So, consider wearing a deodorant, at least as a starting point. But if you find that there are times you’re sweating profusely, then an antiperspirant might be a better option.
Or if your deodorant doesn’t deodorize like it should, an antiperspirant might provide another way to address body odour.
You may also want to read our article on "Can you use body wash as hand soap" or "What happens if you use scented soap on a tattoo" for more ideas.
Final Thoughts on Antiperspirant vs Deodorant
Now that you know the difference between deodorant and antiperspirant, you can make an informed choice the next time you’re shopping.
The bottom line is that you should always read the ingredients, so you know what you’re putting on your body!