natural deodorant vs antiperspirants

Difference Between a Deodorant and an Antiperspirant

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Since 1888, deodorants have been a staple to grooming routine (with antiperspirants introduced shortly thereafter). Deodorants (and antiperspirants) are one of those products that are a godsend when you are skipping a day (or two) on showering and can help save you from that embarrassing aura of stench that you would have otherwise.

While the product has gone pretty much without change for over 100 years there is starting to be a shake up within the deodorant industry. It seems to have first started with women in the late 90s and early 00s and now we are starting to see more mens brands seep into the marketplace like Every Man Jack, Herban Cowboy, Schmidt’s, and several others who are disrupting the big stalwarts of this industry.

But why?

While we will explain that in just a moment, we wanted to explain first a few items that will help with the understanding of this oddly complex topic that can oftentimes get really confusing really quickly.

Therefore to fully understand the benefits between an all natural deodorant and your typical antiperspirant (such as Old Spice, Suave, Axe, etc) its really important to first understand how these products differ:

Understanding The Difference Between an Antiperspirant and Deodorant

two options between products

Inherently when we hear the world natural or organic deodorants many men (including myself) will initially think that it is going to be an inferior product that is just reserved for the hipsters and that it will leave you stinking and sweaty at the end of the day.

While some of the above MAY be true, to understand a natural deodorant its important to set expectations right.

Therefore if you are considering using a natural deodorant you will still sweat at the end of the day. Natural deodorants are to help prevent you from having smelly pits not to stop you from sweating.

A key benefit of using natural deodorants however is that they don’t really leave a white residue on your shirt after application. Now to the flipside of that, we noticed while testing a few out that they do tend to leave somewhat of an oily residue behind on your shirt instead (its a lesser of the two evils).

This is likely due to the ingredients that are actually in natural deodorants (i.e. essential oils).

Take for example Every Man Jack – this brand is incredibly popular among men and is classified as a classic natural deodorant.

When we take a look on the ingredients list we will see a lot of ingredients missing that we would typically find in a stick of antiperspirant:

  • Aqua/water/eau
  • propanediol
  • aloe barbadensis leaf juice (organic)
  • sodium stearate
  • witch hazel distillate
  • gossypium herbaceum (cotton) extract
  • calendula extract (organic)
  • myrrh gum extract
  • alpine lichen extract
  • grapefruit seed extract
  • chamomile extract (organic)
  • salvia sclarea (clary sage) oil
  • rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) oil
  • juniperus virginiana wood extract
  • fragrance/parfum

Overall as you can see there is a large mixture of both organic oils, juices, and a few other all natural ingredients mixed in there.

Its important to call out a few of the ingredients specifically listed above to explain them a bit further. For instance witch hazel can be picked up at your local grocery store, and has multiple use cases. From hemorrhoid relief to easing a sore throat witch hazel does a lot! However witch hazel is added to a deodorant like this one, its primary focus will be on its natural astringent properties.

Astringents are a property of witch hazel that will help to close up your pores. Our guess is that the reason  witch hazel may have been added to this deodorant is to help reduce the amount of sweat you excrete through natural methods.

Another key ingredient in this deodorant is juniperus virginiana wood extract – or simply cedarwood essential oil. Cedarwood is a natural antiseptic that will help keep your pores clean and is also an anti-inflammatory. The key takeaway here is that arm pits stink due to bacteria. Therefore cedarwood is a natural antiseptic that will help to fight that bacteria.

This particular deodorant is marketed as having

  • No Aluminum
  • No Propylene Glycol
  • No Parabens
  • No Phthalates
  • No Animal Testing
  • No Animal Byproducts

Therefore if you are looking for an environmentally conscious or one that is free of animal testing then natural deodorants tend to be a great steward of the environment and is geared towards consumers who have similar values.

Now let’s look at widely distributed antiperspirants/deodorants:

Typically found at your local drug store, grocery store, or even discount warehouse antiperspirant/deodorants are likely what you have been using for years.  These products contain the deodorant part that make you smell good and knocks out the smelly bacteria, and the other key component antiperspirants:

Antiperspirants sole focus is to block your sweat glands from excreting sweat throughout the course of the day.

