For people who sweat a lot, sometimes a regular deodorant doesn’t cut it.
Instead of just covering up body odor, you need to fight it at its source.
The way to do that is with an antiperspirant–these are distinguished from regular deodorants by virtue of the fact that they include compounds (typically aluminum salts) that physically block sweat pores from secreting sweat.
Less sweat means less bacteria, and hence less odor, in addition to the obvious benefit of less underarm sweat excretion.
Need a reliable antiperspirant? Our researchers looked into the best antiperspirants on the market and ranked them according to their quality.
1. Speed Stick Power Unscented
Speed Stick Power is the top unscented antiperspirant on account of its reliability and sweat-blocking power. It uses aluminum zirconium to plug sweat glands and prevent excess sweating, without any added scents or perfumes.
This should be the antiperspirant of choice if you like to wear cologne or perfume, because Speed Stick Power Unscented won’t interfere with the scent. It does one thing, which is block sweat, and it does it well.
2. Secret Clinical Strength
Secret Clinical Strength is specially formulated for women who sweat a lot but still have to have their underarms visible.
Unlike some other antiperspirants, which leave chunks of white material under your arms, Secret Clinical Strength is designed to be deposited in a clear, invisible layer on your skin.
The clinical strength version is fully 20% aluminium zirconium, so you know it has the requisite sweat stopping power that you are looking for.
3. SweatBlock Clinical Strength Antiperspirant
SweatBlock is an unscented antiperspirant that comes in a fairly high 14% concentration of aluminum zirconium. It’s pretty simplistic on the design front, with few extraneous ingredients other than what’s necessary to make up the rest of the formulation. It’s a bit unusual in that it comes in the form of a package of single-use wipes instead of a stick formulation.
Some people do report that it causes burning or an underarm rash; this is probably going to depend on how your individual skin chemistry interacts with the antiperspirant in SweatBlock.
4. Tom’s of Maine Women’s Antiperspirant Deodorant
Tom’s of Maine fills a rare category: all-natural antiperspirants. Usually all-natural enthusiast opt for a deodorant that doesn’t have an antiperspirant ingredient because of worries about the health effects of aluminum, but Tom’s of Maine realizes that not everybody has this luxury. Some people who sweat a lot need an antiperspirant to get through the day, but would still like to keep it as natural as possible.
To this end, Tom’s of Maine uses naturally-sourced aluminum chlorohydrate to block sweat pores. It also uses naturally sourced ingredients like palm kernel oil to condition and soothe the skin, making this antiperspirant less likely to cause side effects like itching, burning and irritation. The flip side of this is that some people find the consistency chalky and the potency lacking.
5. Degree Men Dry Protection
If you are looking for something a little more exciting than unscented antiperspirant, Degree has got you covered. Their Dry Protection formulation for men comes in several different scents, all of them geared towards men. For a mainstream product, it’s pretty strong; it contains 18% aluminum zirconium.
This is only slightly lower than some of the clinical strength antiperspirants on the market. Degree Men Dry Protection is a good combination of sweat stopping power and odor-covering scents that are geared especially for men.
6. ZeroSweat Antiperspirant
ZeroSweat claims that its formulation, based on aluminum chloride, can last up to seven days. To accomplish this, it uses a very high concentration of aluminum chloride.
The majority of users love it, finding that it indeed can block sweat for several days at a time. However, the high concentration of the active ingredient leads to irritation and burns on some people’s skin.
ZeroSweat is a great option if you really need a heavy hitting antiperspirant to shut down underarm sweating, but only people who really need this level of power should opt for it, at least for starters.
7. Certain Dri Prescription Strength Clinical
Certain Dri breaks from the back and uses aluminum chloride instead of aluminum zirconium as its sweat blocking agent.
This might make it work better for people whom aluminum zirconium antiperspirants have failed, but there also may be more of a concern with regards to side effects with this ingredient.
Like with other antiperspirants, some users complain about itching, rashes, redness, and irritation in their armpit after application. These problems seem especially severe for those with sensitive skin.
