Lately, it seems like any and all topics are open for discussion, but talking about perspiration and body odor prevention still isn’t something most of us want to do unless the natural bodily function has approached critical territory. Deodorant has been around since the late 19th century, but antiperspirant didn’t gain widespread acceptance until after 1910. Early incarnations were acid-based and caused skin irritation, so it wasn’t until marketers began playing on our fears of being shunned in popular society that the product truly gained a foothold.
Facts Not Fiction
Today, the two products go head-to-head while competing for consumer dollars, and concerns about chemicals have led many people to choose deodorant instead of antiperspirant. Despite the ongoing flurry of misinformation, many people still believe that antiperspirant causes breast cancer (or at least increases the risk).
The American Cancer Society has attempted to quell these rumors and has stated that, “There are no strong epidemiologic studies in the medical literature that link breast cancer risk and antiperspirant use.” A 2021 study published in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care also found “no significant relationship” between antiperspirant with aluminum and breast cancer. Rumors aside, there are lots of reasons to choose one product over the other, most of which come down to personal preferences.
What’s In a Name?
Even though you’re probably not a logophile (word lover) you most likely recognize parts of each word that tells you what the product does. Deodorant sounds a lot like deodorize, which obviously means to make something smell better. Anything with “anti” in front of it lets you know that it stops something from happening. Like the case with anti-aging skincare. It tries to stop or at least slow the aging process. In the case of antiperspirant, the goal is to prevent you from perspiring in the first place or to block the body’s eccrine glands when stress or exertion tell them to cool the body down.
It's Not Just About Fragrance
If you’re concerned with body odor, deodorant can mask it to some degree, which might be the way to go if you don’t perspire excessively. But don’t think of deodorant as fragrance for your underarms. It’s a bit more complicated than just dousing your pits with parfum. Deodorants combine fragrance with an antimicrobial ingredient that keeps odor-causing bacteria in check. Since deodorant is considered a cosmetic, there are few regulations because deodorant is “intended to cleanse or beautify” according to FDA guidelines.
Antiperspirants, use aluminum-based ingredients and are subject to FDA regulations. The active ingredient is aluminum salt, and the exact variety depends on whether it’s a roll-on, aerosol, or solid formula. The aluminum salts essentially form a barrier that traps sweat, preventing it from rising to the surface.
Is Deodorant or Antiperspirant Right for You?
If you perspire heavily, antiperspirant may be a good choice, but consult with your doctor if you think your perspiration is excessive. Most antiperspirants also contain ingredients that deodorize the underarm area as well, hence the various scented antiperspirants on drug store shelves.
If you have sensitive skin or skin that is prone to clogging, you’ll probably fair better with a deodorant because there’s less risk of redness or an allergic reaction. Most formulas contain alcohol because it dissipates quickly and kills bacteria. Unfortunately, alcohol-based products can irritate sensitive skin, so look for an alcohol-free deodorant like these Green Mandarin Deodorant Stick or White Moss Natural Deodorant Spray. Both are alcohol-free, ideal for sensitive skin, and provide long-lasting, antibacterial odor protection for men and women.