What is the difference between antiperspirant and deodorant?

A bottle of roll-on deodorant.

Is there really a difference between deodorant and antiperspirant? Yes, and the fundamental differences lie in the way these products work and potentially affect health. Essentially, they each use different chemical processes to minimize body odor. Certain ingredients in any of the products can be harmful to your health, but deodorant is often cited as the best alternative.

Antiperspirants contain fragrances, but they also contain chemical compounds that block pores to prevent the secretion of perspiration. No sweat, no odor.

An antiperspirant stick.

Deodorants allow the release of perspiration, but prevent odors by fighting them with antiseptic agents, which kill odor-causing bacteria. Many consumers don’t realize how it works, assuming it’s simply a fragrance that covers their body odor. Some choose antiperspirant because, rather than covering up the odor, they prefer to eliminate it.

Consumer advocacy groups continue to voice concerns about issues related to common health and beauty products, and certain studies indicate potential health risks associated with aluminum compounds found in many antiperspirants. Similar studies find similar risks with the parabens found in some deodorants. Both have been tenuously linked to serious illnesses, including breast cancer. Manufacturers and various health agencies claim these studies are flawed, claiming the concerns are unfounded.

Despite reassurances, many health professionals recommend deodorants, believing that clogging pores and preventing sweating may not be the healthiest choice. Consumers are left to make their own judgments.

A combination of cornstarch and baking soda can be used as a homemade deodorant.

Those who would rather forgo a typical odor-eliminating product are starting to look for more natural alternatives. There are several brands of natural deodorants available today. However, these products do not always contain purely organic ingredients, so check labels carefully before purchasing. For the true rebel, a homemade deodorant consists of equal parts cornstarch and baking soda, applied with a damp towel.

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