Tips to Picking the Best Deodorant (and Antiperspirant)

Sweat itself is almost odorless—it is the bacteria feeding on the sweat that emits an odor. Antiperspirants reduce sweat, deodorants prevent bacterial growth or in some cases bind to foul smelling molecules to eliminate odor. Sometimes scents are also used to mask unpleasant odors. Here are tips you might want to consider when choosing your deodorant or antiperspirant.

Stay away from Triclosan. Many deodorants use an added chemical called Triclosan to kill odor-causing bacteria. The wide use of Triclosan may also be promoting a Triclosan drug resistance in that same bacteria. Drug resistant bacteria reduce the effectiveness of antibiotics and thus reduce the tools we have to treat infections or prevent the spread of infection in hospitals. In addition, Triclosan has been detected in many U.S. waterways and is extremely toxic to aquatic wildlife.

Avoid Aluminum. Aluminum compounds in deodorant are the culprits in yellow armpit stains. Aluminum salts, such as aluminum chlorohydrate, were some of the first antiperspirants developed to reduce perspiration. Newer and more effective aluminum zirconium chlorohydrate-glycine complexes have been developed and are used in several brands of solid and gel antiperspirants. These ingredients have the added benefit of having antimicrobial activity, meaning they also act as deodorants. There is inconclusive evidence that aluminum-containing compounds increase the risk of certain neurological diseases (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease).

Stop the (aerosol) spray. If you are concerned about the environment, you may want to avoid aerosol antiperspirants. Some propellants used in these products can be toxic. Others, such as tetrafluoroethane, are not toxic but are global warming agents.

Good Alternatives:

Deodorant crystals which are made from alum-based mineral salts.

An age-old alternative to Triclosan is tea tree oil which is often listed as TTO on the label.

Zinc ricinoleate reduces odors by binding to stinky chemicals, making them imperceptible to most noses. If you use a zinc ricinoleate-based deodorant, opt for a fragrance-free formulation because fragrances can interfere with zinc ricinoleate’s odor fighting capacity.

About Dara O'Rourke

Associate Professor at UC Berkeley and Co-Founder of GoodGuide.
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8 Responses to Tips to Picking the Best Deodorant (and Antiperspirant)

  1. After using the crytal type deodorant for years, I recently switched to a spray by
    Simply Divine Botanicals. Besides stopping odor, it is supposed to encourage lymphatic circulation. Name – "Keeping Abreast Of It".

  2. I’ve had great luck with the Crystal rock deodorant. My husband isn’t as impressed. It’s not that it doesn’t control odor for him (it does) but I think rubbing a moist rock on your skin is easier without armpit hair to get pulled and tangled. 🙂

    Maybe it’s just my body chemistry, but I’ve found that the crystal rock works better than any conventional brand name deodorant/antiperspirant (most women’s products are antiperspirants, I think). I would not switch back now.

  3. Dianne Crimble says:

    What about the use of Propylene Glycol in deoderants? I am currently looking to switch brands as the one I am currently using does not use Trilosan or aluminum but PG.

  4. Joel Bolden says:

    I’m a man and have been using "The Rock" for a couple of years with zero discomfort; must be another reason. The only problem I’ve found is that dropping it on a terrazzo bathroom floor results in tiny little particles that drive you crazy trying to use.

  5. M'lou Arnett says:

    Thanks for the detail. I’ve recently switched to natural deodorant (mentioned in my blog, "Pure Talk" on and I’m going to stick with it. The loss of the antiperspirant is taking some getting used to but the loss of the extra chemicals is well worth the switch. Thanks again for helping to keep us all informed.

  6. I’m not sure how a review I posted years ago on a different site shows up here as a new user review, but I know a lot of these sites either buy or just steal comments from other sites.

    I think it’s crappy practice, especially when you claim "Comments from our users" instead of simply "Comments" . . . a blatant lie. I am not a user of your site. Seems like instead, you’re a user of my previously published comments somewhere else.

    My issue is that now it looks like I use this site, and people might wrongly think that I trust the site. Everyone be advised that whatever you write anywhere can be copied and used elsewhere to make it look like you are a user of a site you’ve never been to. (I’ve even found myself a registered poster of a forum I’d never been to – because Yahoo! Answers sells website owners questions and answers that they can then turn into a forum on their website to make it look like there’s a community.)

    Whatever. I still love the product and if it helps people switch to something more natural than so be it.

    Just a warning to readers that the reviews themselves may be legitimate, but often sites like this grab the text from elsewhere to give credibility to their site. The Crystal Rock deodorant stick – credible. This website, not so much.

  7. Good article and it corresponds with the advice and information I give on my site too.

    There are so many products on the market today that contain bad chemicals that they are too numerous to mention. Deodorants and antiperspirants are just the tip of the iceberg in my opinion and people, consumers and families would benefit from increased awareness of these issues and the possible side effects they might have.

    Knowledge is power, as they say!

  8. I just made a post on my site about some of these natural alternatives also. I’m glad to see the word is finally starting to get out about aluminum. I hate to think what people are doing to themselves and future generations with all of these chemicals. Thanks for helping to spread the word!

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