12 Best Deodorants and Antiperspirants for Women, According to Dermatologists
How to reduce sweating in the summer
If you feel like you’ve been sweating more than usual this summer, it’s not all in your head. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, May 2020 was tied for the hottest May on record and June came in as the third hottest in the last 141 years. (Here are cool-down tips to beat the summer heat.) This has made choosing the right product to help keep you dry and smelling fresh more important than ever.
Deodorants vs. antiperspirants
The two main products for sweat and odor control are deodorants and antiperspirants (or a combination of the two). “The difference between deodorant and antiperspirant is that deodorant keeps you smelling fresh and clean and protects against odor whereas antiperspirant protects against sweating,” explains New York City-based cosmetic dermatologist Michele Green, MD. “The term deodorant is sometimes used interchangeably to describe both products, but deodorants only control odor. They don’t prevent sweating.” (Here are 10 common deodorant mistakes.)
The active ingredients in deodorants and antiperspirants
The reason, and the primary way to differentiate between the two, is the ingredients. “The active ingredient in deodorant is usually corn starch or sodium bicarbonate, also known as baking soda,” explains Dr. Green. “Baking soda is a mixture of sodium ions and bicarbonate ions. These work synergistically to fight odor, acidity, and bacteria. Due to its ability to destroy bacteria and some fungus, baking soda can be a great addition to your deodorant to give you that fresh clean smell.”
You may also see alcohol, triclosan, or propylene glycol in deodorant, adds dermatologist Peterson Pierre, MD, founder of the Pierre Skin Care Institute. “These ingredients are there to kill bacteria,” he says. “Deodorants will also commonly have scents and perfumes to mask odor.” Meanwhile, the majority of antiperspirants use a form of aluminum to help fight wetness. “Aluminum works by blocking the sweat glands so you don’t sweat as much,” says Dr. Green. (These are the potentially toxic ingredients in beauty products.)
Are antiperspirants bad for you?
“There has been a lot of discussion on the possible link between aluminum, Alzheimer’s and breast cancer, although multiple studies have failed to show any correlation whatsoever,” says Dr. Pierre. “Animal studies have revealed some altered hormone regulation, but no studies thus far have shown a definitive health risk.” Still, for women with a family history of breast cancer, it can’t hurt to choose a product that’s aluminum-free—though it will impact the effects. (These are the breast cancer myths you should ignore.) “There is nothing natural that blocks or prevents you from sweating,” cautions board-certified New York City dermatologist Debra Jaliman, MD, author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist. (Here are easy ways to sweat less.)
To help you combat perspiration and odor during this sweaty summer, we consulted with top dermatologists and rounded up 12 of the best deodorants and antiperspirants.
Strongest OTC option: Certain Dri Prescription Strength Clinical Antiperspirant
“If you are really sweating through everything, you probably need to try Certain Dri which is the most effective over-the-counter antiperspirant available,” says Dr. Pierre. This roll-on product promises up to 72 hours of protection against excessive perspiration when applied before bed, thanks to the 12 percent aluminum chloride. And with over 2,000 five-star reviews on Amazon, users agree it lives up to the hype. “Before I used this product I was unbelievably skeptical,” admits one reviewer. “Fast forward maybe six years and it has changed my life. I literally NEVER have a drop of sweat!”
Best prescription option (now available on Amazon): Drysol Solution
“If you have exhausted all other options, I would recommend trying a prescription formula such as Drysol,” suggests Dr. Green. Previously only available through your doctor, this antiperspirant solution can now be purchased by anyone who experiences excessive sweating. The aluminum chloride hexahydrate forms a temporary plug in the sweat duct to keep underarms dry for days at a time. “First application…I drove for 11 hours, normally I’ve gone through two or three shirts dripping sweat and not one bead came from my armpits,” says one reviewer. “After three years of this, I finally found a cure.”
Best for light sweat: Native Coconut & Vanilla Deodorant
“If you aren’t someone who sweats a lot and you can get away with only using a natural deodorant I definitely recommend that,” says Dr. Jaliman. “Natural deodorants don’t prevent you from sweating but they help attack the bacteria that cause the smell and odor.” Her favorite (and that of nearly 12,000 Amazon reviewers): Native Coconut & Vanilla, an aluminum-free product that uses tapioca starch and sodium bicarbonate to absorb odor. “I’m a big fan of the Native brand and actually use it myself as I’m allergic to other deodorants,” Dr. Jaliman adds.
Best for sensitive skin: Dove Sensitive Skin Antiperspirant Deodorant
$10 for two
“Dove Sensitive Skin’s hypoallergenic formula is great for sensitive skin,” says Dr. Green. “It will provide the protection you need without causing irritation.” This product features stearyl alcohol, a “fatty alcohol” that is neither drying nor irritating to the skin (compared to forms like isopropyl alcohol). It also contains sunflower seed oil to help nourish and revitalize skin cells. (Also, beware of the dangerous signs you’re overheating.)
