Deodorant vs. Antiperspirant: Do You Know the Difference?

Lots of people use “deodorant” and “antiperspirant” interchangeably when talking about the product they use on their underarms every morning, but there’s a world of difference between these two commonly misused words. Do you know what separates one from the other?

Deodorant & Antiperspirant: A Brief History

Before we dive into the difference between deodorant and antiperspirant, we want to give you a little bit of background on their history.

You may be surprised to learn that these two products are a fairly recent invention. The first deodorant, called Mums, came out in 1888. While we equate deodorant with the stick product we know and love today, back then it was a paste. And before Mums, people took a different approach to personal hygiene and soaked themselves in perfume to prevent body odor.

The first antiperspirant hit the market in 1903, but it took several more years to catch on because talking about body odor was still very taboo, especially among women. Men were expected to be smelly, but women were held to a different standard and had trouble acknowledging that they might smell a bit, too.

All this changed when an ad for an early antiperspirant convinced women that smelling bad was a social taboo that would make their friends talk behind their backs. The industry took off, and it’s now worth a whopping $20 billion per year.

What’s the Difference Between Deodorant and Antiperspirant?

The difference between deodorant and antiperspirant is quite simple, but first, a quick question for you.

Did you know that sweat doesn’t have any actual scent?

It’s true. Contrary to popular belief, sweat is merely wet and doesn’t smell by itself. When it does cause odor is when the proteins and fat in sweat mix with the bacteria that live on or under our skin. Some parts of our body, like the armpits and groin, are more prone to bacteria growth and thus are more prone to unwanted odors.

Knowing this little fact about sweat is essential when it comes to understanding the difference between deodorant and antiperspirant. People use these products for two main reasons: to stop odor and to stop sweat. It’s important to know that wetness doesn’t always equal smell, which may ultimately influence your decision about which to purchase.

A Closer Look at Deodorant

Deodorant’s name gives us an important clue about what it does, which is merely preventing or covering up the odor that occurs in the underarms.  As we mentioned earlier, some parts of our body, like the armpits, are more hospitable for bacteria because they are warm and frequently sweaty.

Deodorants help make inhabiting close quarters with others a more pleasant experience by utilizing acidic or salty ingredients that make our armpits less of a nice home for bacteria. They generally also combine these ingredients with fragrances to help cover up unpleasant body smells.

How to Use Deodorant

If you’re worried about smelling good throughout the day, an excellent deodorant can help you feel secure.

For the best results, apply the product after you shower. Make sure that the skin is completely dry; otherwise, the deodorant will not be as effective. Some people also choose to reapply it later in the day if they feel they are getting a bit smelly, which is perfectly fine, but this is a matter of personal preference.

While some women apply deodorant underneath their breasts and on their bikini area to prevent chafing, it’s meant for use on the armpits only. If you have problems with rubbing in these areas, baby powder is a better option.

What Ingredients Are Commonly Found in Deodorant?

Looking at the ingredients label is one easy way to determine whether we’re looking at deodorant or antiperspirant. Some ingredients common in deodorant include:


  • Cetyl Alcohol
  • Cyclomethicone
  • Dimethicone
  • Hydrolyzed corn starch
  • Fragrance

Will Deodorants Help Prevent Sweating?

No, they won’t–not unless you use a combination deodorant/antiperspirant, which we’ll discuss later on.

A Closer Look at Antiperspirant

Antiperspirants, on the other hand, temporarily stop sweating.

Our body regulates its temperature by releasing extra heat through the skin. There is a high concentration of sweat glands in the armpits, which is why they tend to get pretty sweaty. While sweat is a perfectly normal bodily function and we sweat for many reasons, including exercise, high temperatures, stress, or anxiety, visible sweating can be embarrassing.

Antiperspirants help control sweat by utilizing aluminum compounds that absorb into the skin and plug the sweat ducts. The effects are not indefinite, which is why you have to reapply it daily to get the best results.

For those that have hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating, there are clinical strength products designed specifically to combat this problem.

How to Use Antiperspirant

If sweaty underarms are a concern, antiperspirant can help you. And unlike deodorant, you can use it on other parts of the body. Aside from the armpits, you can put antiperspirant on your hands, feet, back, chest, and even your face.

The most important thing to know when using antiperspirant is that you should apply it at night before bed, even though doing it this way may seem counterintuitive.

By applying an antiperspirant before bed, you take advantage of the fact that your body is resting, which means your sweat glands aren’t as active as they would be during the day. Applying antiperspirant before bed lets it “activate,” and allows it to work as it’s intended to. If you use it in the morning, it’s likely you won’t see the same results.

What Ingredients Are Commonly Found in Antiperspirant?

You’ll notice that the antiperspirant ingredient list varies significantly from that found in deodorant. Some common ones in antiperspirant include:


  • Aluminum salts
  • Antimicrobials
  • Fragrance
  • Skin conditioners
  • Carrier substances
  • Alcohol

Does Antiperspirant Help with Body Odor?

Antiperspirant is not created to combat body odor, but it can help. Do you remember the discussion above about how the combination of bacteria with the proteins and fat in our sweat creates smell? Well, if you’re not sweating, you’ll likely not have an odor, either. And if you do sweat a little bit, the odor probably won’t be as strong.

Deodorant vs. Antiperspirant: Which Should You Use?

Now comes the big question–should you use deodorant or antiperspirant?

The answer to that question depends on what concerns you. If you have problems with odor, you’ll want to use deodorant. And if you want to prevent sweating, try antiperspirant. The truth is that most people need both.

Can I Use Both?

Yes! It’s safe to use both of these products, but just make sure to use them properly for maximum efficacy.

Using them correctly means not slathering on one right after the other. If you’re applying products in the morning, antiperspirant goes on first, and it should be used on dry, clean skin; otherwise, it might not be as effective. Wait a couple of hours for the antiperspirant to activate before putting on deodorant.

However, remembering what we said above, the best way to combine deodorant and antiperspirant is to put on antiperspirant at night before bed and deodorant in the morning.

Combination Deodorant/Antiperspirant

A lot of products on the market are a mix of deodorant and antiperspirant. While a combination may seem like the best of both worlds, these are often not the most effective products.

It may seem like a pain to buy both, but it’s worth it. Especially if you’re a heavy sweater that’s also concerned about odor, we recommend using two separate products.

Are They Safe to Use?

It’s hard to forget those cryptic chain emails from the early 2000s that caused panic about whether or not the ingredients used in antiperspirants–namely aluminum–were safe.  

The biggest concern had to do with breast cancer. Most breast cancers begin in the upper quadrant of the breast, which is close to the armpit, where people use their aluminum-filled antiperspirants. Aluminum was thought to have estrogen-like effects, and estrogen is known to promote breast cancer cell growth, all of which led to panic about antiperspirants.

The argument made against these products was that since the armpit was close to the breast, using them in this area could cause breast cancer. It was guilt by association. The American Cancer Association has since debunked these myths.

While no link has been shown between aluminum and the chemicals in antiperspirants, some may wonder if it’s possible to get these same benefits from a natural product. We’re happy to report that there’s another way to keep fresh and clean. If you’re not satisfied with traditional deodorants and antiperspirants, consider making the switch to a natural product.

Natural Deodorant and Antiperspirant Alternatives: Aspel Fragrances

Check out our line of amazing deodorants for both men and women. Aspel products contain no aluminum, no parabens, and they are cruelty-free. Aspel abides by the strict anti-allergy restrictions that perfume companies are held to, and you can rest assured that our products don’t have any harmful ingredients in them.

A word of warning–you may never go back to your old deodorant once you make the switch.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *