Antiperspirant vs Deodorant : Which is Better? What’s the Difference?

Do you know the difference between antiperspirant and deodorant?

Which should you use to tame foul smelling armpits?

Which is most effective in controlling overactive sweat glands that soak your shirts and sap your confidence?

Is one better than the other? Aren’t they the same thing… ¯\_(?)_/¯

Before we go any further, you might want to find a chair.

This conversation could shatter everything you’ve ever believed about antiperspirant, deodorant, sweat, and body odor.

Are you ready?

To better understand the differences between deodorant and antiperspirant, we first need to clear up a little misconception about sweating.

Sweat Stinks

Did you know that your sweat doesn’t actually smell? Sweat is odorless.

But what about that foul-smelling odor that creeps up after a morning workout? Clearly, the stinky sweat is causing all that toe-curling body odor… right?

No, and yes.

Here’s what happens: you have millions of sweat glands all over your body. These glands release excess body heat in the form of sweat to keep you from overheating. Not all sweat glands are created equally however.

For example, apocrine glands release sweat laced with protein and fat from foods that you eat. These sweat glands are located primarily in the underarms, groin area, and around the nipples (don’t laugh, we’re all adults here). The apocrine sweat glands are -not surprisingly- responsible for most body odor.

When this protein spiked sweat intermingles with the hordes of bacteria that hang out on your skin, the resulting smell is… unforgettable (not in a good way). This is where body odor comes from.

Sweat + protein + bacteria = Body Odor

How do you stop the sweat? How do you stop the stink?

Should you use deodorant or antiperspirant?

It’s not uncommon for people to get the two confused. So, let’s do some de-confusion.

Deodorant : What you need to know

In the simplest of terms, deodorant is a deodorizing solution that masks the smell of body odor. It DOES NOT reduce or stop sweating.

A deodorant that you can pick up at your local grocery store doesn’t stop the sweat, but it works to “de-odorize” or mask the stink caused by the bacterial reaction on your skin. They do this with antimicrobial ingredients that effectively kill off bacteria present on the skin, thus reducing the chance of a smelly reaction. One of the main active ingredients in deodorant is alcohol. While alcohol is known to stimulate sweating, it also has the ability to kill bacteria. Another ingredient used in deodorant is triclosan, which makes the underarm environment too salty or too acidic for bacteria to survive. There are around 1 million bacteria per square centimeter on our skin. Deodorants work to reduce this number of bacteria by either killing it off completely, or slowing its reproduction. The strength of the antimicrobial ingredients will play a part in how long you stay odor-free. The fewer bacteria, the less smelly your sweat!

Deodorants usually contain fragrances or natural essential oils to cover up the smell of bacteria. “Natural” deodorants are often made with plant-based ingredients or essential oils that help to reduce the unpleasant odor. Some deodorants that do not contain any fragrance or scent are used only to neutralize the unpleasant odor. Some people make their own deodorant at home with natural ingredients that are just as effective as the artificial ones at the store. So, to sum up, deodorants simply eliminate odor by neutralizing it or covering it up with a fresh scent.

One of the biggest benefits of using a deodorant is the ease of use and the versatility. Deodorants are available as sticks, roll-ons, creams or sprays and they aren’t just for the underarms! Many deodorant products can be applied to the feet or other ‘smelly’ areas. Another benefit is the antibacterial ingredients in deodorants work to reduce harmful bacteria.

Is there a best deodorant for sweat or excessive sweating? If soggy shirts and sweaty pits are your primary concern, you’ll want to explore a extra strength antiperspirant.

Antiperspirant : What you need to know

Designed to block sweat, not make your armpits smell like flowers.

No rocket science here: antiperspirant literally means “stop perspiration”. Antiperspirants are effective in eliminating odor because they stop up the bacterias food supply (protein packed sweat). The chemicals in antiperspirant formulas are designed to “plug up” the pores of your underarms, preventing sweat from escaping. The pore-blocking ingredient in most antiperspirants is aluminum salts or zirconium. These are both highly effective at preventing sweat from escaping the body, and are used in countless antiperspirant products all over the world. Aluminum compounds dissolve in the sweat or moisture on the skin surface of the armpit, creating a thick gel. This gel becomes a kind of temporary ‘plug’ near the top of the sweat glands. This blocks or contracts the sweat glands, reducing the amount of sweat that can escape to the pores on the skin. No sweat means those fats and proteins can’t reach the skin and react with bacteria. And that means no smell!

Like deodorant, most antiperspirants are available in many forms, such as sticks, roll-ons, towellettes, gels or creams. Antiperspirants are best applied to affected areas after bathing, while the skin is clean and sweat-free. It’s also best to apply antiperspirants at night when sweat glands are less active.

Is Antiperspirant bad for you?
There’s a common misconception that antipersirants are bad for you. The most recurring theme is that the aluminum used in antiperspirant can cause cancer. However, the American Cancer Society states that these claims are largely untrue. You can read their statement here.

Antiperspirant vs Deodorant : When to Use What

What’s better for your situation? Deodorant or Antiperspirant?

Do you just want to get to the end of the day without smelling foul?
A traditional deodorant should do the trick. Some deodorants have a longer lasting fragrance, but most will be able to control odor for the average sweater.

If you’re looking for the best deodorant for sweating, it’s not going to be a prescription deodorant or a clinical strength deodorant. Remember, antiperspirants are the qualified “sweat blockers”, deodorants are “smell blockers”.

Soggy underarms cramping your style?
If you have an excessive sweating problem or struggle with hyperhidrosis, look for a strong antiperspirant that can control sweat without staining your shirts. This one is pretty good.

Looking for the best natural deodorant? Natural deodorants can be tricky. They’re typically not as effective, don’t have a long lasting fragrance, and can stain clothing permanently due to the use of natural oils like coconut oil and essential oils. If you must go natural, we recommend Schmidt’s Natural Deodorant. It’s one of the higher rated natural deodorants on Amazon.com.

Can you use both antiperspirant and deodorant?

Of course. In fact, using a good antiperspirant with your favorite deodorant is your best bet for staying dry and smelling fresh. Just remember to apply the antiperspirant at night and your deodorant in the morning after showering for best results.

What about antiperspirant deodorant combinations?
We tend to shy away from antiperspirant deodorants. We’ve found them to be less effective in the sweat-stopping and very effective at shirt staining (most “sweat stains” are actually stains caused by chalky antiperspirant deodorants, not sweat.)