Types of Deodorant
Despite popular belief, sweat doesn't actually cause body odor; the odor is produced when bacteria breaks down sweat. That's where deodorant comes in. Applied to the skin (typically the underarms), deodorant contains antibacterial and other ingredients that hinder the bacteria that break down sweat and cause the odor, effectively stopping body odor before it starts. Some deodorants also contain scents to help mask body odor. Deodorant does not, however, prevent you from sweating.
Antiperspirants use aluminum-based ingredients to create temporary plugs in the sweat ducts, reducing underarm sweating. They don't mask or reduce odor directly. However, because body odor is caused by the bacterial breakdown of sweat, you may experience less body odor as a result of not sweating as much. Antiperspirants are often used by people who sweat profusely and want to avoid the embarrassment of sweat-soaked armpits. Most, but not all, mass-produced products include both antiperspirant and deodorant ingredients for maximum odor- and sweat-fighting protection.
These products don't contain aluminum or other chemical ingredients found in traditional deodorants and antiperspirants. Some people opt for natural deodorants because they want to avoid aluminum and other chemicals, while others find that they're sensitive to certain ingredients commonly used in traditional deodorants/antiperspirants and turn to natural deodorants as a result. Natural deodorants won't stop you from sweating, but they can help to reduce odor.
Types of Deodorant Applicators
Using deodorant to mask odors isn't a
new concept for most, but hundreds of years ago, before regular bathing became
commonplace, people used heavy colognes to mask B.O. It wasn't until the early
1800s that chemists began making products that could prevent body odor and
sweating. The earliest manufacturers of antiperspirants made extremely messy
pastes and creams that were difficult to apply.
Mass-produced aluminum-based products came about more than 100 years ago. They
came in the form of creams, solids, pads, dabbers, roll-ons and powders. Over
time, the popularity of some of the application types waned. Today deodorants
come in a variety of forms and formulas:
- Solid sticks are the most popular form of deodorant/antiperspirants. They
typically don't leave the skin wet after application, and usually come in a
solid white or clear formula. Some solid sticks tend to leave white residue
behind on clothing.
- Gels are applied in a similar way to solid sticks, but they go on
clear. The gel formula is generally pushed up through holes or slits in the
applicator. Gels are wet when applied and require a few minutes to dry.
- Roll-ons feature a ball at the top of the bottle that can be rolled to
evenly distribute the product, which is usually light and gel-like.
- Creams and
lotions must be applied with the fingertips to
the underarms, although some lotions come in spray bottles. These usually
require a few minutes of drying.
- Deodorant sprays come in aerosol cans and typically go on dry.
What's in Your Deodorant?
Sweaty -- and stinky -- pits at the
gym are commonplace, but sweaty situations can occur anytime and anyplace,
whether you like it or not. Believe it or not, perspiration is actually good
for you; it's a natural function that cools the body down. Although it is
blamed for foul body odor, normal perspiration itself doesn't have much scent
at all. Bad odors are usually produced by bacteria living on the surface of the
skin, which thrives on sweat.
However, sweat from stress is a
different matter. It comes on fast, can be hard to control and does give off a
foul odor. That's because, when you're nervous or excited, you sweat from
apocrine glands located in your underarms and pubic region. Secretions from
normal sweat glands (eccrine glands) are watery and mostly odorless, but
apocrine secretions contain 20 percent fat and protein; bacteria thrive on the
stuff, and you're left dealing with the pungent odor.
There are two key factors that affect
people's favorability when it comes to deodorant: One is performance, and the
other is feel and smell. Most over-the-counter antiperspirants/deodorants
contain an aluminum-based active ingredient that blocks the pores to stop
sweat. Some of the most common active ingredients you'll find when browsing for
antiperspirants in the supermarket include:
zirconium trichlorohydrex glycine
zirconium octachlorohydrex glycine
Most over-the-counter antiperspirants
contain between 10 and 20 percent of their active ingredient; FDA restrictions
cap that level to between 15 and 25 percent, depending on the specific type of
active ingredient. Clinical strength formulas stay within over-the-counter
guidelines but aim to provide comparable wetness protection to prescription
products. Certain Dri Clinical Strength Roll-on, for example, contains 12
percent aluminum chloride.
Most of the deodorant/antiperspirant
lines we reviewed come in a wide range of scents; there is usually more variety
among women's deodorants than men's. It's important to note the distinction
between "unscented" and "fragrance-free": unscented
products do contain fragrance additives (to mask the chemical smell of other
ingredients), while fragrance-free products do not.
Finding The Best Deodorant
"9 Natural Deodorants That Will Stand Up to Even Your Sweatiest Workout"
"Sweat-Tested: The Best Antiperspirant Deodorants"
"Do Natural Deodorants Really Work? We Put 8 Different Brands to the Test"
Deodorant is a widely-used product available in multiple forms and myriad scents
(including none at all) with varying ingredients. We found ample expert reviews
comparing the performance of traditional deodorants, antiperspirants, and
natural deodorants at WellandGood.com, TheActiveTimes.com, InStyle.com, RealSimple.com
and TotalBeauty.com, among others. We also consulted thousands of user reviews
at sites like Amazon.com and Walgreens.com, where users offer feedback on
performance in real-world scenarios as well as insights such as whether they
experienced reactions to certain ingredients or whether a deodorant brand is
likely to stain clothing. We combine expert and user feedback to come up with
our recommendations for the best deodorant and antiperspirant for men and women
and the best natural deodorant.