8. Driclor Roll-on Antiperspirant
Driclor is a highly potent aluminum chloride based antiperspirants. At 20% aluminum chloride content, it’s the highest concentration chloride-based antiperspirant on the market, which has advantages and disadvantages.
If you have extremely bad underarm sweating, this might be a lifesaver. However, such a high concentration of the active ingredient surely increases the risk of an adverse reaction or negative side effects compared to a more middle of the road antiperspirant.
For this reason, Driclor should probably only be reserved for people who have not had success with other antiperspirants. Still,it fills a critical niche in the market, and those who need it really appreciate the sweat stopping power of Driclor.
9. Dove Clinical Protection
Dove Clinical Protection combines the antiperspirant power of a 20% aluminum zirconium concentration with moisturizing agents to soothe skin.
However, these moisturizers aren’t particularly high quality; it’s mostly paraffin, wax, and sunflower seed oil. If you were hoping for high quality natural oils to moisturize your underarm, you’ll be sorely disappointed.
Still, Dove Clinical Protection provides a light, pleasant fragrance that sets it apart from many of the unscented antiperspirants, so it will appeal to some people.
10. Gillette Clear Gel
Gillette branches out from shaving to antiperspirants with a moderate-strength aluminum zirconium based antiperspirant.
It’s fairly popular, but it’s lacking in most areas–it’s not particularly strong, but it also doesn’t have any qualities that might reduce skin irritation. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Gillette Clear Gel has denatured alcohol as its second ingredient, making it quite likely that the drying effect of this alcohol will have negative effects on your skin, especially if it’s sensitive. Despite the popularity of this antiperspirant, it’s better to look elsewhere at first.
Who should buy antiperspirants?
If you sweat a lot, whether from exercise, heat, or nervousness, you’re a prime candidate for an antiperspirant.
While a standard deodorant attempts to either reduce the number of active bacteria in your armpits, or cover the smell they make with other chemicals, an antiperspirant is the only way to actually reduce the amount of sweat that you produce.
Even a natural deodorant covers the smell of your sweat, it won’t reduce the amount of sweat that you produce. If you find yourself sweating through shirts, an antiperspirant is the best way to prevent this from happening.
Some people even use a standard deodorant most of the time, but switch to an antiperspirant when they need to avoid excessive sweat—like when giving a presentation or going to a job interview.
While some people have expressed concern over the use of aluminum in antiperspirants, the absolute amount of aluminum that gets absorbed into your body is very small, and it’s not clear to what extent, if at all, this poses any real threat.
If controlling sweat is a bigger priority for you, use an antiperspirant. If you put natural compounds at the very top of your priority list, you should opt for a natural deodorant instead.
How we ranked
Since antiperspirants are the only way to control excessive sweating, we sought out the most concentrated and most effective antiperspirant products.
Some brands are a little sloppy with their marketing, because many people think deodorants and antiperspirants are the same thing.
To address this problem, we only considered products that had actual antiperspirant ingredients, like aluminium zirconium, which can plug sweat glands and reduce the sweat excreted by your body.
Within these antiperspirants, we analyzed the potency of the chemical formulation. As a result of this, clinical-strength preparations scored better: they had higher concentrations of antiperspirants, and as a result, can block sweat more effectively.
While blocking sweat is obviously the goal of an antiperspirant, people with sensitive skin often find that antiperspirant sticks can aggravate their skin, causing redness, dryness, or burning.
To mitigate some of these side effects, we also considered the presence of emollients and other moisturizers in an antiperspirant’s formulation when ranking the candidate products. Ingredients like palm oil or sunflower seed oil helped a product climb higher in the rankings, thanks to the soothing properties of these kinds of oils.
Next, because antiperspirants also have to fulfil the role of a deodorant, we considered the scent. You don’t want something too overpowering, so we eliminated anything that had too strong or too heavy of a scent profile.
Moreover, many people don’t want any scent at all—if you use perfume or cologne, the scent from any deodorant or antiperspirant can mingle with the molecules of perfume or deodorant and completely change the aroma. For these reasons, we made sure to include some products that were unscented in our rankings.
