Deodorant vs. Antiperspirant: Yes, There is a Difference!

deodorant vs. antiperspirant difference between deodorant and antiperspirant

Sure, you might think you know exactly what your deodorant is about — its smooth finish, crisp scent, and your go-to product before a hot yoga class. But if Trivia Night was on the line and your team was counting on you, would you be able to describe the difference between deodorant and antiperspirant? 

Deodorant vs. Antiperspirant: Different Products for Different Purposes

The biggest difference between deodorant and antiperspirant comes down to what purpose they serve. Deodorant is designed to protect against any unpleasant odor that escapes from your underarms. Now, take note here: that doesn’t mean deodorant prevents sweat in any way. What that *does* mean is that deodorant offers a range of ways to protect you from odor. Some deodorants actually prevent the gamey smell, while others simply mask or cover up the unwanted scent. 

Antiperspirants, on the other hand, are designed to prevent sweating and odor — the best of both worlds, right? 

Well, kind of. In the United States, antiperspirants are required to use one of several approved aluminum compounds (like aluminum chloride, aluminum chlorohydrate, or aluminum zirconium) as an active ingredient. These aluminum salts form temporary plugs in the upper part of your pores to create a physical barrier that prevents you from sweating through those ducts ... so you stay dry. Remember, at its core, odor is a combination of sweat mixing with bacteria — so by preventing sweat, you prevent that odor from building up too. The plugs then fade away when you wash yourself or when your skin naturally renews—simple enough, right? 

Not exactly. Because sweat is your body’s way of eliminating toxins, that plug effect might make your body reabsorb those same toxins you naturally try to expel — potentially disrupting your natural endocrine system (aka your hormones). Plus, there is some concern about how aluminum in deodorant may be harmful. Some studies suggest that if your body is absorbing this aluminum, that exposure may contribute to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s or cancer (but bear in mind, more research needs to be done on the subject).

Even beyond avoiding aluminum, the United States is notorious for being super lax on regulating personal care and cosmetics products; in fact, many ingredients banned in places like the European Union and Canada are used frequently in mainstream deodorant and antiperspirant in the U.S. So, it’s in your best interest to be a conscious consumer and read the ingredient labels on your personal care products, prioritizing those that are non-toxic and clean.

But wait, you might be asking. I thought natural deodorant was what all the experts said I should be using? First, know your deo definitions: natural deodorant usually means a deodorant that’s made primarily from natural ingredients, and without harmful ingredients like parabens, aluminum, or synthetic fragrances. But since the term ‘natural’ is also not regulated in the US, some brands have a, lets just say ‘looser’, interpretation of what natural deodorant should contain. Also, natural deodorants often heavily rely on ingredients like baking soda, which can irritate sensitive underarm skin — giving you a painful reminder of your deodorant choice every time you move.

Non-toxic, meanwhile, means that the ingredients have been thoroughly tested and vetted for toxicity, which is really important for products like deodorant that go directly onto your skin. While it’s important to include natural ingredients whenever possible, we also think there’s room to use non-toxic synthetic ingredients that live up to our high standards and help deliver a better deodorant. 

And to that, we say better safe than sorry — and hand us our safe deodorant, please.

Should I Use Deodorant or Antiperspirant?

Maybe you’re one of those one-in-a million humans who just naturally doesn’t sweat much. We have some questions: first of all, who are you? And secondly, do you live in an arctic tundra? If that’s the case, then any old natural deodorant might be just fine to carry you through the day stink free.

But if you’ve got a morning spin class followed by lunch al fresco and capped off with your kickball league in the evening, you’re going to want something that will keep you fresh AND something that’s aluminum free. Enter: a sweat-activated deodorant, made with clean, non-toxic ingredients. It’s a win-win situation; you get to run around doing the things you love most, without constantly reapplying deodorant or worrying about what’s *actually* in that stick. 

The main difference between deodorant and antiperspirant comes down to purpose. If you need to hide odor, choose a natural deodorant; if you need to combat sweat, we’d recommend a clean, sweat-activated deodorant over an antiperspirant with aluminum. Now, go get your sweat on - safely.

Now that you know the difference between deodorant and antiperspirant, it's time to give our safe, sweat-activated deodorant a try.


Written by Kristen Geil