Arguably, deodorant is the personal care product we rely on most. Many of us are more apt to skip brushing our teeth than to leave the house without the swipe-swipe that's been part of every morning since puberty.
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We don't ask for much from those helpmates, only not to be unpleasant company to our colleagues and companions. But it's easy to be thwarted in even that humble goal by the number of products to choose from. Indeed, it can take some trial and error to figure out which ones really work, and work well for you.
However crowded the deodorant market is — and is it ever — it's still possible to winnow down the contenders to standouts that sop sweat, squash sour smells and leave us fresh and confident.
So we did, with the help of three dermatologists: Jeannette Graf, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City; Amit Om, MD, a board-certified dermatologist for Apostrophe; and Kenneth Mark, MD, a cosmetic dermatology expert with offices in New York City and Aspen.
Here are six deodorants worthy of your swipe-swipe on the daily.
1. Best Overall: Native Deodorant
Native is known as the deo that makes reluctant first-timers say "Antiperspirant who?"
This pick is loaded with coconut oil (a rich, moisturizing antioxidant) and tapioca starch, so you stay soft, smooth and stink-free.
Traditional deodorant scents not your jam? It comes in scores of dynamic-duo scents, like Coconut & Vanilla and Citrus & Herbal Musk (and there's an unscented option, too). Plus, the formula is vegan and cruelty-free, and the packaging is plastic-free.
Buy it: Native.com; Price: $12
2. Best on a Budget: Harry's Odor Control Deodorant
Your secret weapon for the sweatiest, stinkiest days, this sleek stick provides 24-hour odor protection. The formula leverages calming ginger root and bisabolol from German chamomile to soothe easily irritated skin.
We like the distinctive scents in this line, especially Redwood and Stone.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $16 for a three-pack
3. Best for Sensitive Skin: Dove Zero Aluminum Sensitive Deodorant
This one gets the nod from Dr. Graf. Dove is known for pampering and moisturizing skin, and this deodorant is no different.
Are you loyal to their super-popular antiperspirant, and the thought of breaking up with it makes you, well, perspire? Swapping in their deo is a seamless way to make the switch.
Buy it: Target.com; Price: $5.99
4. Best Fragrance-Free: Hello Shea Butter Fragrance-Free Deodorant
Finding a fragrance-free deodorant isn't easy, let alone one that actually, you know, deodorizes.
This one, recommended by Dr. Graf, boasts gentle absorbents, such as arrowroot powder, and odor-protecting ingredients, including tea tree oil. It's also clinically proven to have 24-hour odor protection.
Bonus: The 100-percent PCR plastic packaging.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $20.97 for a three-pack
5. Best Roll-On: Crystal Mineral Deodorant Roll-On
This pick comes from Dr. Om. Relying on natural mineral salts to work its fresh magic, this non-sticky glide-on won't leave streaks or white marks. A winner of the Clean Label Project Purity Award, it's hypoallergenic and dries super fast.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $10 for a three-pack
6. Best Natural: Schmidt's Natural Deodorant
Dr. Graf is a fan of Schmidt's, pointing to their use of magnesium instead of baking soda to neutralize odors. It's the first Ecocert-certified natural deodorant in the U.S., so you know they mean business.
The dreamy rose and vanilla fragrance is certified 100 percent natural origin. Its ingredients are plant-based, and the list never includes fillers, propylene glycol, phthalates or parabens.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $5.93
7. Best Antiperspirant Deodorant: Degree 48-Hour Antiperspirant Deodorant
"Degree 48-Hour works great, and the scent is so good," raves Dr. Mark. "It gets me through long work days and the gym after. And unlike others, it doesn't stain my shirts."
He's not the only one who swears by this tried-and-true sweat-stopper. It has a 4.7-star average review on Amazon.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $2.46
What to Look for in a Deodorant
1. Antiperspirant vs. Deodorant
"Deodorants and antiperspirants are two distinct products," notes Dr. Om. "Put simply, deodorants fight odor, while antiperspirants fight sweat."
That funky smell is caused by bacteria mixing with sweat. Deodorants, which are considered cosmetic products, mask odor rather than reducing the amount of sweat you produce.
"Antiperspirants decrease sweating with salt ingredients, such as aluminum chloride. They are considered a drug, regulated by the FDA," Dr. Om says.
The ingredient that has caused the most controversy in antiperspirants is aluminum, once suspected of causing breast cancer and other health issues. But a clear research link between aluminum-based antiperspirant use and breast cancer has not been found. In fact, studies have shown that armpit skin absorbs only a negligible amount of aluminum in the first place.
"Aluminum has been found to be quite safe," assures Dr. Graf.
That said, people with actual aluminum allergies need to avoid the ingredient. Dr. Om further advises avoiding aluminum if you have compromised kidney function. (And for the record, 'aluminum-free deodorant' is a meaningless term. Deodorants by their very nature do not contain aluminum.)
Another ingredient to watch for is baking soda. For some of us, baking soda can be irritating, says Dr. Graf. "It can also cause discoloration, which some people find alarming."
Coconut, musk, lavender, sea salt, fig, rose, nectarine, vanilla...you get the idea! You can find deodorants in scads of scents.
And by the way, all three of our experts emphasized that fragrance is the one and only difference between "men's" and "women's" deodorants and antiperspirants.
"The fragrances used in men's deodorants might be better at masking body odor, since men usually have a stronger odor," notes Dr. Graf. "Nowadays, a lot of the newer deodorants are marketed as unisex and have fresh scents that everyone likes."
So don't let the male-female marketing thing complicate your choice. Just go with whatever product works for you, in whatever scent appeals.
4. Application Style
Deodorants and antiperspirants can be found as sticks, roll-ons, gels, sprays (both pump and aerosol), even crystals and creams you apply with your fingertips. Solid sticks are by far the most popular, but the "best" form comes down to your personal preference (in other words, how you want to apply it.)