The Difference Between Deodorant and Antiperspirant

October 28, 2022
Alanna Martine Kilkeary
By: Alanna Martine Kilkeary | by L'Oréal
deodorants collaged onto an orange background

When it comes to tackling excess sweat and body odor, deodorant and antiperspirant are two terms that are often used interchangeably. But did you know that they’re not one in the same? There’s a difference between their ingredients and benefits, and we’re breaking down exactly what they are. To do so, we spoke with Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali, a board-certified dermatologist and consultant. Keep reading to find out whether you should use a deodorant or antiperspirant.

The Difference Between Deodorant and Antiperspirant

The difference is simple: Deodorant controls odor, while antiperspirant controls sweating. When you think of sweat, what comes to mind is probably a mix of T-shirt stains and funky odors. But did you know that sweat is actually odorless? Dr. Bhanusali explains, “Sweat itself doesn’t have an odor. The smell is caused by bacteria metabolizing the dead skin cells and salts in sweat.”


When it comes to odor and sweat, though, most people want to keep both under control, which is why they’ll reach for a product that is both a deodorant and antiperspirant. “Deodorants work to mask odors associated with sweating,” Dr. Bhanusali explains. “Whereas antiperspirants work to decrease the amount of sweat produced.” When there’s less sweat being produced, there’s less of a chance for bacteria to metabolize and create a smell. 

Which Is Better: Deodorant or Antiperspirant?

Now that you know what deodorant and antiperspirant can do, it’s time to decide which one is better for your lifestyle and body. “Antiperspirants tend to be more effective,” says Dr. Bhanusali. “However, all effects are temporary.” While your antiperspirant can help reduce the amount of sweating, it’s not foolproof. Neither is deodorant. Oftentimes you may notice that even with applying one or the other, or both, you can still experience sweat and odor. If that’s the case, consider these tips:

TIP 1: Wash Your Underarms

Use an antibacterial soap and wash your armpits every single day. This can help kill the bacteria on your skin that is responsible for causing an odor. 

TIP 2: Shave Your Underarms

When your armpits are hairless, sweat can evaporate more quickly, giving bacteria less time to break it down. If you don’t want to shave, consider trimming the hairs down instead. 

TIP 3: Wear Natural Fibers

Your clothing choice matters. Wool, silk and cotton can allow your skin to breathe and can help sweat evaporate more quickly. 

TIP 4: Change Out of Dirty Clothes

This seems self-explanatory, but if your clothes get dirty or sweaty, it’s a good idea to change into fresh ones as soon as possible.


TIP 5: Use a Deodorant or Antiperspirant

If you’re dealing with pit stains on a regular basis, make sure you’re using the right deodorant, antiperspirant or combo of both. Try the Kiehl's Superbly Efficient Anti-Perspirant and Deodorant, which is a gentle antiperspirant and deodorant cream that’s designed with micro-sized drying molecules to absorb sweat and reduce odor for up to 24 hours. For a natural option, we also recommend the Native Classic Deodorant which comes in a variety of scents from Powder & Cotton to Toasted Marshmallow & Vanilla.

Design: Juliana Campisi

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