Even though some people use these terms interchangeably, there is a difference between a deodorant and an antiperspirant.
Deodorant is meant is meant for fighting body odor. Sweat does not smell. It is both colorless and odorless. Body odor occurs when your sweat mixes with the bacteria on your skin. Deodorants contain antibacterial properties that kill bacteria that cause bad odor. However, it cannot protect you against perspiration.
You can differentiate a deodorant from an antiperspirant by looking at the ingredients in each. The typical deodorant contains antibacterial agents as well as fragrances to combat bacteria that cause bad odor. The most common antibacterial agent in most deodorants is alcohol. However, natural deodorants also come with ingredients such as baking soda, activated charcoal, and coconut oil.
Antiperspirants, as the name indicates, are meant to combat or reduce sweating. They contain aluminum as an active ingredient and they work by temporarily plugging sweat glands on your skin. This way, they block skin pores to reduce the amount of sweat that seeps through. Antiperspirants also contain deodorizing ingredients that help reduce body odor.
Because antiperspirants inhibit the natural process of sweat production, they are classified as drugs by the FDA.
While other natural ingredients like mineral salts, witch hazel, talc, hops, and baking soda can reduce sweat, aluminum is the only FDA recognized ingredient for antiperspirants.
Ingredients present in deodorants and antiperspirants
Deodorants and antiperspirants, as already indicated, contain several ingredients that combine to give you that fresh and good smell. Here are the main ingredients in these cosmetic products:
Aluminum salts are the primary ingredients in antiperspirants. As already mentioned, they work to inhibit sweat from reaching the skin surface. Aerosols and roll-ons contain aluminum chlorohydrate, while gels, sticks, and other solid antiperspirant products contain aluminum zirconium. These salts are safe and effective at controlling sweat. Aluminum chloride is a strong aluminum salt used for treating people with excessive sweating problems.
The skin hosts bacteria that feed on sweat while producing a bad odor. Antimicrobial agents on deodorants and antiperspirants kill these bacteria to ensure that you stay odor-free through your day.
Most deodorants and antiperspirants are made with fragrances to provide a fresh feeling while masking body odor. Some antiperspirant brands also come with emollient oils to soothe and soften the skin. Conditioners used in antiperspirants include vegetable derived oils like glycerin.
For an antiperspirant to apply effectively onto the skin, it needs to be held by a carrying structure. This can be in the form of liquids used in aerosols or solids used in sticks. Most antiperspirants use water as a carrier. Solid antiperspirants, on the other hand, use hydrogenated castor oil or disteardimonium hectorite as carrier substances. Some antiperspirants also contain ingredients called PEG-8 distearate which make them easier to wash off at the end of the day.
Aerosol antiperspirants are meant to work via a thin film that attaches on to the skin. To create this film, antiperspirants contain pressure propellants that release a strong, yet comfortable spray into the skin. These propellants are commonly propane, butane, and isobutene.
Alcohol is a major ingredient in most aerosols, roll-ons, and gels. Alcohol is used to dissolve active ingredients in deodorants and antiperspirants because it dries quickly upon application onto the skin to give a sense of coolness.
Other ingredients found in over the counter deodorants include:
Deodorants allow the body to sweat freely. Additionally, they are created to kill bacteria that cause unpleasant body odor. This implies that deodorants do not affect the body’s sweat process. Remember, sweating is a vital physiological process. Sweating helps cleanse the body of some wastes. Antiperspirants, on the other hand, block the skin spores to prevent them from releasing sweat onto the skin surface. This could inhibit your body’s ability to cool itself or release wastes.
The primary concern in antiperspirants is that aluminum-based compounds can be absorbed into the skin to cause health complications. A study conducted in early 2000 found an increase in the number of breast cancer cases among people who use antiperspirants on their body often. Research is still ongoing to establish how these aluminum compounds interact with the body.
Another chemical group that is causing health alarm is the phthalates, particularly dibutyl phthalate and diethyl phthalate. Studies have established that these compounds, like aluminum, are absorbed through into the skin and are capable of disrupting the endocrine system. Experts believe phthalates too can be cancerous.
The third set of compounds that experts are concerned about are the parabens. These antibacterial chemicals too get absorbed into the body where studies have shown that they are capable of mimicking estrogen. High concentrations of parabens in the body can increase your risk of developing breast and skin cancers.
Body odor is caused by bacteria that feed on your sweat, and the armpits provide the perfect habitat for these bacteria. Deodorants and antiperspirants are designed to destroy these bacteria in order to leave you with a fresh and pleasant smell. That said, the choice between a deodorant and an antiperspirant depends entirely on your personal preference. Both deodorants and antiperspirants work, albeit in different ways. So, if you are the type that does not like feeling wet under your arms, then your best bet is clearly an antiperspirant. However, if you are concerned about having sweat clog your pores, then consider going for a deodorant.