Importantly, “unscented” does not mean that the product has no smell at all. Rather, it means that no compounds are added for the sole purpose of changing the scent of the antiperspirant. You can still expect a mild mineral-like scent from the compounds used in the antiperspirant itself, even in the absence of fragrances.
Finally, we considered how frequently users of each product reported undesirable side effects, like redness, peeling, burning, or irritation.
While no product is going to be compatible with everyone, a product that irritates a lot of peoples’ skin is probably not the best bet. After weighing all of the above factors, we sorted the products to result in our final rankings of the best antiperspirants available.
Antiperspirants are indispensable for people who sweat a lot. Underarm sweat can be annoying, irritating, and embarrassing.
While a standard deodorant can kill bacteria and cover up smells, it can’t to anything to actually prevent you from sweating. This is where an antiperspirant really shines.
By using a chemical compound (almost always an aluminum-based inorganic salt), an antiperspirant can physically block sweat pores from secreting sweat. This prevents both underarm wetness and odor, because body odor comes from the bacterial decomposition of organic compounds in sweat.
Antiperspirants are one of the only ways people who sweat excessively can control their underarm sweat. Excessive sweating not only causes wetness, but when a particular kind of sweat gland is affected, body odor can be much worse.
According to Dr. Dee Anna Glaser from the International Hyperhidrosis Society, excessive sweating causes activation of two types of sweat glands. These are the eccrine sweat glands and the apocrine sweat glands.
Eccrine sweat glands are activated during heat exposure and exercise, and produce sweat that is mostly water–these are the source of excessive underarm wetness in people who sweat a lot.
But the apocrine sweat glands produce sweat that is a thick, cloudy liquid that is high in organic materials like lipids and proteins. This is the kind of sweat that results in a lot of body odor, because bacteria on your skin decompose these organic materials which results in odor.
Research published in the Journal of Cosmetic Chemists demonstrates how antiperspirants can combat this effect (1).
A team of scientists took skin samples from the human forearm and exposed them to an aluminum-based antiperspirant compound. The researchers found that the aluminum combines with keratin in the skin to physically occlude (block) sweat pores, which shuts down sweat production.
This physical blockage can last for several days, which is how antiperspirants can function while only being applied a few times per week.
According to a 2002 review article in the European Journal of Dermatology, application of aluminum containing antiperspirant should be the first line of defense against excessive sweating (2).
Most people respond well to an antiperspirant. Other treatments, like botox injections into the sweat glands, are available, but research demonstrates that upwards of 90% of people respond to an aluminum based antiperspirant. From this, it seems that an antiperspirant is the logical choice when it comes to fighting underarm sweating as effectively as possible.
The amount of aluminum in antiperspirant that gets absorbed into your body is extremely small. Given the spread of concerns about aluminum in antiperspirants, scientists have devised a variety of ways to test whether the aluminum in an antiperspirant gets absorbed into your body, and if so, how much.
As you might imagine, studying this in a precise way is extremely challenging. Fortunately, a new paper published in 2018 used an innovative approach to directly measure how much aluminum gets pulled through your skin and into your body.
The paper, published in the journal Clinical and Translational Science, used a mildly radioactive and extremely rate isotope of aluminum to make their own aluminum-based antiperspirant, with similar properties to commercial antiperspirants (3).
By applying a carefully measured amount of this antiperspirant to the underarm of a small amount of volunteers, the researchers were able to precisely measure how much got absorbed into the body. Averaged across the twelve women in the study, 0.0094% of the aluminum was actually absorbed into the bloodstream.
Consider, also, that even the strongest antiperspirants only contain about 20% aluminum-based antiperspirant. The fact that this number is extremely small is comforting for people who want to take advantage of the sweat-preventing benefits of antiperspirants but are worried about the potential health effects of aluminum.
The amount of aluminum that’s in your diet is likely far higher than the amount that gets absorbed into your body from an aluminum-containing antiperspirant.
Antiperspirants have a number of common side effects, which include rashes, burning, and skin irritation. Unfortunately, these adverse effects seem fairly common, according to a study published in 2014 by Dr. David M. Pariser and Angela Ballard (4).
