Ever since you first hit puberty and started to notice your body odor (and realized it wasn’t the best smelling thing in the world), you’ve probably wondered what the difference between deodorant and antiperspirant is. Or maybe not. As dermatologist Dr. Terrence Keaney told GQ, “Men [and women] often think that deodorant and antiperspirant are the same products with different looks — white vs. clear.” He continued, “In reality, they have very different functions.” Here’s the difference.
As Dr. Jennifer Chwalek, a board-certified dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York, explained to Byrdie, antiperspirants “usually contain aluminum compounds that when absorbed temporarily block the sweat gland and reduce moisture.” Basically, they’re “ideal for those who want to decrease wetness or feel they sweat more than usual,” Kiran Mian, D.O., a dermatologist in New York, told INSIDER. In other words, whether it’s in a stick or spray format, antiperspirants stop you from getting sweaty.
Antiperspirant blocks sweat, while deodorant combats odor
Deodorant, on the other hand, directly combats and masks odor. As Dr. Corey Hartman, dermatologist and spokesperson for Old Spice, told The Manual, “Our underarms are prone to moisture and odor. Deodorant fights the odor that comes when sweat mixes with bacteria.” Mia Saini Duchnowski, co-founder and CEO of Oars+Alps, agreed, explaining, “Deodorant includes ingredients that kill the bacteria that [actually] lead to underarm odor.”
But is one a safer way to reduce your body odor than the other? “In general, deodorants and antiperspirants are safe products for most people in good health to use,” Dr. Michele Green, a board-certified dermatologist specializing in cosmetic dermatology in New York, told Byrdie. However, it’s good to be aware that aluminum found in most antiperspirants can be harmful to anyone with kidney problems. “Excess aluminum is usually filtered out of your body by your kidneys and so, people with weakened kidney function can’t filter aluminum fast enough.”
If you’re in that camp, it might be time to look for an alternative to deodorant or antiperspirant.
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