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Deodorants and anti-perspirants

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Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Human body odour is a product of the bacterial metabolism of odourless compounds found in sweat and other compounds excreted from the glands eg sebaceous glands, eccrine glands (found on soles of feet, palms and forehead) and apocrine glands (mostly found near hair follicles in the armpits and the pubic region).
Deodorants and Antiperspirants are used to combat sweat and the odour produced by metabolised sweat. The terms are often used interchangeably but they are different.

Deodorants reduce the population of bacteria which causes odour. It does so by creating conditions (acidic or salty conditions) were by these odour causing bacteria can not grow or thrive. Sweat does not smell, the smell associated is produced when bacteria break down sweat to produce odour causing metabolites which produce the odour. So without these metabolising odour causing bacteria, your sweat will not smell.

Antiperspirants work differently to deodorants. They stop you from perspiring (sweating). They contain ingredients such as aluminium which absorb into the skin and block the glands which prevent you from sweating.  If you do not produce sweat the metabolising bacteria will have nothing to metabolise, essentially they will not have food and odour is therefore not produced.


  • Hara, T., Matsui, H., & Shimizu, H. (2014). Suppression of Microbial Metabolic Pathways Inhibits the Generation of the Human Body Odor Component Diacetyl by Staphylococcus spp. PLoS ONE, 9(11), e111833. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0111833
  • Urban, J., Fergus, D. J., Savage, A. M., Ehlers, M., Menninger, H. L., Dunn, R. R., & Horvath, J. E. (2016). The effect of habitual and experimental antiperspirant and deodorant product use on the armpit microbiome. PeerJ, 4, e1605. http://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.1605
  • https://trustproducts.co.uk/blogs/healthbasics/74962245-the-difference-between-deodorants-and-antiperspirants

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