Not all deodorants are antiperspirants; however, most antiperspirants are also deodorants. Deodorants that don’t promise to stop sweat typically omit what makes an antiperspirant an antiperspirant (and an over-the-counter drug): one of several kinds of aluminum compounds.
“Traditional antiperspirants do not decrease sweating, but rather block wetness from reaching the surface of the skin,” says Joshua Zeichner, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. “The aluminum-based salts in antiperspirants form a plug within the sweat glands to physically block sweat from leaving the gland itself.”
The various versions of aluminum compounds you may find as the active ingredient in antiperspirants include aluminum chlorohydrate, aluminium zirconium, aluminum chloride, and aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex gly, but they all serve the same purpose. “Just like all aluminum ingredients in antiperspirant products, they work to control wetness by forming a temporary plug within the sweat gland,” cosmetic chemist Ron Robinson tells Allure.
Aluminum as an antiperspirant ingredient has been bashed conspiracy-theory style by some “clean” and “natural” beauty enthusiasts who believe it plays a role in the development of diseases like breast cancer and Alzheimer’s. (For the record, aluminum is natural.) However, the scientific evidence just isn’t there.
“We rely on studies done on thousands of women to see if there are links to breast cancer and the suspected culprit,” Sarah Cate, board-certified surgeon and an assistant professor of surgery and breast cancer specialist at Mount Sinai in New York City, has told Allure; ultimately, no one has developed breast cancer as a result of using antiperspirant. Furthermore, the Alzheimer’s Association says the link between aluminum and the neurodegenerative disease is a “myth” and that “studies have failed to confirm any role for aluminum in causing Alzheimer’s.”
So while wanting to use aluminum-free or natural deodorant is understandable — especially if you find antiperspirants’ active ingredients irritating — for those of us who want to block both body odor and underarm wetness, aluminum-based antiperspirants are the science-supported way to go.
Luckily, there are countless antiperspirant options — which also makes it hard to choose the perfect one. Extra-luckily, we happen to know exactly which solids, rolls-on, sprays, creams, and even pads are the very best antiperspirants on the market.
Below, you’ll find awesome perspiration-inhibiting formulas that include some award-winning drugstore favorites, a beloved designer fragrance turned beloved designer antiperspirant, and even a couple picks from beauty brands that may surprise you.
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