Sweating, both literally and figuratively, stinks. No guy wants to go through the day worrying if he’s emitting BO or fearing he’ll show off serious pit stains if he lifts his arms. To find out what products are most effective at controlling sweat and odor, I spoke with doctors Jeremy Fenton, of the Schweiger Dermatology Group, and Jennifer Chwalek, of Union Square Laser Dermatology.
First, it’s important to clarify what we’re talking about when we’re talking about deodorant. “Deodorants technically only mask or neutralize the body odor caused by bacteria; whereas an antiperspirant temporarily suppresses the flow of sweat,” said Chwalek. She explained that the metallic salts in antiperspirants — typically aluminum compounds — “create a plug in the sweat duct reducing the flow of sweat.” Fenton agreed that the gold standard for sweat and odor protection is a combination antiperspirant deodorant.
Aluminum can be irritating to sensitive skin, so if you’re prone to rashes or itchiness, opt for a deodorant-only product that kills odor-causing bacteria. Fenton suggested ingredients like “zinc, witch hazel, essential oils that have antibacterial properties like lemongrass, sage, and tea tree, or baking soda, which neutralizes odor.” Below, the dermatologists’ picks for all levels of sweaty.
Best for very heavy sweating
Fenton said Certain Dri is his favorite brand for excessive sweating. “One of the keys when you’re using it is to apply at night,” he said. “You want the aluminum to settle down in the sweat glands.” This is harder to do during the day when they’re actively producing sweat. Because it’s so strong, Fenton recommends that his patients apply Certain Dri every other night at first to avoid irritation. “There’s an accumulative effect as it settles into the pores,” he said, so using it every 48 to 72 hours may be all you need.
Another powerful antiperspirant, wipe-on SweatBlock, is one of Chwalek’s choices. Endorsed by International Hyperhidrosis Society, one SweatBlock wipe can be effective for up to seven days. If it feels strange to only use an antiperspirant at night — and not even every night — Fenton said using a non-antiperspirant deodorant in the morning is fine for added odor protection. Strat writer Carlo Dellaverson, and self-proclaimed “card-carrying member of the excessive-sweating community,” said SweatBlock wipes “have taken on a sort of cult status among excessive sweaters, for when nothing else works.”
Best for moderate to heavy sweating
For guys who don’t need the most powerful antiperspirant, or find it irritating, Fenton said Mitchum is “one step down” from the strongest stuff, and very effective for controlling wetness and odor for most men.
Best for moderate sweating
“If you don’t need superstrong stuff, a lot of guys like the scent of Dove’s men’s skin-care line,” said Fenton. Aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex, the active ingredient in Dove, also one of Chwalek’s recommended brands, is less irritating on the skin than some of the harsher chemicals.
With the same mild active ingredient as the Dove stick, Degree is a solid choice for everyday wear if you’re not an excessive sweater. A drugstore staple, it’s also one of the most affordable products, coming in at $10 for four sticks.
Best for sensitive skin
Best natural deodorant
If any type of aluminum antiperspirant irritates your skin, it may be time to try a deodorant-only product. Chwalek cautions, “If you do switch from an antiperspirant to a natural deodorant, you may feel extra wet at first as they really don’t reduce sweat.” The best option, according to Fenton, is Jason’s line of natural deodorants. The unscented version fights odor with zinc, baking soda, and naturally antimicrobial grapefruit-seed extract.
Fenton also recommended Jason’s tea-tree-oil deodorant if you’re looking for a lightly scented option with bacteria-fighting tea-tree oil. Those with the most sensitive skin should stick with unscented, though, as Fenton said, “even the deodorants without antiperspirant can be irritating.” Finding natural ingredients that don’t cause skin issues can be a process of trial and error.
Best crystal deodorant
One reason some opt for natural deodorant is to avoid aluminum, but Fenton said that “there’s no evidence that it gets absorbed in the bloodstream in large enough quantities to cause any health risk.” If you’d still like to use a natural product for environmental or other health reasons, choose one with potassium alum. “Potassium alum puts a temporary layer of mineral salt on the skin that prevents growth of bacteria.” These come in crystal form, like this one from Tom’s.
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