They cite one study that found that 26% of patients who were prescribed an antiperspirant had to modify their use of it because of side effects. Pariser and Ballard to on to cite other research that characterizes the frequency and severity of side effects.
In a study of over 600 patients using antiperspirants, 70% of the cases of side effects were mild and short-lived. Another 21% had moderate side effects, and the remaining 9% had severe side effects. This last group likely had to find a different way to deal with their excessive sweating, which indicates that antiperspirants aren’t right for everybody.
Sometimes, a hydrocortisone anti-itch cream can relieve side effects, though this stands a chance of worsening symptoms too.
On a more practical level, aluminum containing antiperspirants are known to cause staining on white or light-colored clothes. The precise mechanism isn’t clear, but there is a direct relationship between using aluminum-based antiperspirants and yellow staining in clothes armpits.
It’s exceptionally hard to avoid this, and it’s also hard to remove the stains. The best prevention? Wearing a cheap undershirt.
A final area of concern for antiperspirant use relates to whether it causes an increased risk for chronic diseases. Aluminum has long been rumored to be linked to breast cancer in women; this appears to be based on a 2002 study published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention (5).
In it, the author interviewed a series of women with breast cancer about their underarm shaving habits and their use of antiperspirant deodorant. Using statistical analysis, the author showed that women whose breast cancer occurred earlier in life also had a tendency to shave their armpits and use antiperspirant and deodorant more often.
A number of other researchers have criticized this finding, pointing out that there may be a confounding variable that causes the association–perhaps the women who shaved more also grew up in more urban areas and were thus exposed to more environmental toxins, for example.
Most major cancer institutions have come down on this side of the argument: the American Cancer Society, for example, says there is not nearly enough evidence to conclude that breast cancer is related to antiperspirant use (6). Still, worries about this and other health effects from aluminum based antiperspirants have lead some people to switch to natural deodorants.
Antiperspirants work a little different than deodorants, so it makes sense that the right way to use them would be a little different too.
You’ll often find that you only need to use an antiperspirant a few times per week, unlike the daily use you need from a deodorant. That’s because the sweat-blocking effects last a lot longer than the antibacterial and smell-masking effects of a standard deodorant.
You should apply antiperspirant to skin that is clean and dry. Shower first, then dry your underarms well. Then apply a thin layer of antiperspirant to dry skin. Since the goal of the antiperspirant is to plug up sweat pores, there’s no need to cake on a lot of it: A thin layer works just as well.
Q: What does an antiperspirant do?
A: Antiperspirants are thought to help reduce excessive sweating by blocking sweat pores under your arm.
This mechanism is why aluminum-containing compounds are needed in an antiperspirant; certain aluminum salts, like aluminum zirconium or aluminum chloride, are well-suited for effectively blocking sweat pores, often for days at a time.
Since sweat can’t get out under your arms after applying an antiperspirant, you can confidently go out without worrying about sweating through your shirt.
Q: What is better, deodorant or antiperspirant?
A: If your goal is to actually reduce the amount of sweat you produce in your armpits, an antiperspirant is the only way to go.
However, if you don’t have problems with sweating too much, a deodorant might be an easier product to use. While you do need to apply deodorant every day, they tend to have less of a potential for causing irritation or redness.
However, the key limitation of a deodorant is that it does not block sweat pores. So, while it might be able to reduce the bacterial load under your arm, and it might be able to cover up the smells produced when bacteria digest the proteins excreted by your sweat glands, a deodorant can never reduce the amount of sweat you produce.
So, whether a deodorant or an antiperspirant is “better” depends entirely on your goals.
Q: Are antiperspirants bad for you?
A: While there is quite a lot of alarm about hypothetical negative effects to health from the aluminum contained in antiperspirants, the evidence so far indicates that this alarm is probably overblown.
The amount of aluminum actually absorbed into your bloodstream is extremely small: one study pegged the proportion at 0.0094%. If even this tiny amount is too much for comfort, you can always use a natural deodorant instead.
However, the largest and most comprehensive studies suggest that there is no clear harmful effect of antiperspirants at the population level.
