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.
Part Two: Antiperspirant benefits and side effects
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).
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.
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 (3).
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 (4).
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 (5). Still, worries about this and other health effects from aluminum based antiperspirants have lead some people to switch to natural deodorants.
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.