Whether you’re going to the gym or bearing the brunt of a hot summer day, sweating and body odor go hand in hand. That’s when deodorants and antiperspirants can save the day: they manage to mask body odor and, depending on whether it has aluminum compounds or not, prevent you from sweating and creating odor-causing bacteria in the process. But choosing the one that’ll have you smelling good throughout the day depends on a few factors, including how much you actually sweat on a daily basis, your skin type and your general preferences.
To help determine the best deodorants and antiperspirants to consider, we spoke to dermatologists about what to consider when shopping for a deodorant, the major differences between deodorants and antiperspirants and whether they’re actually safe to use.
SKIP AHEAD Best deodorants and antiperspirants of 2023 | What is the difference between deodorants and antiperspirants? | How to shop for deodorants and antiperspirants | Are antiperspirants safe? | What are natural deodorants and do they work? | Are certain deodorants more prone to staining clothes? | How to prevent body odor
Our top picks
- Best overall/editor’s pick: Secret Clinical Strength Invisible Antiperspirant & Deodorant
- Best stick: Degree Ultra Clear Pure Clean Antiperspirant & Deodorant
- Best aluminum-free: Dove 0% Aluminum Deodorant
- Best natural: Native Regular Deodorant
- Best spray: Dove Beauty Clear Finish Antiperspirant & Deodorant Dry Spray
- Best roll-on: Athena Club All Day Deo
- Best cream: PiperWai Natural Deodorant
How we picked the best deodorants and antiperspirants
Experts told us choosing a deodorant or antiperspirant depends on your personal preferences and what you’re looking to get out of it. When shopping for a product that’ll prevent body odor throughout the day, the dermatologists we spoke to recommend keeping the following factors in mind:
- Antiperspirants vs aluminum-free deodorants: Antiperspirants contain aluminum salts that stop you from sweating and prevent odor-causing bacteria from coming in contact with your sweat. Deodorants, on the other hand, are meant to simply mask odor. If sweating and body odor are your main concern, stick with antiperspirants, our experts told us. You’ll usually see options labeled as both deodorants and antiperspirants because they accomplish both functions.
- Skin type: Those with sensitive skin should look for hypoallergenic formulas and consider antiperspirants that are unscented, according to our experts. You may also want to consider arrowroot as a moisture-absorbing alternative to baking soda, which can irritate sensitive skin.
- Formulation: There are five main types of deodorants: sticks or solid, spray, gel, roll-on and cream or paste deodorants. Technically, there’s no difference between each type, and the one you choose is based solely on how you want the product to feel on your skin, according to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Robyn Gmyrek. However, “for those with this excessive sweating, sprays or roll-on‘s with a more alcohol base might be preferred, whereas those with sensitive skin may find cream deodorants less irritating,” she says.
- Ingredients: Mostly, conventional deodorants will have lab-derived antimicrobial ingredients like alcohols and triclosan. If you want mostly natural ingredients, look for deodorants with essential oils for fragrance and natural moisture absorbers like baking soda, arrowroot, charcoal and cornstarch. Some deodorants also have ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, citric acid and lemon juice that kill off some of the odor-causing bacteria and keep their numbers down, according to Dr. Apple Bodemer, a board-certified dermatologist and associate professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
Best deodorants and antiperspirants of 2023
Below, we compiled expert-recommended picks for the best deodorants and antiperspirants to try. We also included a few options that the Select staff uses on a daily basis.
Best overall deodorant: Secret
For people who worry about sweating throughout the day or with hyperhidrosis (a condition that causes excessive sweating), a clinical strength antiperspirant will work best because it has more active ingredients to help minimize body odor and sweat, according to Dr. Nkem Ugonabo, a board-certified dermatologist at Union Derm. This stick option from Secret is one I use on a daily basis during the hot summer months when I’m sweating a lot, especially when I go to the gym, walk to work or run outdoors. It provides a great amount of protection, and a clean scent and I notice I don’t feel sweaty or have any visible sweat marks on my clothes at the end of a long day. The antiperspirant provides up to 72 hours of sweat protection, according to the brand.
