Stressing about perspiration? Find out which over-the-counter option is right for you, from natural deodorants to clinical-strength antiperspirants

By Rhea Seymour

Which deodorant is right for you?

Sweat is mostly water and salt from the eccrine glands (located over most of the body). And it serves a purpose: It cools your body so you won’t overheat. Body odour happens when sweat from the apocrine glands (in the armpits and genitals) mix with bacteria on the skin. Antiperspirants help combat sweat; deodorants fight odour.

There are myriad over-the-counter products to combat everything from typical to excessive sweating and body odour. Here are your options.

Deodorant/antiperspirant combined products

Examples
Dove Ultimate Clear Go Fresh Antiperspirant, Secret Flawless Invisible Solid

How they work
They help prevent body odour by targeting the odour-producing bacteria on skin with antibacterial ingredients. They also contain aluminum-based compounds, such as aluminum chlorohydrate, to reduce perspiration by plugging sweat glands. The above products are regular strength (14% to 19% aluminum zirconium, the active ingredi­ent), so they’re best for people who don’t sweat excessively.

Need to know
For sensitive skin, try a fragrance-free or hypoallergenic antiperspir­ant and test it on a small area of skin.

Clinical-strength antiperspirants

Examples
Secret Clinical Strength Power Solid, Dove Clinical Protection Antiperspirant

How they work
Clinical-strength anti­perspirants contain a higher concentration of aluminum zirconium (each of the above examples contains 20%). They are applied to armpits at night when the body sweats less, making it easier to form sweat plugs. One application should last for at least the next day; in fact, some people need to use it only once a week, as it can remain effective even after a shower.

Need to know
Clinical-strength products are a good starting point if you have moderate to excessive sweating, says Dipen Kalaria, a Toronto pharmacist. “Because irritation can occur when the aluminum mixes with moisture or sweat, you must apply them when you’re not sweating.”

Aluminum chloride hexahydrate solutions

Examples
Drysol, Xerac-AC

How they work
These work the same way as clinical-strength antiperspirants.

Need to know
Often kept behind the counter at the pharmacy, these solutions are available without a prescription. The aluminum chloride hexahydrate concentrations range from mild (Xerac-AC, 6.25%) to strong (Drysol, 20%). These types of products will be more effective at higher concentrations, but will also be more likely to irritate skin. “Start with the lowest strength and work your way up if you are still sweating,” says Kalaria. To reduce the chance of irritation, make sure skin is dry before applying. If you shower before bed, wait at least an hour or dry the area with a hair dryer on a cool setting.

Natural deodorants

Examples
Crystal Body Deodorant, Kiss My Face Liquid Rock Deodorant

How they work
Made with 100 percent natural mineral salts, these deodorants aim to prevent odour by forming a layer on the skin that neutralizes body acids and inhibits bacterial growth. Often available in both sticks and roll-on, these products typically need to be moistened before applying.

Need to know

The natural ingredients are a selling point, but these are designed to deodorize, not prevent sweat. Kalaria adds that it is possible to have an allergic reaction.

The latest on aluminum

Some women don’t use antiperspir­ants because they are concerned that cancer is caused by aluminum in those products. But a 2008 review of 59 studies in France’s Bulletin du Cancer journal found no link between breast cancer and the aluminum salts in antiperspirants.

This article was originally titled "Don't Sweat It," in the Summer 2009 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today and never miss an issue!

Best Health Magazine, Summer 2009

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