If pit stains are a part of your daily life, no matter the season, you're probably a heavy sweater. When regular antiperspirants fail, doctors and users say clinical-strength deodorants really can make a difference.
First, though, get your timing right: Experts say the best time to apply antiperspirant is at night, right before bed. Since you sweat less while you sleep, the antiperspirant will be able to enter your sweat ducts and stay there. According to experts, the effect lasts for 24 hours or more, even if you take a morning shower after applying antiperspirant the previous evening. Clinical-strength antiperspirants often tell you specifically to apply at night, but this trick also works with regular antiperspirants.
If you've tried everything to tame your sweat -- and failed -- experts recommend Certain Dri Clinical Strength Roll-on (Est. $15 pack of 2). "Readers call this product 'a lifesaver' ... 'a godsend for anyone with sweating problems,'" says Hayley Mason at TotalBeauty.com.
Certain Dri bills itself as "the most effective anti-perspirant you can buy without a prescription" -- and reviews say that's no joke. Thousands of users offer feedback on Certain Dri at various retail sites, where it earns very high ratings across the board. Many say it has literally changed their lives: After years of trying to hide embarrassing sweat stains (and throwing away ruined clothing), they say Certain Dri has given them back their confidence, as well as their freedom to wear clothing in colors that would ordinarily show embarrassing underarm wet spots.
Certain Dri contains 12 percent aluminum chloride, which has been clinically proven to reduce sweating, according to the International Hyperhidrosis Society (hyperhidrosis is excessive sweating). It's best for treating armpits; less effective for palmar sweating.
The major drawback with Certain Dri is that it can irritate your skin -- and that's putting it mildly, users say. Your armpits can itch, sting and burn unbearably if you don't follow Certain Dri's instructions to the letter: Apply sparingly, and never right after shaving or showering. Most users say they don't have any problems, as long as they follow these instructions religiously. Some users find Certain Dri Clinical Strength Solid (Est. $9) less irritating than the roll-on.
For less severe sweat situations, consider a milder clinical-strength antiperspirant, like those we recommend below. These are less likely to irritate your skin -- and unlike the fragrance-free Certain Dri, are available in various fragrances.
Deodorants and antiperspirants targeted specifically toward men or women don't differ much when it comes to formula -- compare the ingredient lists, and you'll see that they're practically identical. Where they do differ is in configuration -- women's applicator tips are generally smaller, men's larger and wider -- and fragrance options. Deodorants for women typically feature "light, fresh or flower scents;" those for men invoke manlier smells.
Those who don't suffer from heavy sweating don't need the strongest antiperspirants. Most standard deodorant/antiperspirants also contain aluminum-based compounds to block sweat ducts, although generally at lower doses. Among those targeted at women, none earns more praise than Secret Clinical Strength Smooth Solid (Est. $10), which combines its active ingredient (20 percent Aluminum Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex GLY) with skin-soothing conditioners to avoid irritating sensitive underarm skin. "This nearly prescription-strength formula won't irritate," according to editors at RealSimple.com. "Apply it in the p.m. to give the sweat-stopping salts a chance to sink in." It comes in several of different scents as well as a hypoallergenic, unscented formulation.
Despite its name, it's actually not a solid but a gel-like substance that is dispensed through holes in the top of the applicator. Offering up to 48 hours of odor protection, Secret Clinical Strength Smooth Solid is waterproof, meaning it won't lose its effectiveness during a day at the pool or beach – or when you shower after a rigorous workout. It's also adaptive; when the active ingredient is exposed to perspiration, the pH of the solution increases, prompting the formation of plugs in your sweat ducts.
Of the hundreds of reviews we evaluated, most say that Secret Clinical Strength Smooth Solid is the only deodorant/antiperspirant they've found that works after having suffered from excessive sweating and body odor for years. A few report that they've tried other Secret deodorant products in the past without success but were pleasantly surprised at how well this formulation works.
One downside reported by several consumers is that the dial on the bottom of the applicator is difficult to turn. This may be attributable to the fact that the product is meant to be used sparingly; however, a few users say it became so cumbersome that they ended up throwing the product away before using it all. Additionally, contrary to RealSimple.com's assertion that it's non-irritating, a few users do say it caused underarm irritation, and there are a few reports of discoloration on both underarms and the armpits of clothing after continued use. However, other users point out that many of these gripes are avoidable if the directions are followed precisely: applying it in the evening, every other day.
