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Deodorant versus Antiperspirant

I think it's safe to assume most of us use either deodorant or an antiperspirant to control underarm funk, but do you know the difference between the two?  Surprisingly, many of us don't; nor do we know why we grab a specific product off the store shelf besides liking its' commercial and advertising pitch.  Marketing has some incredible selling power, but when it comes to something we use and depend on everyday, I think it's important we know and understand the products to ensure we're making the best choice to meet our needs.

You're probably thinking it's no big deal, as long as you get the results you're looking for. However, dealing with sweat and underarm odor can be very challenging for men, so understanding how each of these items work may make the difference between struggling and satisfaction.

Sweat does not smell.

Yep, that's what I said!  The odor actually comes from bacteria that hides out in moist areas of the body.  When this bacteria gets wet from sweating, it immediately starts to stink.  I'm sure nature has good reason for this phenomenon, like chasing our competitors away when running down a buffalo or something, but in the modern world, the only ones being chased away our people standing next to us.

We all sweat.  Some sweat more than others.  Some sweat from more areas of the body than others.  Regardless, we all have to deal with some form of sweating... and it's a good thing we do, since it's a way of cooling our bodies and releasing nasty toxins that lurk within.  Still, sweating can be an embarrassing nuisance when underarm sweat spots show up, or when the stench fills the room.  And let's not forget the inconvenient and expensive sweat stains that cause us to throw our favorite shirts out.  So, gentlemen, let's take a look at the differences between deodorants and antiperspirants, so you can decide if you need to change your game plan.

There are two approaches to controlling odor, and you decide which one you want to take – based on personal sweating and health concerns.


Deodorants are often alcohol based, and as we know, alcohol kills bacteria.  So, this is a good thing, since deodorants typically have the ability to neutralize odors by killing off the pesky bacteria responsible for making us smell.  Other, non-alcohol types of deodorants contain fragrance, which gives it its' pleasant aroma.  The scent's purpose is to cover up the foul body odor, which is fine, as long as it does the job.  The bad news about deodorants is they don't control sweating – they simply deal with the stink factor.

There are many brands of deodorants on the market, with more and more natural ones popping up to choose from.  The natural rock or crystal causes a lot of confusion as to what it is – deodorant or antiperspirant.  It is a deodorant.  The FDA classifies deodorant as a cosmetic, which implies it's superficial in design and not dangerous to wear... unless you have an allergy or can't tolerate it for some reason.  As a result, deodorant can be applied to any area of the body that sweats in order to control the funk.  Before you start thinking it's the answer to your girlfriend's prayers, remember many deodorants are wet... and do you really want to be wet in those areas?  I didn't think so!  Use a deodorant body spray or powder if you find a need for odor control on areas other than your underarms.

There are also deodorants that contain antiperspirant ingredients.  These products may be the solution for those who need additional help with controlling wetness also.  The label will indicate if it's a combination product.


Antiperspirants keep us dry.  They keep us dry due to the active ingredients that cause the FDA to classify antiperspirants as a drug.  Really?  Yes, but only because the active ingredients most commonly used are serious chemicals.  Read your antiperspirant's label and you'll see ingredients like aluminum chlorohydrate or aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrate, which are the most commonly used ingredients.

These active ingredients are a type of aluminum salts, and the reason they're so effective in keeping us dry is because they clog our sweat glands.  Hmmm... health concern #1.  The salts go into the pores and glands and turn into a gelatinous substance that acts like tiny plugs.  These plugs actually plug up the gland, so sweat can't escape and make us wet or smelly.  Some guys sweat so much that something like this seems necessary, but if you don't sweat profusely, you might want to use deodorant instead, since in addition to clogged sweat glands, aluminum chlorohydrate and other similar chemicals are toxic to humans, as well as the environment – health concern #2.  One of the main concerns with aluminum is its' affect on our brains.  It accumulates in the brain and can cause neurotoxicity, which isn't a good thing.  It's why for years now, aluminum pot and pan use is discouraged.  Hey, I'm just sayin...  Antiperspirants are also known to be skin irritants.  Obviously, not everyone's skin gets irritated, but if yours does, either stop using it or reduce usage.

Antiperspirants come either scented or unscented, with them being of equal effectiveness.  The glands are plugged, so the scent is just a personal preference that some prefer.  The downside to scented antiperspirants, and deodorants, too, for that matter, is their scents can easily clash with cologne and aftershave scents.  So, don't worry about giving up added protection should you decide to go unscented.  Antiperspirants labeled "maximum" strength have more active ingredients than regular antiperspirants, so consider whether you need extra protection or not when choosing a brand.

Antiperspirants can be used with most deodorants, provided the deodorant does not have any active antiperspirant type ingredients in it.  It's not a good idea to overdo the clogging, I guess.  You'll know these products by the label, which should read "antiperspirant/deodorant".

Apply antiperspirants when you're sweating the least.  Some guys get the best protection when applied at bedtime, and then again in the morning for additional coverage.  It's recommended that antiperspirants only be used on underarms, and not other areas of the body.

If you're uncertain about whether to use a deodorant or antiperspirant-

I would weight the pros and cons.  Base it on your personal needs and feelings regarding the health issues.  I get why none of us want to deal with embarrassing sweaty pits.  However, I suggest you not use an antiperspirant unless you honestly need one.  Another option is to use one every other day or so, or limit its use to times when it's really important not to be wet.  The choice is yours, gentlemen.  I thought it important you know the facts, so you can make informed decisions.  Please leave a comment if you use a great product you'd like to share with other members.  In the meantime... don't sweat the small stuff!

by Aaron Marino

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