We’ve all had that moment whether it’s at work, in a restaurant, or at the gym… you get a whiff of something that makes you reel your head back from the stench as you try to hold your breath till the foul odor passes. The fact is, all people do it… and it stinks! But, you don’t have to. What am I talking about? Sweat! Nothing smells worse than stinky, smelly sweat. Protect yourself from stinky, sweaty armpits, no matter what situation you find yourself in.

Most people find an antiperspirant or deodorant they like and they buy it over and over again; because, it works. There are so many different brands, and types of antiperspirants and deodorants on the market to choose from it can be hard to make a decision.

So, why do we sweat in the first place? What’s the difference between antiperspirant and deodorant? Keep reading to find out.

Stress Sweat

You’re giving a speech in front of a large audience, or waiting for the doctor to give you the results from your latest lab tests, or maybe you’re scrambling during test time… The trigger may be different from person to person; but, the results are the same – you break out in a sudden sweat that drenches your clothes and makes you wreak! It’s not just any ordinary sweat, it’s a full body phenomenon known as “Stress Sweat”. Nervous excitement causes adrenaline and cortisol to rush into the bloodstream, raising your heart rate and unleashing an instantaneous torrent of sweat from your eccrine glands and apocrine glands, located in your armpits and pubic region. (1)

Eww. What’s That Smell?

Our bodies contain millions of glands some of those glands are sweat glands. The average person has 2.6 million sweat glands. We have between 25,000 and 50,000 sweat glands in our armpits alone. Sweat is made up of water and electrolytes such as sodium, chloride, and potassium. When the hypothalamus (an area in the brain responsible for “homeostasis” or regulation) senses an increase in core body temperature it increases blood flow to your skin by stimulating sweat glands. The result is sweating, an increase in the rate of water lost. The sweat glands in our armpits produce sweat to help cool us off. The average person produces 1 liter of sweat a day. Underarm sweat is only a small portion of what we sweat out through our skin each day. When you sweat, you feed the bacteria that exists naturally on your skin. It’s the sweat being broken down (digestion) by the bacteria on our skin that produces an unpleasant aroma that we all know as Body Odor or B.O. (2)

Deodorants Mask Odors

Deodorant can help combat bodily odors, by masking odors. Sweat happens, because it’s your body’s way of getting rid of toxins. Sweating helps regulate your body temperature. Deodorants won’t stop you from sweating but they can give you peace of mind and keep you smelling fresh. Most deodorant is usually only designed to control odor, but some types of deodorant also include antiperspirant ingredients that help stop or lessen sweating and wetness. Others are designed to kill the bacteria that reacts when we sweat; thereby, eliminating the problem at its source. (3)

Types of Deodorants

dove-deodorantStick and powder deodorants are called “dry” deodorants because they do not leave the skin wet after they are applied. Products in stick form are generally solid white or clear and are rubbed on the armpits. Powder deodorant is sprinkled or patted on, and is typically made out of the same ingredients as stick deodorants; but, without the silicone or fatty substances that bind them together. Gel deodorant is applied similarly to the stick deodorants; but, comes in a thick gel that can be pushed up through holes or slits in the top of its container. (4)

How do Antiperspirants Work?

An antiperspirant typically contains aluminum salts, which dissolve in sweat or moisture on the skin’s surface. The dissolved substance antiperspirant forms a small temporary ‘plug’ near the top of the sweat gland, significantly reducing the amount of sweat that is secreted near the skin’s surface. Antiperspirants can be washed off; some antiperspirants are easier to wash off than others. Re-application of antiperspirants can be beneficial to help reduce sweating and keep you feeling fresh throughout the day. Antiperspirants reduce underarm sweating; but, they do not impact the natural ability of our body’s to regulate body temperature. (5)

Antiperspirants Prevent Sweating

Antiperspirant does just what it sounds like it does – it eliminates sweat. Antiperspirants stop you from perspiring or sweating, at least where it’s applied and when it’s used. When there’s no sweat, you don’t have to worry about stinky armpits or embarrassing bodily odors. (6)

What’s that and Why is It in My Antiperspirant?

  • Aluminum: aluminum compounds are the most widely used active ingredient because it effectively plugs sweat glands.
  • Parabens: preservatives that help keep cosmetic products free of bacteria.
  • Fragrance: we associate pleasant smells with cleanliness.
  • Emollient oil: moisturizers like castor oil, mineral oil, or sunflower oil are mixed in to help the product roll or glide on smoothly. Emollients also keep the product from flaking once it dries on your skin.
  • Alcohol: oftentimes active ingredients are dissolved in alcohol; because, it dries quickly and feels cool when applied.
  • Polyethylene glycol (PEG) distearates: an emulsifying ingredient that makes it easier to wash off.
  • BHT (Butylated hydroxytoluene): prevents or slows deterioration of antiperspirant ingredients when it’s exposed to oxygen.
  • Talc: Absorbs moisture and oil, protects skin by reducing underarm friction and chaffing. Helps skin feel dry. (7)

Health Risks: Fact or Fiction?

Rumors have circulated on the Web for years that aluminum in antiperspirants can raise a person’s risk of breast cancer and Alzheimer’s disease if the compounds are absorbed through pores or enter the skin due to shaving. However, “There’s no scientific evidence to suggest that antiperspirant ingredients pose any sort of health risk,” says David Pariser, MD, Professor of Dermatology at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk. “These are urban legends that people keep perpetuating.”

Several small studies found traces of parabens in breast cancer tumors, suggesting that they may have weak estrogen-like effects if absorbed through the skin. However, the study did not find that parabens caused breast cancer, or that these parabens were from antiperspirants. (8)

Antiperspirant or Deodorant?

It’s always a good choice to choose products with natural ingredients when they are an option. There are a number of natural deodorants and even natural antiperspirants to choose from. Tom’s of Maine makes both deodorants and antiperspirants. Baking soda is inexpensive, natural and can be used as a natural deodorant. Organic and natural brand deodorants don’t typically contain the aluminum ingredients that stop sweating because they can irritate people with sensitive skin and are believed by some to be a health risk. (9)

I challenge you to take a look at the health and beauty aisle next time you’re in the store. Instead of your same old antiperspirant or deodorant, look at the variety of antiperspirants and deodorants available and decide for yourself what’s right for you, your body and your needs.


When it comes to deodorants and antiperspirants we can all agree there are numerous options out there to choose from. I encourage you to do your own research and take a look at the ingredients on your current antiperspirant or deodorant and reevaluate whether it meets your needs sufficiently and ensure that it’s the healthiest choice for you.

Remember, don’t be a stinker! Find the antiperspirant or deodorant that’s right for you.