If your skin tends to be intolerant of clinical-strength deodorant/antiperspirants, Dove Advanced Care Antiperspirant (Est. $4) is another option that comes in several scents, such as Shea Butter, Cool Essentials and Powder Soft, as well as a formulation designed specifically for sensitive skin, Dove Advanced Care Sensitive Antiperspirant (Est. $4). Like Secret Clinical Strength Smooth Solid, Dove Advanced Care Antiperspirant offers 48-hour protection. It contains zero alcohol, which can contribute to irritation in some deodorants, plus it has Dove NutriumMoisture and is one-quarter moisturizers to minimize irritation and even soothe underarm skin after shaving. It contains the same active ingredient as Secret's Clinical Strength Smooth Solid, Aluminum Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex GLY, but only 15.2 percent compared to Secret's 20 percent.
Thousands of consumers review Dove Advanced Care Antiperspirant across several retail sites, where it earns very high average ratings. Most say the scents are mild and lasts throughout the day. A few users say they have sensitive skin and haven't experienced any itchiness, rashes or bumps after using this product, although like most deodorants, there are a few users who do report experiencing some irritation. Users say Dove Advanced Care Antiperspirant has a creamy texture that goes on smoothly without leaving any stickiness or sliminess behind. We saw plenty of comments from people who say they've used this brand for more than a year and are pleased with its performance.
When it comes to antiperspirant products targeted specifically to men, TheActiveTimes.com recommends Dove Men+ Care Cool Silver Antiperspirant Stick (Est. $7). They note that, while it contains the least amount of active ingredients (like Dove Advanced Care Antiperspirant for women, it contains 15.2 percent Aluminum Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex GLY) among the deodorants they tested, it kept testers dry even during long, strenuous bike rides. Dove Men+ Care actually comes in four scents: Fresh Awake, Extra Fresh and Clean Comfort, in addition to the top-rated Cool Silver version, although they contain slightly different ingredients, such as specific fragrance ingredients.
The four different Dove Men+ Care scents earn kudos from reviewers who weigh in at retail sites all offer 48-hour protection, and like Dove Advanced Care Antiperspirant for women, contain one-quarter moisturizer to minimize irritation and soothe skin. However, Dove Men+ Care's Cool Silver scent is the only formulation containing Dove's silver technology, which editors at TheActiveTimes.com suspect may contribute to the effectiveness of this particular formulation. "Maybe it's the new ‘silver technology,' though the label lists silver chloride as an inactive ingredient," editors explain. "It's a bit of a head-scratcher, but we're going to trust our pits in this case."
Hundreds of consumers review Dove Men+ Care Cool Silver at several retail sites, where most say it goes on clean, has a pleasant scent that lasts all day, and leaves them feeling fresh even after a full workday or a sweaty workout. While some reviewers say they prefer the Extra Fresh scent (and some even say the Extra Fresh formulation seems to last longer), most agree that Dove Men+ Care leaves their delicate underarm skin feeling soft, dry, smooth and fresh, with no irritation or clumping.
However, like all deodorants, there are a few isolated complaints of irritation and allergic reactions to Cool Silver as well as the other scents. Some users find that switching to another scent eliminates irritation, which indicates a possible allergy or reaction to certain fragrance ingredients.
If you need a bit more sweat protection, Degree Men Dry Protection Antiperspirant Deodorant (Est. $15), an invisible solid, contains more active ingredients than Dove Men+ Care (18.2 percent Aluminum Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex GLY). It comes in five scents: Cool Comfort, Sport, Clean, Cool Rush and Extreme Blast. For men who prefer spray deodorant, Degree Men Dry Protection is also available in an aerosol formulation, Degree Men Dry Protection Sport (Est. $7).
Most users are very pleased with Degree Men Dry Protection saying it's non-irritating and keeps the sweat at bay during a full day of work or vigorous physical activity. Most also note that it goes on smoothly without leaving their armpits feeling sticky, although there are those who bed to differ, complaining that it leaves residue in the underarm area. A few report that they had to throw shirts away because this deodorant bleached the armpits. Some who swear by this deodorant say they've used for years. We also saw a number of comments from those who say that they used to have to apply deodorant more than once throughout the day – but after switching to this brand, they're able to apply deodorant only once in the morning for lasting dryness and freshness all day. We also saw a few reviewer comments that, despite it being labeled for men, Degree Men Dry Protection is great for women, as well, particularly in the more unisex scents like Clean.