Best inexpensive option: Mitchum Women Triple Odor Defense Invisible Solid Antiperspirant & Deodorant
$7 for two
One of Dr. Green’s favorite brands for folks looking for an inexpensive product, Mitchum antiperspirant and deodorant uses aluminum zirconium to combat perspiration and stearyl alcohol to kill odor-causing bacteria. “I am not dainty when it comes to perspiring. I stink. And I sweat. A lot,” says one of 1,800 five-star reviewers. “Bottom line is this stuff works.”
Best scent-free: No Funk Pit Stick Deodorant Fragrance Free
For those who neither sweat much nor experience much odor, a scent-free natural deodorant is a great choice—and Dr. Jaliman recommends looking for one particular ingredient. “A deodorant with bentonite clay draws impurities out from the skin,” she says, explaining one of the primary ingredients in this No Funk Pit Stick deodorant. “It absorbs moisture from the underarms and helps with body odor. Plus, it usually has very little fragrance.”
Best no-feel: Degree Motionsense Antiperspirant Deodorant Dry Spray
“Sprays are best for someone who doesn’t want to feel the deodorant,” says Dr. Jaliman. “Stay away from roll-ons, as these stay wet for a while and take some time to dry. Solid deodorants also tend to clump at times. But sprays go on quickly and you really don’t feel like you’re wearing anything.” This Degree spray features aluminum chlorohydrate to combat sweating, plus sprays on sheer for an instantly dry feel. (This is what you should eat to smell better.)
Best for stress sweating: SweatBlock Clinical Strength Antiperspirant Wipes
“If sweat is your main concern, you want to focus on antiperspirants, especially before stressful situations,” recommends Dr. Pierre. One that fits the bill: These SweatBlock Clinical Strength Antiperspirant Wipes, which are dabbed on at night and promise up to seven days of protection. While it was developed for underarms, many users report results when using these wipes on other areas of the body where they sweat, such as the head, neck, back, and feet. Another option if sweat is disrupting your daily or work life is Botox. “We have great success in reducing the sweating for six to 12 months with just one treatment and there is no irritation to the skin,” says Tanya Kormeili, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Santa Monica.
Best for exercise-only sweat: Secret Clinical Strength Antiperspirant
For women who sweat primarily as a result of exercise or other physical activity, Dr. Green recommends an antiperspirant like Secret Clinical Strength Antiperspirant. With 10 different scents, including one that’s waterproof, and seven different application forms, there’s an option for every exercise format and intensity. “You can also use something like Body Glide, which moisturizes to prevent chafing,” adds Dr. Green.
Best gel: Almay Sensitive Skin Clear Gel Anti-Perspirant and Deodorant
“For years, I kept having to switch from one deodorant to another about once every six months, because my body either became resistant or irritated by each product,” writes one five-star reviewer of this Almay antiperspirant and deodorant, which features aluminum zirconium. “Roll-ons were nasty, wet, or sticky. Deodorant sticks left a white residue on my clothing. And if that wasn’t embarrassing enough, often the products failed, and the resulting body odor was overpowering. Then I discovered Almay. It doesn’t make my underarms break out. It goes on clear, leaving no powdery residue under my arms or on my clothes. The gel stays put, but doesn’t feel wet or sticky—usually drying by the time I get my shirt on.” (Do your feet smell? Here are some home remedies for stinky feet.)
Best scent: Elizabeth Arden White Tea Deodorant
Elizabeth Arden started making skin care products and fragrances over a century ago, and the products still remain timeless. This White Tea cream deodorant is no exception, providing a luxurious scent to mask unpleasant body odor. Just take it from this reviewer: “I have been using Elizabeth Arden deodorant since I was 14 years old (60 years now). I wouldn’t dream of using any other product.”
Best aluminum-free: JASON Purifying Tea Tree Deodorant
“If you want to steer clear of one with aluminum, this deodorant by Jason is great,” says Dr. Jaliman, of this odor-fighting, chemical-free option. “It contains corn starch to help keep you dry and tea tree oil and grapefruit seed extract which have antimicrobial properties and help keep odor away.” (Next, read about the lightweight face masks for summer.)
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: "May 2020 tied for hottest on record for the globe"
- NOAA: "June 2020 tied as Earth's 3rd hottest on record"
- Michele Green, MD, cosmetic dermatologist in New York City
- Peterson Pierre, MD, California-based dermatologist and cosmetic dermatologist and founder of the Pierre Skin Care Institute
- Debra Jaliman, MD, board-certified New York City dermatologist and author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist
- Tanya Kormeili, MD, board-certified dermatologist in Santa Monica