The Comprehensive Guide To Deodorant

In modern society, underarm deodorant is as essential to daily hygiene as brushing your teeth or changing your underwear. It’s practically unthinkable to go even a day without using deodorant, and yet many guys don’t think twice when choosing which product to use- it’s either the same brand you’ve had since high school, or whatever’s on sale. The truth is, there’s significant differences among the most available products, and their effectiveness can be highly dependent on your body chemistry and specific needs. We stress tested dozens of products, from deodorants and antiperspirants, to gels and sprays, and are ready to give you our top choices to keep you fresh and clean all day long.

Deodorant vs. Antiperspirant: Which Should You Choose?

The most fundamental choice you must make when selecting underarm protection is between a deodorant and an antiperspirant. Each fights odor in its own way, deodorants by featuring ingredients intended to kill odor-causing bacteria, and antiperspirants by forming a barrier over your sweat glands to keep armpits dry and prevent bacteria from growing in the first place. Both deodorants and antiperspirants also often feature a scent formulated to mask any lingering smells.

So the choice, ultimately, comes down to how much you sweat on a daily basis. Do you work a high-intensity outdoor job where you’ll be sweating all day but still need to stay fresh enough to interact with customers and co-workers? Or are you naturally sweaty enough that you have a problem with pit stains on your work clothing? If so, you’ll want to choose an antiperspirant. On the other hand, if you’re in a relatively comfortable office environment and sweating isn’t too much of a concern, or if you’re sensitive to the aluminum salts that work as the active ingredient in most antiperspirants, a deodorant may be the right choice for you.

Finally, a quick note on health concerns. While it’s been speculated in the past that aluminum can play a part in the development of certain cancers, as well as kidney issues and Alzheimer’s disease, there’s no evidence that the aluminum salts in antiperspirants are to blame. Most research on the issue indicates that your body doesn’t absorb much, if any, aluminum from antiperspirants. But there are still reasons to be at least a bit cautious. If you have severe kidney disease, consulting your doctor is still recommended, as even a small amount of aluminum can cause problems. And other active ingredients in antiperspirants used as preservatives and stabilizers can cause rashes and skin irritation, so it’s worth paying attention to your body’s reaction. For most guys, however, there’s little reason to worry.

Best Daily Solid Antiperspirant

If you work a typical office or retail job, you’re probably looking for a simple, effective antiperspirant that can protect against sweat and odor over the course of a workday without the potential downsides of the most powerful options. Our testing found that Dove Men + Care Extra Fresh offers a great balance between performance and comfort, with Dove’s “1/4 Moisturizer” formula engineered to keep your underarms soft, dry, and irritation-free. The scent is pleasantly crisp, if light, and seems designed specifically not to stand out or conflict with body wash, laundry detergent, or cologne. It’s an antiperspirant that doesn’t stand out in any specific area but doesn’t lack in any either- a reliable, one-stick-fits-all product for your travel kit, gym bag, or bathroom at home.

Of course, the versatility of the Dove is also the potential downside for those with more specific needs; most pressingly, it may not offer quite enough performance. Its 15% aluminum concentration was the lowest of any antiperspirant we tested, meaning it won’t be enough to stop a serious sweat problem. Despite the claim of 48-hour protection, we could feel it starting to give out at the end of a long day, and we wouldn’t recommend letting it ride longer than that without reapplication. Also, while the extra moisturizer is a positive feature, it makes for a slightly melty consistency on the “solid” stick than can leave white residue on your armpits if you’re not careful to apply it evenly. Still, these are minor concerns for an everyday-suitable antiperspirant that should work for most people.

Pros: Effective, gentle, everyday protection

Cons: Not suitable for extreme sweat control; doesn’t live up to “48-Hour” claim; can leave minor residue

Best for Powerful Sweat Issues

Whether you suffer from overactive sweat glands that make a mess of your business casual dress shirts, or you work a physically rigorous job that regular antiperspirant just can’t match up to, Right Guard Xtreme Defense is a very powerful gel that promises- and might even deliver- up to 72-hour sweat protection.

On the positive side, the gel-based formula is extremely potent- even after an hour of intense cardio or over 24 hours with one application, most of our testers still felt clean and dry. But for some, the tacky, wet gel feeling of the initial application never fully disappears. For gel to be effective, it takes a careful application process, including a 5-10-minute wait for it to dry before you can continue to get dressed. It’s somewhat surprising how annoying that can be when you’re trying to get through an already busy morning routine. And because the gel is made of a higher percentage of alcohol, it can also irritate sensitive skin. Lastly, the container is poorly designed and can either leak extra gel, or not give you enough when you need it. But if you can deal with those issues and still need seriously powerful protection, this is the strongest antiperspirant there is.

