I don't know about you, but I've often found myself overwhelmed by the endless varieties of deodorants and antiperspirants — and combos — at my local drugstore. I stand there thinking, How am I supposed to figure out the best one for me?
I recently found some help, though: After talking with Yahoo Life's expert panel of board-certified dermatologists, I learned that once you understand the difference between antiperspirant and deodorant and how your needs relate to those differences, finding the perfect product is actually pretty easy.
What's the difference between deodorants and antiperspirants?
Dr. Monika Kaniszewska, a board-certified dermatologist, tells us in the simplest terms, "Deodorants mask the odor, while antiperspirants prevent you from sweating." It's a basic difference that comes down to one key ingredient.
Antiperspirants are formulated with aluminum salts, which work by forming a temporary plug in the sweat ducts — specifically the eccrine glands — thus preventing you from sweating, explains Dr. Amy Forman Taub, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Advanced Dermatology. "What sets different antiperspirants apart is which salt the product is formulated with and its concentration. While aluminum salts can be irritating, aluminum sesquichlorohydrate is generally less irritating — and less effective — than products that contain aluminum chloride, which is often found in prescription-strength antiperspirants," says Taub.
As such, the Food and Drug Administration considers deodorants cosmetic products, whereas antiperspirants are classified — and regulated — as drugs.
The best deodorants and antiperspirants of 2024
Whether you're looking to stop the sweat, stop the stink or both, there's a product out there for you on the ever-expanding deodorant and antiperspirant market. And, while it's always nice to have options, it can also be overwhelming when there are hundreds of them. To better understand the what's-what on deodorants and antiperspirants, we turned to our Yahoo Life panel of board-certified dermatologists and skin care experts to learn everything there is to know about what makes up the best deodorants and antiperspirants, what to look for and what to avoid. We then considered more than 75 types and styles of deodorants, antiperspirants and combinations of both and evaluated each based on application type, ingredients, efficacy and cost. Keep reading to learn which ones made the cut as the best deodorants and antiperspirants of 2024.
What to consider when buying the best deodorant for you
When searching for the best antiperspirant and deodorant for you, keep the following important factors in mind:
Antiperspirant vs. deodorant
The biggest thing to consider is whether you want an antiperspirant or a deodorant. People often use the terms interchangeably, but they're not the same thing. Antiperspirants block sweat, whereas deodorants block and mask odors, not sweat. It's also important to know that while most antiperspirants are also deodorants, not all deodorants are antiperspirants, so be sure to read the labels.
The main difference can be found in the ingredients. Antiperspirants contain aluminum salts, which dissolve into your pores and effectively prevent you from sweating. Deodorants, on the other hand, are aluminum-free and instead use antibacterial ingredients, such as baking soda or propylene glycol, that work to neutralize odor.
If you have sensitive skin, allergies or eczema, you'll want to choose a product without harsh chemicals or irritants such as triclosan, propylene glycol and alcohol. It's also worth noting that these ingredients can be found in both antiperspirants and deodorants.
If you want something that will keep you dry throughout the day and even workouts, you'll need an antiperspirant with aluminum, but to make things even more confusing, not all aluminum is created equally. There are 18 different FDA-approved aluminum compounds that can be used in antiperspirants, although some are more common than others. Aluminum chloride, for example, is considered the most effective for hyperhidrosis and people who sweat heavily, but it's also more irritating, whereas aluminum zirconium and aluminum sesquichlorohydrate are gentler forms.
Dr. Tushar Dabade, a board-certified dermatologist, points out that "prescription antiperspirants have a higher percentage of aluminum chloride than nonprescription. Prescription antiperspirants may work a little bit better for some people but occasionally can cause irritation."
Deodorants and antiperspirants come in a variety of application types. Each type has pros and cons, but the best one for you will depend on your personal preference.
Solid: The most common type (and my go-to) is a solid stick with a powdery, smooth consistency. Solid deodorants tend to dry quickly but can also leave some residue. If that's a concern, you can opt for an invisible solid that has the same consistency but goes on clear.
Roll-on: Roll-on deodorants are liquid and have a rotating ball applicator that contours to your underarm. They're usually smaller and more compact, plus they go on clear and don't leave any white marks behind. The downside is that they take time to dry, can feel sticky and can be drying on your skin.
Spray: Aerosol deodorants dry quickly and offer a mess-free, convenient application. However, they're also bulkier and tend to be depleted faster.
Gel: Gel deodorants typically come in the same type of container as solid sticks but have a thick, liquid consistency. Gels can be messier and take longer to dry but generally go on clear, without leaving residue.
Cream: Like gel, cream deodorants have a semiliquid consistency, but they're typically thicker and smoother. Cream deodorants are usually applied with the fingers instead of through the container, so it can be messy to apply but more moisturizing for the skin than other application options.
Wipe: Deodorant wipes are disposable, single-use wipes, similar to baby wipes. Wipes offer speed and convenience, but since each wipe is used only once, they can be pricier.