Best stick deodorant: Degree
Only after one application, Select associate reporter Bianca Alvarez didn’t notice any body odor throughout the day and loved how it didn’t leave any white residue behind.“It doesn’t transfer on my clothes, which can be a problem with other deodorants I’ve tried.” says Alvarez. The deodorant also provides over 72 hours of sweat and odor protection, according to the brand.
Best aluminum-free deodorant: Dove
Dove is a brand that Dr. Michele Green, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, recommends to her patients. This option is aluminum-free, has moisturizing ingredients like glycerin and doesn’t include ethanol alcohol or baking soda, so it’s great for sensitive skin, according to our experts. I use this one on days when I’m not sweating as much because it doesn’t contain aluminum, and I notice it leaves me smelling fresh throughout the entire day. The scent can last for up to 48 hours, according to the brand, and it comes in multiple scents like coconut and pink jasmine, lavender and vanilla and cucumber and green tea (my personal favorite).
Best for sensitive skin: Vanicream
This Vanicream deodorant and antiperspirant comes recommended by all of the dermatologists we spoke to for those with sensitive skin. It’s unscented and free of chemical irritants and common allergens like dyes, essential oils, baking soda, lanolin and parabens, according to our experts. It provides up to 24 hours of sweat and odor protection, according to the brand.
Best spray deodorant: Dove
The Dove Invisible Dry deodorant spray is a great option for people who worry about stains from deodorant, according to Ugonabo. It dries clear and offers up to 48 hours of sweat and odor protection, according to the brand. It also doesn’t contain ethanol alcohol, which can be irritating to the skin, especially after shaving, experts told us. It comes in a fruity floral scent, a crisp, airy scent, a fresh grapefruit, lemongrass and tea rose scent and more. Like all spray options on this list, the brand recommends applying the product in two or three short bursts about 6 inches away from each underarm.
Best natural deodorant: Native
Native Sensitive Deodorant is a favorite among Select staff because of its easy application and non-greasy feel.Select associate updates editor Zoe Malin says it’s the best out of all other natural options she’s tried. “I don’t notice a difference between how this natural deodorant and other ‘non-natural’ options work, even when I wear it during the most sweat-heavy cardio workouts,” she says. Ugobano also recommends this deodorant because it’s gentle, fragrance-free and less likely to cause irritation. In addition to an unscented option, the brand offers the deodorant in 17 other scents made from a blend of oils.
Best roll-on deodorant: Athena Club
Athena Club’s All Day Deo is one of my favorite deodorants to use on a daily basis after the brand sent it to me to try earlier this year. I noticed it lasts all day on my skin and it doesn’t leave any residue when I apply it. It’s made with tapioca starch, which is an alternative to baking soda for people with sensitive skin, chamomile extract and coconut oil to soothe, moisturize and hydrate, according to the brand. Since I have very dry, sensitive skin that extends to my underarms, deodorants can cause my skin to get irritated from the friction of applying it. This one not only prevents irritation under my arms, but it also leaves the skin feeling smoother and hydrated. It comes in three scents: Grapefruit Spritz, Solar Disco (with notes of orange flower and sandalwood) and Super Bloom (with notes of lychee, rose water and vanilla).
Best long-lasting deodorant: Degree
This antiperspirant spray provides up to 96 hours of sweat and odor protection, the longest out of all the options on this list. Alvarez uses this spray every morning when she wants to make sure she smells and feels clean. “I’ve noticed it combines the best of both worlds because it masks any odor and is perfect for the fight against sweating,” she says. “I love the scent and how quickly it dries on my skin without leaving any residue or color.” It comes in fruity, fresh and earthy scents, among others.
Best hypoallergenic natural deodorant: Attitude
This deodorant is verified by the Environmental Working Group, which means it won’t cause irritation and is good for sensitive skin because it’s free of common allergens like aluminum, parabens, triclosan, talcum powder and artificial colors, according to Bodemer. “I also really like their philosophy as a company,” she says. The deodorant has a vegan formula, has never been tested on animals and comes in plastic-free, biodegradable packaging, according to the brand.