The active ingredient in the sticks of deodorants containing antiperspirants is typically an aluminum compound of some sorts (in Old Spice its aluminum zirconium trichlorohydrex gly – say that 10x fast!).

In addition to blocking your sweat glands, aluminum zirconium trichlorohydrex gly may actually stain your clothes after prolonged use by giving off a slight yellow tinge in color even after repeated washes.

But when you compare the two types of products they serve two distinct purposes.

If you plan on being in more of a humid or hotter climate, or are in business meetings, you don’t want to have the embarrassing big sweat rings under your arms – therefore you are going to want to go with an antiperspirant due to its sweat blocking abilities.

However if you are casually lounging around for the weekend or just generally engaged in a low amount of physical activity – then you can simply just use a deodorant.

But I Heard That Aluminum Zirconium Trichlorohydrex Gly Is Bad – Why?

It’s true that there has been a lot of information floating around about the dangers of applying an aluminum compound on a regular basis – especially under your arms.

An example of that (mis)information appeared in the late 90s and early 00s when email chains were in their heyday (I mean who doesn’t remember getting an email from their grandma with 10 Fw: Fw: Fw: in the subject line?).

grandma meme

During that time an email (and variances of ones like it) were sent around:

misinformation about antiperspirants
Source: Snopes

If I were to guess, when women read this it probably scared the living daylights out of them especially given its definitive nature of the bold claim that “the leading cause of breast cancer is the use of anti-persperant”. Even if I received an email like that now, I would perhaps think the claim is unfounded, but only after a quick Google search to verify that fact.

What was even worse with those email chains is that since they were always from a friend or family member, it would just simply catch fire regarding the information that was being shared (even if inaccurate).

Now I will be the first to tell you that I am not a doctor, so please don’t take this as medical advice. If you are seeking more detailed information, please consult your physician (and don’t sue me).

With misinformation being spread around about antiperspirants, the natural deodorant industry took root and began to grow into the massive market that it is today (plus the recent green/sustainable movement of the early 00s likely helped to accelerate this as well).

Even on a personal level, if there are two products side by side that claim to do the same job and one is natural (even if it costs a few cents more) I am likely going to pick it up. At the end of the day, who would want to voluntarily expose themselves to more chemicals than necessary?!

While I digress just a bit, there’s some great information that I found regarding studies on aluminum compounds and their evidence of causing cancer.

From the website it states that “researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), a part of the National Institutes of Health, are not aware of any conclusive evidence linking the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and the subsequent development of breast cancer.” (source).

The above article cites several studies, including one that said that there were no findings in their study that the use of antiperspirant increases the risk of breast cancer. However there was one study where earlier age of breast cancer diagnosis in relation to more frequent underarm shaving (in this study stated that it did not demonstrate a conclusive link).

For Sensitive Skin Types

Much like a beard oil or any sort of natural product that is comprised of essential oils and other relatively mild ingredients, the ingredient profile of natural deodorants should be pretty friendly for the men out there who have a sensitive skin.

There is nothing worse than the uncomfortable feeling of a rash breaking out in your arm pit area. With all the movement your arms do in a given day, the excessive rubbing can get really uncomfortable really quickly!

Besides the aluminum compound, natural deodorants typically don’t contain much for preservatives or any other chemicals that may trigger outbreaks or rashes.

This is where their ingredient profile really shines when compared to the chemical heavy products like anti-perspirants.

Wrapping Up On The Debate of Deodorants vs Antiperspirants

While it appears that there is no convincing evidence that antiperspirants actually cause any sort of cancer, all natural deodorants have made their way into the industry and are likely to stick around for a while.

When choosing between your natural deodorant and antiperspirant, its absolutely critical to understand just how different these products. Just remember that deodorants aren’t met to block the sweat at all. Their sole focus is to combat the bacteria that is festering and ultimately emanating odor that needs to get stopped in its tracks.

I want to know, are you more of a natural deodorant or antiperspirant kind of guy? Drop a line in the comment section below!

About The Author

Shawn Burns

Shawn is the founder and senior editor at Tools of Men, the leading style and grooming source trusted by men in 187 countries. He started this site with the goal of teaching men proper grooming habits and sensible style. He is an expert in all things men's grooming related. His work has been mentioned on countless sites including The Wall Street Journal, NBC, AskMen, Vice, WikiHow, and the New York Times.

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