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 used in antiperspirants include aluminum chloride, aluminum zirconium tricholorohydrex glycine, and aluminum hydrobromide. Antiperspirants and deodorants are not the same. While many deodorants also have antiperspirants, 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 handy for controlling underarm sweating. Most people sweat under the armpits more than anywhere else in the body 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 severe 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 to skin irritation. The irritation 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 that the stronger antiperspirant may be more likely to irritate.