Best for high-intensity workouts: Dove
This option from Dove is another clinical protection deodorant that Ugonabo recommends for those who excessively sweat throughout the day. It has a moisturizing formula that leaves underarms dry and smelling good for up to 48 hours, according to the brand. It also doesn’t contain ethanol alcohol for those with sensitive skin, and it comes in scents like original clean and green tea and cucumber.
Best for low-intensity workouts: Evolvetogether
Malin says Evolvetogether’s natural deodorant is great for everyday use, and she’ll usually use it during low-intensity workouts like yoga and pilates. However, because the aluminum-free deodorant makes her sweat more, Malin doesn’t recommend it for heavy sweating days or workouts, like running. The deodorant is free of baking soda and talc for those with sensitive skin, and it’s formulated with tapioca starch to naturally absorb sweat and moisture, according to the brand. The deodorant goes on clear and is scented with lemon, patchouli, sage and cedarwood.
Best for preventing white stains: Oars and Alps
The Oars and Alps aluminum-free deodorant comes recommended by Gmyrek, who notes it dries quickly and has a clear, non-sticky formula for those who worry about white marks on their clothing. It’s also great for sensitive skin because it uses arrowroot and cornstarch (rather than baking soda) to absorb sweat, according to Gmyrek. The fragrance is made with allergen-free ingredients, according to the brand. It also comes in an unscented version for people who may be very sensitive to fragrances, Gmyrek says.
Best deodorant with a subtle scent: Salt & Stone
NBC Page Mikhaila Archer says she prefers natural deodorants because she dislikes the distinct, artificial smell of aluminum-containing deodorants. She loves this Salt & Stone deodorant for its subtle scent, with notes of bergamot, French lavender, cypress and eucalyptus. It also keeps her smelling good even after intense workouts. “It’s the first deodorant I’ve used that makes me feel totally protected no matter what the situation,” she says.
Best gel deodorant: Necessaire
This Necessaire gel deodorant is a favorite of mine and Green’s because it dries quickly, it’s free of aluminum and baking soda, and it doesn’t leave a white residue on the skin like many solid deodorants do. Since I sweat a lot with this deodorant, I’ll use it in the wintertime when I’m not outdoors as much. It has a eucalyptus scent derived from essential oils, but I advise that you use this product sparingly at first: I had some itchiness under the arms when I first started applying it, and it took a few weeks for my skin to get used to the formula.
Best paste deodorant: PiperWai
This aluminum-free cream deodorant lets you easily rub the product directly onto your underarms. The deodorant, which has a 4-star average rating from more than 7,600 reviews on Amazon, has activated charcoal that can absorb moisture and reduce body odor, according to our experts. It has a light herbal scent that’s derived from a proprietary blend of essential oils. And though it looks dark in the jar because of the charcoal ingredient, the product rubs on clear, according to the brand.
What is the difference between deodorants and antiperspirants?
The terms deodorant and antiperspirant are typically used interchangeably, and you’ll sometimes see products labeled as both. That’s because they tackle different concerns, but can do it simultaneously: Deodorants work to mask your body odor, while antiperspirants contain aluminum compounds that temporarily “plug” the sweat ducts in your armpits to stop you from sweating and prevent odor-causing bacteria from growing.
“Deodorants improve the smell of sweat by targeting odor, acidity, and bacteria, but they do not impact how much sweat is produced,” says Green. Deodorants usually have synthetic ingredients like propylene glycol, which prevents products from becoming dry and cracked but can cause allergic reactions for those with sensitive skin, and parabens, a type of preservative, says Dr. Ronda Farah, a board-certified dermatologist at the University of Minnesota Medical School and M Health Fairview. And though deodorants are usually aluminum-free, some may have a low level of aluminum to prevent sweat from flowing onto your skin.