To put things in perspective, there’s far more evidence that processed meats like bacon and ham cause cancer than there is that antiperspirants cause cancer.
Q: Do antiperspirants cause cancer?
A: The largest and most comprehensive studies done so far indicate that using antiperspirant is not associated with a higher rate of breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society (7).
While not all studies are in agreement, if any effect exists, it is likely to be extraordinarily small. To frame things more clearly, there is far more evidence that consuming alcohol, eating processed meat, or being exposed to sunlight causes cancer compared to using antiperspirants.
Nevertheless, if you are still concerned about the safety of antiperspirants, you can always opt for an aluminum-free deodorant instead.
Q: Do all antiperspirants contain aluminum?
A: Approximately speaking, yes. There are a handful of products on the market that advertise themselves as aluminum-free antiperspirants, but these are either untested new formulations or deodorants that are being marketed as an antiperspirant instead.
All clinically validated antiperspirants rely on some kind of aluminum salt to block sweat pores. As mentioned earlier, concerns about the aluminum content of antiperspirants might be an over-reaction, given the extremely low proportion of aluminum that gets absorbed into your skin.
Q: Do antiperspirant sprays work as well as stick antiperspirants?
A: Antiperspirant sprays can effectively deliver a very small amount of antiperspirant, which can reduce staining and streaks on your skin, but they don’t always do as good of a job actually blocking sweat pores.
Almost all clinical-grade preparations of antiperspirant compounds use a stick form, partly because it gives manufacturers more flexibility when it comes to including other ingredients to fight bacterial buildup and change the aromatic profile of the antiperspirant.
Q: How is antiperspirant different from deodorant?
A: The defining feature of an antiperspirant is the use of an aluminum-based compound to block sweat pores, which reduces sweating in your armpits.
A deodorant contains compounds that can help kill bacteria and reduce the odor that they produce, but it can’t physically block sweat pores, which means it cannot reduce the amount of sweat you produce in your armpits.
As a result, deodorants and antiperspirants address slightly different problems. If all you care about is body odor, and not sweat per se, a deodorant is a good solution. But, if you find yourself sweating through dress shirts, an antiperspirant is a far better choice.
Q: How do you apply antiperspirant?
A: Most people make two key mistakes with antiperspirant: they apply it when their skin is still wet, and they put too much on.
To properly use an antiperspirant, you should take a shower and clean your armpits well. Then, dry off with a towel and make sure your underarm is dry before applying antiperspirant. You only need to apply a thin layer of antiperspirant, too.
All you need is enough to block your sweat pores. Too much antiperspirant will just increase the amount of staining on your shirts.
Q: How do you get antiperspirant stains out of clothes?
A: The aluminum content of antiperspirants is responsible for the “yellowing” effect they can have on some fabrics, especially light-colored ones.
Soaking the stained area in vinegar for a while before washing with normal laundry detergent usually does the trick, but if it doesn’t, you can use a specialized stain remover.
Just make sure that it’s approved for the type of garment you’re using it on: some products are designed for white or cotton-based fabrics only, and can discolor or deteriorate other fabrics.
Q: When should you apply antiperspirant?
A: Most experts recommend only applying antiperspirant a few times per week. That’s because the aluminum-based compounds that block your sweat glands last quite a while when they’ve settled in to a sweat pore.
Unlike deodorant, which needs to be applied at least every day, a good antiperspirant will last at least a couple of days before its efficacy wears off.
Infrequent application can also cut down on the probability that you develop skin irritation or redness from your antiperspirant.
Antiperspirants aren’t for everyone, but sometimes, there is no other way to stop excessive sweating and body odor. If regular deodorants aren’t cutting it, or if you have excessive underarm wetness, you probably need an antiperspirant.
While there is a decent chance of getting some negative side effects like itching, irritation, or a rash, these tend to be mild and short-lived. Antiperspirants have been found to be highly effective at reducing sweating because they directly block sweat pores, stopping the source of the problem.
The bottom line is that if you have excessive underarm sweating, antiperspirants stand a very good chance of solving your problems.
For BodyNutrition‘s #1 antiperspirant recommendation, click here.