Antiperspirants vs deodorants: what to consider when choosing between the two

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A good choice between antiperspirants and deodorants can help keep your armpits dry. (PHOTO: Gallo Images / Getty Images)
A good choice between antiperspirants and deodorants can help keep your armpits dry. (PHOTO: Gallo Images / Getty Images)

There are two reasons we habitually apply a barrier to our underarms: sweat and smell. You wouldn't be the first to assume that the former causes the latter, which means you're not the first to be wrong.

Sweat actually doesn't smell. It's the bacteria that builds up in that little crevice we call an armpit that causes the pong. Of course, this doesn't take perspiration off the hook – no one likes to look down and discover that telltale half circle of darkened material on their shirt.

What's the difference between antiperspirants and deodorants?

While their names indicate their differences (antiperspirant and deodorising), they have somehow slipped into the same column. Deodorants have antibacterial agents that help reduce and mask body odour, whereas antiperspirants reduce sweat by using aluminium salts to clog pores and trap perspiration. Some brands combine the two.

j lo, jennifer lopez
It’s hot under the spotlight as Jennifer Lopez let slip at the Golden Globes. (PHOTO: Gallo Images / Getty Images)

Unless you've gone as far as Botoxing your underarms (to combat excessive sweating) or are a no-sweat fluke of nature, deodorants have been a constant companion since the age of 14. You're either in team roll-on or team spray, but not all deodorants are on par.

We know you have better things to do than scour through every product on the shelf, so we've worked up a sweat for you. Whatever your underarm gripe, there's an easy solution.

megan markle, duchess of sussex
• Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex feeling the heat on a visit to Canada House London in January last year. (PHOTO: Gallo Images / Getty Images)


Try: roll-on or stick

The gel, cream or wax formulas roll onto your armpits and work better as an antiperspirant than a deodorant alone. Many also have moisturising agents that can help soothe the underarms. However, if you have severely irritated skin, ask a dermatologist for advice.

Added benefits Great for air travel and less offensive to your fellow gym-goers in the changing room

Cons Avoid if you're in a rush. They take longer to dry than spray deodorants and can be sticky.

actress, halle berry
Actress Halle Berry looked hot in more ways than one at this red-carpet event. (PHOTO: Gallo Images / Getty Images)

Sweat stains

Try: aerosol

Using pressurised gas, the formula sprays directly and evenly onto your armpit and often contains a scent to mask body odour. Because of the even distribution, your underarms are more protected against perspiration, plus aerosols dry faster, so they won't transfer onto clothing.

Added benefits Perfect for quick top-ups and can double as a body spray.

Cons If you don't shake them well enough, you can end up with talc-like residue on the armpits (not good for an LBD!). It can also annoy passers-by who happen to get caught in the line of spray fire.

miranda kerr, model
• Model Miranda Kerr probably needed a bit of the Victoria’s Secret perfume she was promoting at this event. (PHOTO: Gallo Images / Getty Images)

Chemical sensitivity

Try: natural brands (free of parabens)

Natural brands generally use ingredients like citrus and oils to remove odour and are free from aluminium (the yellow-staining culprit) and other commonly used chemicals. You could even try apple cider vinegar. Yep, we're totally serious – ACV works to absorb and neutralise body odour when dabbed on with a cotton swab. While it won't block your body's ability to sweat (although some prefer this method for that very reason), it does work for the smell. The vinegary scent only lasts until it's dry.

Added benefits Paraben-free products are not only kind on the environment, they also help reduce chemical contact on skin.

Cons Prolonged use can cause staining, and scented oils can irritate broken skin.



Yellow staining on clothes is caused by sweat mixing with aluminium in antiperspirants. Opt for aluminium-free products if you're tired of removing stains.

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