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Benefits and risks of deodorants vs. antiperspirants

By Wendy Amarteifio
Benefits and risks of deodorants vs. antiperspirants
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Antiperspirants and deodorants work in different ways to reduce body odour.

Antiperspirants work by reducing sweat. Deodorants work by increasing the skin’s acidity.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)Trusted Source considers deodorants to be cosmetic: a product intended to cleanse or beautify. It considers antiperspirants to be a drug: a product intended to treat or prevent disease or affect the structure or function of the body.

Keep reading to learn more about the differences between these two forms of odour control, and whether one is better for you than the other.


Deodorants are formulated to eliminate armpit odour but not perspiration. They’re typically alcohol-based. When applied, they turn your skin acidic, which makes it less attractive to bacteria.

Deodorants also commonly contain perfume to mask  odour.


The active ingredients in antiperspirants usually include aluminium-based compounds that temporarily block sweat pores. Blocking sweat pores reduces the amount of perspiration that reaches your skin.

If over-the-counter (OTC) antiperspirants are unable to control your sweating, prescription antiperspirants are available. Deodorant and antiperspirant benefits.

There are two primary reasons to use deodorants and antiperspirants: moisture and smell.


Sweat is a cooling mechanism that helps us shed excess heat. Armpits have a higher density of sweat glands than other areas of the body. Some people wish to reduce their sweating since armpit sweat can sometimes soak through clothing.

Sweat can also contribute to body odour.


Your sweat itself doesn’t have a strong odour. It’s the bacteria on your skin breaking down sweat that produce an odour. The damp warmth of your armpits is an ideal environment for bacteria.

The sweat from your apocrine glands — located in the armpits, groin, and the nipple area — is high in protein, which is easy for bacteria to break down.

Antiperspirants and breast cancer risk

The aluminium-based compounds in antiperspirants — their active ingredients — keep sweat from getting to the surface of the skin by blocking the sweat glands.

There’s a concern that if the skin absorbs these aluminum compounds, they can affect the estrogen receptors of breast cells.

However, according to the American Cancer Society, there’s no clear link between cancer and the aluminium in antiperspirants because:

Breast cancer tissue doesn’t appear to have more aluminium than normal tissue.

Only a tiny amount of aluminium is absorbed (0.0012 per cent) based on research on antiperspirants containing aluminium chlorohydrate.

Other research indicating that there’s no connection between breast cancer and underarm products includes the following:

A 2002 studyTrusted Source of 793 women with no history of breast cancer and 813 women with breast cancer showed no increased breast cancer rate for those women who used deodorants and antiperspirants in their armpit area.

A smaller-scale 2006 studyTrusted Source supported the findings of the 2002 study.

A 2016 systematic review trusted Source concluded that there’s no link between increased breast cancer risk and antiperspirant, but the study also suggested there’s a strong need for further research.

Antiperspirants and deodorants work in different ways to reduce body odour. Antiperspirants reduce sweat, and deodorants increase skin acidity, which odour-causing bacteria don’t like.

While there are rumours linking antiperspirants to cancer, research suggests that antiperspirants don’t cause cancer.

READ ALSO:Your washing machine can be a habitat for bacteria — what you should know

However, studies also recommend that further research is needed to study the potential link between breast cancer and antiperspirants.