For something that we use every day, we sure have a lot of questions about deodorant. For starters, when is the best time to apply it? And what’s the difference between deodorant and antiperspirant? Can deodorant make you sick? We turned to the experts to separate fact from fiction. These are the seven most common deodorant myths, busted.
Myth: The best time to apply antiperspirant is in the morning
“Antiperspirant-deodorants are designed to reduce underarm sweating and keep body odor at bay, so for the best performance, I recommend applying your antiperspirant-deodorant at night before you go to bed,” says Laurie Coyle, R&D Director at Unilever US. “As we sleep our metabolism slows down and we tend to sweat less. This allows the antiperspirant-deodorant active to form a more effective layer of wetness protection in your underarm. When you wake up in the morning, top off with another application for an extra boost of freshness as needed.” Of course, if you’re worried about sweat or odor, there’s no harm in reapplying as needed throughout the day.
Myth: Antiperspirant and deodorant are the same
‘Deodorant’ and ‘antiperspirant’ are often used interchangeably, but there is actually a key difference between the two. “While both protect against body odor, antiperspirants traditionally use the ingredient aluminum, which keeps you dry by controlling the flow of sweat to avoid the feeling of wetness under your arms,” says Pediatric Dermatologist Dr. Mercedes Gonzalez. “Deodorants, on the other hand, do not use aluminum and rely instead on other ingredients to help you feel fresh throughout the day. So it’s really all about choice and preference, depending on your lifestyle and what works for your body. For people who do not sweat a lot, or for those who sweat a little with only minor odor issues, a deodorant without aluminum, such as Dove 0% Aluminum Deodorant, may be the best choice. It provides 24-hour odor protection and contains moisturizers for soft and smooth underarms.”
Myth: Antiperspirant can cause breast cancer
Many studies have looked into this common rumor, but a link actually hasn’t been found. “Cancer experts, charities and health authorities, including the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the EU Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety, say there is no convincing scientific evidence that the risk of breast cancer increases with antiperspirant-deodorant use,” Coyle says. “Indeed, the overwhelming majority of evidence confirms that spray antiperspirant-deodorants are safe and do not cause health problems. According to the American Cancer Society, there are no strong epidemiologic studies in the medical literature that link breast cancer risk and antiperspirant-deodorant use, and very little scientific evidence to support this claim.”
Myth: Men sweat more than women
The answer is it varies. “It depends on lifestyle and body size rather than sex,” Gonzalez says. “Those who are more active and who have larger body sizes tend to produce more sweat.” When you compare an individual sweat gland, there is no known difference in the amount of sweat between men and women, Coyle says. “However, the average size of a male underarm is larger than a female’s, which will mean that a male underarm will produce more sweat, solely due to the larger size. What is more amazing to note is the variation between individuals — regardless of male or female — under the same conditions. For example, under controlled conditions for a 20-minute time period, we have seen up to a 10 times difference in the amount of sweat produced in people’s underarm. There is a huge variation of sweating from person to person.”
Myth: Antiperspirant prevents the body from releasing toxins
“This is a common misconception — the kidney and liver are the primary organs in the body that remove byproducts of metabolism, often referred to as toxins in the body,” Coyle says. “These byproducts are excreted by the body in our urine. Sweat in the underarms is not a biological pathway to rid the body of ‘toxins.’”
Myth: Deodorant is linked to Alzheimer’s
“I am a scientist, and I look to data — not just opinions — to inform me,” Coyle says. “I leverage expertise from respected organizations such as the FDA and the EU Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety for guidance on the safety of aluminum actives in antiperspirant-deodorant products. The position of these organizations is that aluminum active use in antiperspirant-deodorants does not cause or increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, there is strong evidence to show that antiperspirant-deodorants are safe and effective products for everyday use.” Additionally, the Personal Care Products Council, the leading independent cosmetics trade organization, as well as the Alzheimer’s Association and the FDA have concluded that there is currently no evidence linking aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease.
Myth: Applying antiperspirant to your feet can help zap sweat
Antiperspirant-deodorants are an over the counter drug and are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration,” Coyle says. “Antiperspirant-deodorants are designed specifically to be used in the underarms. I am aware that people report using these products on other body parts, but I wouldn’t recommend it. There are specific products that are formulated for specific body parts – use the right product designed for the right part!”