Many people use the terms “deodorant” and “antiperspirant” interchangeably in daily conversations. However, it’s important to note that these actually mean different things, and that deodorant products and antiperspirant products have different purposes.
Deodorant vs Antiperspirants: How Do They Function?
Before anything else, let’s take a look at why and hows you sweat. Basically, you release sweat when you do physical activities, eat spicy food, or are in a hot and humid area. You also sweat when you have a fever or when you feel anxious and scared.
In these scenarios, your sweat glands go into overdrive and produce large amounts of sweat, which contains proteins, fatty acids, and ammonia. These substances are a source of sustenance for the bacteria that naturally live in your underarms. When they break down your sweat, they produce certain organic compounds that have an unpleasant smell. This is what we call body odor.
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Deodorants and antiperspirants work in different ways to halt this process and prevent you from smelling funky. Deodorants have antibacterial substances that minimize the amount of bacteria in your underarms and prevent them from multiplying, which helps keep body odor at manageable levels.
As their name implies, they also have fragrances that “deodorize” your armpits, masking the unpleasant aroma and ensuring you smell nice throughout the day.
Antiperspirants, on the other hand, target your body’s sweat production and prevent you from sweating in the first place. They usually contain aluminum, which constricts your underarm’s pores and plug them up to prevent sweat from reaching the surface of your skin.
As a result, the natural bacteria on your skin will have minimal sweat to break down, and you’ll experience less body odor.
In short, antiperspirants aim to prevent you from sweating (and smelling funky). Deodorants won’t stop you from sweating, but they help manage your underarm bacteria levels and use fragrances to mask the pungent odor that bacteria produce.
Ingredients in Deodorants and Antiperspirants
Because of their different functions, deodorants and antiperspirants are made with different ingredients. Many deodorants contain alcohol which, despite being a sweat stimulant, is an effective antibacterial and can control the levels of bacteria in your underarms.
Some products have triclosan, which is effective in reducing bacteria population and keeping you odor-free but may have negative effects. According to the FDA, several studies have shown that triclosan may affect the levels of certain thyroid hormones in the body, cause bacteria to become antibiotic-resistant, and lead to skin cancer.
There is no conclusive evidence as of yet, but it’s better to avoid products that contain triclosan to stay on the safe side.
Regular deodorants contain artificial scents to mask body odor and keep you smelling fresh throughout the day. Natural deodorants, on the other hand, often use essential oils to provide you with a nice scent. Of course, there are many deodorants that are unscented and rely on antibacterial substances to neutralize bad odor.
Antiperspirants, as mentioned above, contain aluminum-based complexes such as aluminum chlorohydrate and aluminum zicronium tetrachlorohyrex gly. Generally, the higher the aluminum levels in a product, the more effective it is as an antiperspirant. Regular antiperspirants contain around 5 percent aluminum-based complexes, while clinical-strength products contain around 20 percent.
Aluminum is highly effective in preventing sweat, but many people are concerned about the fact that they plug up the pores and disrupt the body’s natural sweat production process.
The substance has also been linked with breast cancer and Alzheimer’s disease although, just as with triclosan, there is no conclusive evidence to prevent antiperspirant manufacturers from using aluminum in their products.
Several antiperspirant products contain antibacterial substances to cover all the bases and further reduce your chances of developing body odor. Many products also contain fragrances to help you smell nice.
Which Product Should You Use?
The answer to this question depends on your personal needs and preferences. If you live in a warm and humid area, for instance, you’ll want to use an antiperspirant to minimize sweating.
If you have hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) or if you tend to sweat profusely when you’re nervous (e.g. before giving a work presentation), you might want to give clinical-strength antiperspirants a try for maximum protection.
If you live in a cold climate, or if you don’t really sweat much, you might find that deodorants can give you the right level of protection you need and help you stay fresh-smelling throughout the day.