What Is the Difference Between Deodorants and Antiperspirants?

What Is the Difference Between Deodorants and Antiperspirants Body odour is a common problem. Luckily, cosmetic manufacturers offer an impressive selection of deodorants and antiperspirants which help to reduce or prevent body odour. Many people use the words “deodorant” and “antiperspirant” interchangeably, but they are different products that worn in different ways. What is the difference between deodorants and antiperspirants and which of the products should you choose?

Perspiration, also known as sweating, is a natural bodily function which is important for thermoregulation. Sweat is mostly water with a number of trace elements and doesn’t have a distinct smell. Body odour isn’t caused by sweating per se, it is caused by the bacterial breakdown of sweat. Bacteria that make up the skin flora metabolise sweat and produce compounds that give body odour its characteristic aroma.

Both deodorants and antiperspirants are designed to reduce or prevent body odour, but they do it in different ways. Deodorants combat body odour by eliminating the odour-causing bacteria, while antiperspirants stop you from sweating: no sweat—no body odour.

Deodorants are formulated with bactericidal and disinfectant ingredients that prevent the reproduction of odour-causing bacteria, as well as fragrance ingredients (although there are unscented deodorants as well). Common bactericidal ingredients include alcohol, triclosan, natural mineral salts (potassium alum or ammonium alum), and essential oils. The active ingredients make armpits or other areas of the body too salty or acidic for odour-causing bacteria to live, and without bacteria there is no unpleasant smell.

Antiperspirants combat body odour by stopping perspiration altogether or at least significantly reducing it. Active ingredients in antiperspirants include aluminium compounds, most notably aluminium chloride, aluminium chlorohydrate, and aluminium-zirconium compounds. They react with trace elements contained in the sweat to form a gel-like plug that prevents the ducts of the sweat glands from excreting sweat. They also make the pores contract, which also reduces perspiration.

While most antiperspirants are very effective, they are generally considered unsuitable for daily use because constant blocking of sweat glands may lead to problems such as hydradenitis (sweat gland inflammation). It is also dangerous because reduced sweating disturbs thermoregulation. Besides, aluminium compounds may irritate sensitive skin and cause allergic reactions.

So, the main difference between deodorants and antiperspirants is that deodorants eliminate odour-causing bacteria and antiperspirants prevent perspiration. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies and regulates deodorants as cosmetics, but antiperspirants are classified as over-the-counter drugs.

Should you choose a deodorant or an antiperspirant? The answer depends on what you’re aiming for. If your only goal is to prevent body odour, a deodorant will be enough. High-quality deodorants are effective and definitely safer than antiperspirants. But if you also want to have dry armpits, an antiperspirant will be a better choice.

If you are concerned about your health, you shouldn’t use antiperspirants on a regular basis. Apply them only when you absolutely need to feel and look impeccable, and stick to deodorant in other situations. Many people use antiperspirants to prevent pit stains, but there are other ways to prevent your clothes from staining such as underarm liners. You should also know that the daily use of antiperspirants that contain aluminium is not recommended for people with kidney disease because small amounts of aluminium can be absorbed through the skin and put them at a higher risk.

Deodorants are generally considered safer than antiperspirants, but this doesn’t mean that any deodorant will be right for you. Alcohol and some other antibacterial agents might irritate the skin, so you need to choose carefully. More and more consumers choose natural deodorants which contain safe compounds such as potassium alum or ammonium alum, as well as essential oils that enhance the bactericidal effect and act as a natural fragrance.

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