While application type does come down to preference — the best product is the one you will use — keep in mind that our expert Dr. Kaniszewska cautions that aerosols and wipes may not be as effective as a thicker gel or cream that tends to stay on the skin and absorb better.
Strength and longevity
When it comes to strength, it really only applies to antiperspirants. Stronger antiperspirants, often labeled "clinical strength," have a higher percentage of aluminum. A clinical strength antiperspirant, for example, may have 20% aluminum zirconium, whereas others have between 12% and 15%. If you have hyperhidrosis or spend a lot of time in high heat or being active, it's a good idea to look for an antiperspirant with clinical strength levels of aluminum.
Stronger antiperspirants will also last longer, with some even boasting 48 hours or more of coverage. On the other hand, natural, aluminum-free deodorants may not last the entire day and do not prevent sweating the way that aluminum-based antiperspirants do.
Still, Ann Cameron Schieber, physician assistant at Advanced Dermatology, stresses that "everyone's needs for deodorants and antiperspirants are different. What lasts for 24 hours for one person might not last for 24 hours for the next."
The type of scent you want will depend on what you like. Some people might prefer fresh, clean, powdery scents, while others may want something rich and warm, floral or earthy. Another thing to consider is what's available — some brands offer a range of scents, while others only offer a few options. And not every deodorant brand offers an unscented version. Fragrance can also cause some skin irritation, so if you have sensitive skin, a fragrance-free deodorant may be a better fit.
Drugstore deodorants typically cost between $5 and $15, while luxury, high-end deodorants can cost upwards of $25 to $40. With some luxury deodorants, you're paying for the brand name, but the higher price also often reflects high-end packaging, quality ingredients and more decadent fragrance options.
How we chose the best deodorants
To find the best deodorants and antiperspirants, we first spoke to a panel of dermatologists and their physician assistants to determine what to look for and what to avoid. All agreed that the most important consideration is a product's ingredients, so we spent hours comparing ingredient lists of more than 75 products from popular, drugstore brands to luxury brands, and lesser-known brands with exceptional products and looking at the scientific research available.
For antiperspirants, we looked at the type and percentage of aluminum salt used along with the inactive ingredients and prioritized those without ethyl alcohol, parabens or harsh irritants. For aluminum-free deodorants, we looked for products with natural, plant-based ingredients.
Frequently asked questions
Are antiperspirants safe to use?
There's plenty of myths surrounding the safety of aluminum-based antiperspirants. It's been suggested that aluminum can cause various ailments and disorders, most notably Alzheimer's disease and breast cancer. However, it's worth noting that there is no evidence that antiperspirants cause any health concerns, including finding no link between antiperspirant use and breast cancer.
According to Dr. Faranak Kamangar, dermatologist and founder of DermGPT, aluminum-based antiperspirants are considered extremely safe and effective. Dr. Zenovia Gabriel, a board-certified dermatologist from California, agrees but adds that there is a risk of skin irritation for those with allergies or sensitive skin.
Is men's deodorant stronger than women's?
Many women turn to men's deodorant thinking that the products are stronger or more powerful, but that's another myth.
"The active odor-fighting ingredients are actually the same," says Dr. Samuel Hetz, medical director of Concept Medical. Instead, he says, the difference usually comes down to fragrance. "Men's products tend to take on a stronger, muskier scent, while women's are often lighter and more floral." Because of that, men's deodorant can often seem like it works better. "A more potent scent better masks odors," he says, explaining that added scents tend to become stronger and more noticeable when you sweat.
When is the best time to apply deodorant?
Although most people apply deodorant first thing in the morning, that may not be the most effective option. "Antiperspirants are actually best applied before bedtime," says Kamangar. At night, your body temperature is lower and your underarm area is drier, so antiperspirant will be able to penetrate your pores more easily, allowing it to work better.
However, that's only the case for antiperspirants. If you use an aluminum-free deodorant, morning application is recommended. Additionally, Kamangar advises applying deodorant after your morning shower when your skin is clean and dry. "This can help ensure better adhesion and effectiveness of the deodorant throughout the day."
How often should I reapply deodorant?
Antiperspirants should really only be applied once a day, says Kamangar, adding that because of the aluminum, applying more often can increase the risk of skin irritation. Deodorant, however, is a different story. Since there's no active ingredient, you can reapply as often as needed throughout the day in order to control odor. Additionally, your activity can play a role. "If you exercise or take a shower, it's advised to reapply, says Gabriel.
Meet our experts
Dr. Faranak Kamangar, board-certified dermatologist and founder of DermGPT
Dr. Samuel Hetz, medical director of Concept Medical
Dr. Zenovia Gabriel, board-certified dermatologist
Amy Forman Taub, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist; founder, Advanced Dermatology and skinfo.com
Anne Marie Leger, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist
Monika Kaniszewska, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist
Tushar Dabade, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist and Mohs surgeon
Steven Prus, PA-C, physician assistant, Advanced Dermatology
Ann Cameron Schieber, PA-C, physician assistant, Advanced Dermatology