How do Antiperspirants work?

For most people, antiperspirants are the most familiar and convenient solution to sweating. They are available over the counter, are inexpensive, and have very little drawback.

How do antiperspirants work?

The key active ingredient for antiperspirants is aluminum. Some of the most common aluminum compounds that are used in antiperspirants are: Aluminum chloride, aluminum zirconium tricholorohydrex glycine, and aluminum hydrobromide. It is important to separate deodorants from antiperspirants. They are often thought to be the same, as many deodorants also have antiperspirants in them, however, deodorants aim to mask odor while antiperspirants aim to control sweating.

Aluminum creates a plug that shuts the sweat ducts closed. It also has an astringent effect, causing the skin to tighten up, closing the pores. The effect of the antiperspirant does not last forever, however. The water from the sweat will eventually overwhelm the antiperspirant, at which point, reapplication will become necessary.

How well do antiperspirants work?

For many, antiperspirants are all that is necessary to control their occasional sweat problems. They are particularly effective for controlling underarm sweating. Most people sweat under the armpits more than anywhere else in the body. This is because the armpits have a large concentration of apocrine sweat glands, which produce sweat efficiently. For those with severe sweating, antiperspirants that are available over the counter may not be effective. A stronger antiperspirant with a higher concentration of actives can be prescribed.

Are there any side-effects that I need to watch out for?

Antiperspirants that are available over the counter are safe, and have almost no serious side-effects. The most common side-effect reported is itching, stinging, redness, and general irritation of the skin. Those with eczema or sensitive skin may be more prone than normal to skin irritation. This can be due to an allergic reaction to one or more ingredients in the antiperspirant, or due to simple irritants wearing down on the skin over time.

With prescribed antiperspirants with a higher concentration of actives, the risk of irritation increases. Those with sensitive or allergy prone skin should be aware of the fact that the stronger antiperspirant may be more likely to cause irritation.