However, you should stick to antiperspirants if you’re concerned about body odor or if you have hyperhidrosis, a condition that causes excessive sweating, according to our dermatologists. In fact, body odor is usually caused by sweating: Certain sweat glands in the body, including under our arms, open into the hair follicle so sweat makes its way to the surface of the skin. That sweat contains oils and fats that bacteria chew up and metabolize, and those metabolites cause the smell, according to Bodemer. So, the aluminum salts in antiperspirants prevent the sweat from making its way to the surface, which ultimately prevents the smell.
How to shop for deodorants and antiperspirants
With so many options on the market, it can be hard to narrow down which deodorant or antiperspirant is right for you. And since these are personal care products that you likely use on a daily basis, there are a few key factors our experts say to keep in mind when shopping for one.
There are a few different types of deodorants to consider, but the one you choose ultimately depends on your personal preference — there isn’t really a difference when it comes to effectiveness, according to Gmyrek.
- Sticks or solid deodorants are the most common and traditional type of deodorant. They usually come in a chalky white formula that you apply by swiping it directly onto the skin.
- Gel deodorants are similar to solid deodorants, but they may take a little longer to dry.
- Spray deodorants come in aerosol cans or pumps and are applied by spraying product onto the underarm area. They tend to leave less residue or staining compared to stick deodorants, according to Green. They also dry quickly and may be a good option for anyone dealing with hyperpigmentation in the armpit, which can be caused by friction, says Ugonabo. However, you may find it difficult to get full coverage and they usually contain alcohol or other similar ingredients that may be irritating on sensitive skin or after shaving, she says.
- Roll-on deodorants or those with liquid formulations can be great because they apply a thin layer of liquid to the area without leaving any thick residue behind, according to Green. Similar to sprays, roll-on’s with an alcohol base might be best for those with this excessive sweating, says Gmyrek.
- Cream or paste deodorants have a thicker consistency and you’ll need to scoop out a small amount and rub it onto the skin. Deodorant creams are usually more moisturizing than other deodorant options, which makes them great for sensitive or dry skin, says Green.
Generally, most skin types can tolerate conventional deodorants and antiperspirants. But if you have very sensitive skin and are prone to skin allergies and rashes, you should avoid deodorants with fragrance or essential oils, which are the most common causes of skin allergies, says Gmyrek. You should also look for hypoallergenic formulas and moisturizing ingredients like coconut oil, and consider arrowroot as a moisture-absorbing alternative to baking soda because it’s less likely to irritate the skin, according to our experts.
Conventional deodorants usually have a low level of aluminum that acts as an antibacterial, according to Gmyrek. They’ll also have laboratory-derived topical antibacterial ingredients like triclosan (the main antimicrobial used in soaps, shampoos, creams, lotions, toothpastes and more), chlorhexidine and alcohols, which work to decrease the bacteria in moist and warm environments like the underarm area, says Gmyrek. Fragrances are a combination of chemical compounds that create a pleasant smell, according to Green.
Are antiperspirants safe?
Yes, our experts agree that antiperspirants are safe.
The aluminum in antiperspirants isn’t a cause for concern, according to our dermatologists. You may have heard claims that suggest aluminum-based compounds in antiperspirants may contribute to the development of breast cancer. However, the National Cancer Institute says that, based on an exhaustive 2014 systematic review, there is no evidence to date that shows aluminum-containing antiperspirants can increase your risk. “Studies proving a link between aluminum salts and breast cancer are lacking,” Farah says.
You also aren’t absorbing much aluminum through the skin, either. A 2017 study concluded that only about 0.01% of aluminum from antiperspirants was absorbed into the skin from antiperspirants, and research also shows that we’ll absorb aluminum in different ways in our daily lives, including from foods we eat.
“To date, no conclusive studies link aluminum in antiperspirants to medical conditions,” says Green. “When it comes to blocking odor and sweat, aluminum-containing antiperspirants should be considered safe even if you don’t suffer from hyperhidrosis.”
What are natural deodorants and do they work?
The main difference between natural deodorants and regular deodorants is natural, plant-based ingredients versus synthetic, lab-derived ones. Though both natural deodorants and conventional deodorants don’t usually contain aluminum compounds, there may be small traces of aluminum in conventional deodorants.