Pros: Extremely powerful multi-day wetness and odor protection; won’t stain clothes

Cons: Annoying to apply; can feel tacky or irritate skin; messy packaging

Best for Extreme Protection without Gel

For some people with major sweat problems, gel is simply not an option- either the irritation or the tacky feel is too much of a deal breaker. In those cases, we like the Sweat Defense line from Old Spice: a “soft solid” that can be applied evenly and provides an effect closer to gel than a standard solid. We were impressed with Sweat Defense’s ability to stand up to an intense workout, block sweat, and still give off a fresh, masculine smell.

On the other hand, the “soft solid” still presents some of the same challenges as gel. You still need to rub it in after application and wait for it to dry for it to be effective. There’s still also a potential for irritation. And for some, the Old Spice brand is too closely linked to high school to feel like a grown-up option. But overall, this is a nice compromise between the effectiveness of gel and the practicality of a solid.

Pros: Gel power with easier application; strong and long lasting scent

Cons: Can still irritate skin; still needs to dry after application

Best Antiperspirant Spray

In terms of no-fuss application, it doesn’t get better than a dry spray, which quickly and evenly covers your underarm in seconds. Axe Charge Up is a particularly effective dry spray, providing solid, long lasting protection for everyday needs. It also has a pleasantly crisp, but unobtrusive mint-and-ginger scent- a positive for those who remember the aggressive, sometimes overwhelming odor that made Axe products famous in the past. A final plus is the well-designed bottle, which seals with a twist for easy transport and no risk of accidental discharge.

The downside, then, depends on how comfortable you are with spray deodorant/antiperspirant. Some of our testers prefer the feel of control that a stick provides, noting that it can be awkward to spray yourself down in a gym locker room if others are nearby. The canister is larger than a deodorant stick and can be inconvenient to travel with- for example, it can’t go into carryon luggage. And it’s also a bit pricier than a stick. Still, if you’re looking to change up your routine, or even to keep at work for a burst of freshness if you’re not going home, it’s a surprisingly appealing product.

Pros: Easy to use, even application; solid protection; nice fresh scent

Cons: Hard to travel with; won’t tame extreme sweating

Best Deodorant

Unlike everything we’ve discussed up to this point, our final two products are strictly deodorants- they contain no aluminum, and do not attempt to block you from sweating. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t designed to work against sweat and odor. Tom’s Of Maine’s aluminum-free formula uses naturally-derived ingredients such as hops extract to kill odor-causing bacteria combined with moisturizers like aloe and sunflower oil to keep your underarms clean and fresh.

In testing, we enjoyed the bright, fresh smell and clean application- a vegetable-derived propylene glycol base meant that the stick rolled on smoothly, comfortably, and evenly. On testers with normal or relatively inactive sweat glands, the deodorant worked all day, controlling odor and maintaining that pleasant scent. On the other hand, the lack of antiperspirant ingredients meant that, like all deodorants, Tom’s simply couldn’t stand up to a serious workout or overactive pits- when put to the most extreme sweat testing, it was a bit overwhelmed. Still, if you’re staying away from aluminum, Tom’s Of Maine For Men offers a solid, comfortable deodorant stick with relatively impressive odor control.

Pros: Effective odor control for moderate activity days or light sweaters; good consistency; no artificial fragrances or preservatives

Cons: No sweat protection

Best All Natural Deodorant

For some people with extremely sensitive skin or other health concerns, even the few naturally-derived chemical elements of Tom’s might be too much. Schmidt’s Charcoal + Magnesium offers a completely naturally derived formula which fights odor with the disinfecting power of activated charcoal and baking soda. While it doesn’t block sweat glands like an antiperspirant does, we loved that its arrowroot base is designed to absorb moisture, giving it more sweat-fighting power than a typical deodorant.

On the other hand, all-natural doesn’t always mean gentle on the skin- a few of our testers reported skin irritation and rashes and had to stop using it. And the arrowroot-and-baking-soda base is definitely lumpier and harder to evenly apply; you have to hold the stick under your arm for a while to soften it up before it will spread. Even once it’s applied, it can feel cakier and clumpier than ordinary deodorants or antiperspirants. But if a wholly natural product is a priority for you, and it works with your skin, Schmidt’s Charcoal + Magnesium is an impressively effective natural deodorant with an unexpected element of antiperspirant qualities.

Pros: Completely natural; impressive absorbency and odor-fighting capability

Cons: Can cause significant skin irritation for some users; uncomfortable application and consistency

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