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Deodorant or Antiperspirant: Is There a Difference?

Updated on February 23, 2018
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Margaret Minnicks has been an online writer for many years. She researches and shares remedies for using certain products for illnesses.

Many people don't know the difference between deodorants and antiperspirants even though they have been using them for years. There are differences between the two products. So, what are they?

Major Differences

The ingredients are different in deodorants and antiperspirants. Not only the ingredients different, but they are not used for the same reason. Each has its own function.


  1. Different ingredients
  2. Different functions

Antiperspirants and deodorants work. They just work in different ways.


The main ingredient in antiperspirants is aluminum. That's an ingredient approved and regulated by the FDA. Aluminum becomes a plug that blocks sweat from a person's cell’s sweat ducts and reduces the amount of sweat your body is able to excrete. In other words, the purpose of aluminum is to keep you from sweating.

There is no aluminum in deodorants to prevent you from sweating. Instead, deodorants prevent wetness if you do sweat. Deodorants absorb sweat and eliminate odor. That's why it is called deodorant.


The ingredients in deodorants and antiperspirants keep them from functioning the same way.


Because deodorant is a cosmetic product, it is used only to mask body odor caused by bacteria. Deodorants neutralize the smell of sweat that comes from the body.


Look at the word antiperspirant. "Anti" means "against." Therefore, it is against perspiring. Antiperspirants keep a person from sweating or from sweating as much without using it.

How does that work? Since aluminum is the active ingredient, antiperspirants block pores with aluminum salts so that pores won't release sweat. The aluminum salts dissolve and form a gel on the skin which stays on top of the sweat gland to reduce as much sweat as possible from being released.

An antiperspirant can also be a deodorant, but a deodorant cannot be an antiperspirant. Antiperspirants can stop sweat and contain a fragrance at the same time. However, deodorants only prevent body odor and cannot do what an antiperspirant does. Deodorants don't keep you from sweating.

A deodorant is a COSMETIC because it covers up body odor. An antiperspirant is a DRUG because it changes the function of the skin by suppressing the flow of sweat.

If you ever run out of deodorant, use baking soda until you can get more deodorant. Baking soda is a good substitute for deodorant but not for an antiperspirant.

Baking soda covers up and neutralizes the odor of sweat, but it will not give you the fragrance of an antiperspirant.

Just sprinkle a light covering of baking soda onto a damp washcloth. Pat on the skin and do not rinse it off.

Forms of Deodorants and Antiperspirants

There is no difference in the forms that deodorants and antiperspirants come in. They both come in the following four forms:

  1. A stick is a solid block and covers the largest surface of the skin. It is ideal for heavy perspiration.
  2. An aerosol is a spray that dries instantly when applied.
  3. Soft solids moisturize the skin and provide more sweat protection.
  4. Roll-ons are easy to apply and offer basic protection from wetness.

Deodorant covers smell by killing the bacteria that cause them to smell, often covering any smells with perfumes. Antiperspirant has the same antibacterial products, but it also includes aluminum, which temporarily blocks your sweat glands and stops them from producing sweat.

Antiperspirants that contain alcohol also help the active ingredient to dry faster and create a pleasant, cool feeling.

An antiperspirant can also be a deodorant, because it can stop sweat and contain a fragrance at the same time.

Deodorants only mask body odor; they don't help to prevent sweating.

"De" Odorize
"Anti" - against perspiring
Main ingredient is alcohol to kill bacteria
Main ingredient is aluminum
Cosmetic because it masks
Drug because it changes the skin
Doesn't keep you from sweating
Prevents sweating
Does not block pores
Blocks pores
Fights body odor
Makes you smell fresh
Cannot function as an antiperspirant
Can function as a deodorant
Covers up smell
Keeps you dry
Best when applied in the morning
Best when applied after a shower and at night

Combination of Deodorant and Antiperspirant

If you are wondering if you can use a combination of antiperspirant and a deodorant, the answer is yes but not recommended. It would be good for people to keep a separate deodorant and an antiperspirant on hand, but it is not advisable to buy a combination.

They tend to be less effective in one area and more effective in another area. It could be less effective to stop the sweat and very effective to stop the smell or vice-versa.


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