Natural deodorants have ingredients like essential oils for fragrance and baking soda, arrowroot and cornstarch to absorb moisture. They might be better for people who are concerned about synthetic ingredients.But keep in mind that the “all-natural” label isn’t regulated by the FDA, so there is no way to tell if they’re actually safer than or even as effective as conventional deodorants or antiperspirants. In fact, natural deodorants can cause an allergic reaction on the delicate skin under the arms because they may include potentially irritating ingredients like baking soda and vinegar that absorb moisture and essential oils for scent
“When we’re getting into the standard, drugstore [deodorant] brands, there are things that can be irritating, like propylene glycol, parabens and phthalates,” says Bodemer. But in terms of natural deodorants, the fragrance coming from essential oils that also have antimicrobial properties, like tea tree oil, citrus oils and eucalyptus, might contribute to more irritation. “That’s just something to think about, where is your skin on a level of sensitivity?” she says.
Which deodorants stain clothes?
If you’re looking for a deodorant that won’t cause unsightly white streaks on your clothing, consider an aluminum-free deodorant. “Any deodorant and antiperspirant with aluminum can stain clothes because aluminum-based compounds, such as aluminum chloride, bonds with your sweat,” says Gmyrek.
Aluminum salts in antiperspirants can leave chalky white marks on the skin, which can transfer to clothes. Yellow staining occurs when minerals (salts) in sweat mix with aluminum in deodorants or antiperspirants, according to Green.
How to prevent and reduce body odor
There is no one-size-fits-all reason that you may have body odor, but the root of the issue is usually your sweat interacting with bacteria. Our experts share a few reasons why you may experience body odor, and some ways you can prevent or reduce it.
Shaving your underarm area can help reduce body odor because it prevents bacteria and sweat from having time to interact. “If you sweat a lot and the smell bothers you, shaving and removing that hair is going to help make it easier to manage that body odor,” says Bodemer. Also, wearing loose-fitting cotton clothing can reduce moisture buildup, says Green.
Apply your antiperspirant at night before you go to bed, especially if you have concerns with excessive sweating. “It takes a little time for those mineral salts to accumulate on the surface of the oil glands and block the production of that sweat,” says Bodemer. You can also apply a separate deodorant in the morning to add a scent.
Practice good hygiene by cleansing the skin daily with soap and water and keeping the skin dry. You may want to consider using a benzoyl peroxide wash in the shower to help reduce body odor by killing bacteria under the arm, according to Ugonabo.
Diet and stress can also have a big impact on body odor, according to Green. Eating spicy foods, for example, may lead to sweating, which mixes with the bacteria and causes odor. For some people, garlic and onions increase how much you sweat, leading to body odor. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli contain sulfur, and eating them may cause the bacteria to make more sulfur-containing compounds that produce an odor, says Green.
If you deal with excessive sweating or body odor, you should see a dermatologist who may be able to prescribe a topical or oral medication. They may also perform botulinum toxin (Botox) under the arm, which helps reduce sweating, according to Ugonabo.
Meet our experts
At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
- Dr. Robyn Gmyrek is clinical instructor of dermatology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and a board-certified dermatologist at Union Derm.
- Dr. Apple Bodemer is a board-certified dermatologist and associate professor of dermatology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
- Dr. Nkem Ugonabo is a board-certified dermatologist with advanced fellowship training in cosmetic dermatology and lasers at Union Derm in New York City.
- Dr. Michele Green is a board-certified dermatologist in New York City who specializes in cosmetic dermatology.
- Dr. Ronda Farah is a board-certified dermatologist at the University of Minnesota Medical School and M Health Fairview.
Why trust Select?
Mili Godio is an editor at Select who has covered a wide range of personal care topics, including cystic acne treatments, face sunscreens, shaving creams and rosacea treatments. For this article, Godio spoke to five dermatologists to narrow down how to shop for the deodorants and antiperspirants, and highlighted their recommendations for the best ones to consider.