If pit stains are a part of your daily life, no matter the season, you're probably a heavy sweater. Regular deodorants often aren't strong enough to stop sweat in its tracks -- this is where clinical-strength deodorants can make a real difference.
Reviewers consistently agree that Secret Clinical Strength Antiperspirant/Deodorant Advanced Solid (Est. $8) is the best high-performing, non-prescription deodorant on the market. Its active ingredient is 20 percent aluminum zirconium trichlorohydrex glycine, which is the strongest concentration you can get without a prescription, according to TheBeautyBrains.com, a website run by scientists in the cosmetics industry. These same scientists also report that Secret Clinical Strength is not as harsh as prescription-strength products, either. Editors at Real Simple magazine name it the best solid antiperspirant because it doesn't irritate skin.
Testers say it performs well in stressful and strenuous situations. One user at Amazon.com says she is a heavy sweater and these days she sweats even more in stressful situations, but Secret fixes that problem: "I have been using Secret Clinical Strength for the past three months and I have not had to worry about wet underarms or pit stains ruining my clothing, this stuff really works!" Other consumers at Amazon.com, Drugstore.com, TotalBeauty.com and MakeupAlley.com, where thousands of users give it a combined average of 4 out of 5 stars, say that it keeps them dry all day long but that it is more expensive than other drugstore deodorant brands.
As for the cream-to-solid formula, users say it requires drying time. If not given enough time to dry, it can get on clothes. There are 10 different versions of Secret Clinical Strength, including different scents that aren't overpowering and hypoallergenic and waterproof versions.
Experts suggest applying antiperspirants at night to get the best results; this is true even if you shower in the morning. Most people sweat less at night, giving the antiperspirant more time to create an effective plug. Standard antiperspirants can be applied again in the morning for extra protection, but prescription-strength formulas may be a bit too strong for reapplication. Manufacturers suggest this for users of Secret Clinical Strength, but many users don't understand this philosophy and just continue to apply deodorant in the morning.
It's worth noting that Secret is marketed toward and contains scents meant to appeal to women. Men seeking a similar product should consider Gillette Clinical Strength Advanced Solid (Est. $8) , which also is made by Procter & Gamble. Gillette Clinical Strength uses the same ingredients as Secret, but comes in scents aimed at men (Sport Scent, Odor Shield, Ultra Comfort, and Cool Wave). Reviewers at Amazon.com, who give it a good average score, say it does a good job minimizing odor and wetness. One user says, "I put two clicks of the anti-perspirant under each arm before bed and the next day I don't break a sweat until my cardio training each evening. Even then, the amount of perspiration is incredibly light given the intensity of my workout." Another user says the scent is "not overpowering and not girly."
Secret Clinical Strength paved the way for over-the-counter alternatives to prescription-strength antiperspirants, and it remains one of the best-reviewed clinical-strength antiperspirants on the market. It appears that the major differences between Secret Clinical Strength and Gillette Clinical Strength are their scents and marketing -- both earn overwhelming praise from users, and they share a nearly identical formula.
Those who don't suffer from heavy sweating don't need clinical-strength antiperspirants and deodorants. Most standard deodorant/antiperspirants also contain aluminum to block sweat ducts, although generally at lower doses. For women, Dove Go Sleeveless (Est. $6) is the best choice. It contains the same active ingredient as Secret Clinical Strength but 14.8 percent vs. 20 percent. A little goes a long way when it comes to wetness and odor protection. One Dove.us reviewer says, "The smell is wonderful and when I start sweating, the deodorant seems to kick in and the nice scent actually seems stronger. My underarms do feel wayyy softer and not as dry and cracked as before. Wonderful product." Dove Go Sleeveless earns high praise from expert reviewers like Real Simple magazine and RealBeauty.com, and most customers at Amazon.com and Walgreens.com laud the product for its soothing, moisturizing properties. There are some user complaints about Dove Go Sleeveless not working as advertised as in "fragrance-free" and "Dove deodorant stays on skin -- not on clothes."
If you're willing to invest in a cream deodorant at a higher price point, Kiehl's Superbly Efficient Anti-Perspirant and Deodorant (Est. $16 (1.7 oz.), $20 (2.5 oz.)) is good option. The cream will take a few minutes to dry, but it does a great job of mitigating sweat and odor, according to users and experts. Like Dove Go Sleeveless, it's a great option for those with sensitive skin, but contrary to Dove, it won't leave a white residue on your clothes.
Mitchum Power Gel Anti-Perspirant & Deodorant (*Est. $5 for 3.4 oz.) , formerly Mitchum Clear Gel (with an identical formula), is our best-reviewed pick for men, and it also comes in women's varieties. It gets favorable reviews from experts and consumers alike, and it comes in different scents as well as unscented and sensitive-skin formulations. One user at Amazon.com notes, "I've been using this deodorant for 25-plus years. It's the only type I've tried that doesn't have a nasty scent AND keeps my armpits dry as well as unoffensive!" Men's Fitness says it provides reliable all-day protection. But to get great protection, you'll have to give a little; the gel doesn't leave white marks, it does take a while to dry. Dove Men+Care Clean Comfort Antiperspirant/Deodorant (Est. $4) on the other hand comes in a solid stick and works well for men with sensitive skin. It's advertised as lasting for up to 48 hours, but reviewers at Amazon.com say it only works for a full day max. Nevertheless, it offers good odor and wetness protection. "I don't get any chaffing or rashes with this product. It keeps me dry and smelling clean all day, even when I work outside in the garage all day in the Houston heat," says an Amazon.com reviewer.
Ultimately, we chose Secret Clinical Strength as our best clinical-strength deodorant and antiperspirant, as nearly all expert and user reviewers contend that it is the best clinical strength product available. Dove Go Sleeveless Antiperspirant/Deodorant earned our pick as the best deodorant and antiperspirant for women, as it appears to offer great protection while beautifying the underarms with its ¼ moisturizer formula. Finally, we chose Mitchum Power Gel as our top pick for men-the clear-drying, long-lasting gel is beloved by experts and consumers alike and both rave about its great smell.