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Sticks, sprays or creams: Which deodorant is best for you? Derms explain and share their favorites

Experts also explain the difference between deodorants and antiperspirants.
Woman putting on deodorant
Kara Birnbaum/ TODAY
/ Source: TODAY

Applying deodorant is one of those not-skippable parts of any daily routine. But as essential as it is, it’s not always the easiest product to shop for — glance down the deodorant aisle in any store and you'll likely see it teeming with options.

There's a slew of deodorant formulas, from gels and creams to sprays and the traditional sticks — not to mention countless scents to sniff through. So what should you look for? We chatted with board-certified dermatologists to get the scoop on the best deodorants and antiperspirants to keep you dry and fresh, regardless of season.

Keep scrolling to get our experts' breakdowns of how deodorants work and what to look for, or use the links below to jump to a certain category and view our top picks.

What to look for | Shopping by skin type | Expert picks | Editor picks | Underarm deodorant wipes | How we chose | Meet our experts

Shop TODAY Snapshot

Best deodorants and antiperspirants

What to look for in a deodorant or antiperspirant

Although it’s one of the more basic items in your skin care cabinet, you’ll still want to make sure you’re grabbing something that works for your skin type and needs — while also avoiding any possibly irritating ingredients or allergic reactions.

Dr. Quynh-Giao Sartor, a board-certified dermatologist at Westlake Dermatology in Houston, gives us a better understanding of common deodorant and antiperspirant ingredients and how to shop for different skin concerns. Use the shopping tips below as your starting point.

First, decide between an antiperspirant or deodorant

Sartor says that antiperspirants help reduce sweating — so these may be a good choice if you experience hyperhidrosis, also known as excessive sweating. If extra sweat isn’t a concern for you, choosing the right deodorant will do the trick. Sartor explains that deodorants help neutralize any odor that results from bacteria breakdown of sweat on the skin.

Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose, a board-certified dermatologist, also tells us that "'antiperspirants' keep you dry while 'deodorants' mask the smell of sweat that comes from bacteria in the skin." (Note: Some products on our list are considered a blend of both antiperspirant and deodorant.)

Understand the labels

Antiperspirants contain mineral salts, and Sartor tells us that these most commonly include aluminum chloride, aluminum chlorohydrate or aluminum zirconium. If your antiperspirant is prescription-strength, Sartor says it may include anticholinergic agents like glycopyrrolate or even botulinum toxin (Botox). On the other hand, deodorants usually include an odor-neutralizing agent like baking soda or an antibacterial agent like benzoyl peroxide, triclosan or clindamycin.

Creams vs. gels vs. sticks vs. sprays

While this part comes down to personal preference, Sartor says she prefers solid sticks for ease of use, but any form can work. “Keep in mind that many creams, gels and sprays contain alcohol, which is an excellent deodorant (kills bacteria) but can irritate skin and stimulate sweat production,” she adds.

Options for different skin types

If you’re still stuck choosing between an antiperspirant or deodorant, or can’t decided on the type or formulation you want (spray, stick, roll-on, etc.), it’s a good idea to investigate what works best for your skin type or particular concern.

Best choices for sensitive skin

For either deodorant or antiperspirant, Sartor advises her patients to look for products that are labeled “fragrance-free” or “sensitive skin” to lower the chance of an allergic reaction. Specifically, Sartor suggests that those with sensitive skin avoid a possibly irritating ingredient called cinnamic aldehyde, a chemical compound found in cinnamon.

Best choices for excessive sweating

“The best products to address excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis) are typically labeled as ‘clinical-strength’ antiperspirants, which contain a mineral salt such as aluminum or magnesium,” Sartor explains.

Best choices for excessive odor

Sartor says for extra odor, she would try a clinical-strength antiperspirant and a deodorant first. “If the odor does not improve, it may be best to seek evaluation by a board-certified dermatologist to discuss a customized plan.”

Best deodorants and antiperspirants, according to experts

Dove Invisible Solid Antiperspirant, Sensitive Skin

What we like
  • Unscented
  • Won't cause irritiation
  • Works wonders with sweat
Something to note
  • May stain dark clothing

Formula: Solid stick | Size: 2.6 oz.

Dove is a trusted name in skin care, including its deodorants (it graces our list more than once, after all). Sartor points to this Dove pick as an excellent choice for deodorants/antiperspirants that does contain aluminum. If you’re looking to minimize sweat and go with a faithful form (solid stick), this is a good choice.

Almay Sensitive Skin

What we like
  • Resolved sensitive skin woes brought on by other deodorants
  • "Holds off sweat, prevents BO"
Something to note
  • Takes a while to dry 
  • May leave white flakes on clothing 

Formula: Clear gel | Size: 2.25 oz.

Sartor also recommends this gel option by Almay, saying it’s a strong choice that does contain aluminum. It’s a clear gel, so you don't have to fret about your black clothing getting white streaks. Free from fragrance, it’s an excellent choice for those with sensitive skin.

"No scent" can feel risky, we know. But lots of happy reviewers say this option is still highly effective, with some noting it’s a nice choice for those with skin allergies.

Dove Clinical Protection Antiperspirant Deodorant

What we like
  • Has a nice scent
  • Long-lasting
  • "Kept me completely dry"
Something to note
  • Left marks for some reviewers

Formula: Solid stick | Size: 1.7 oz.

Murphy-Rose calls the Dove Clinical Protection antiperspirant deodorant one of "the best OTC antiperspirants" for "excessive perspiration," along with Certain Dri (prescription strength).

This moisturizing pick does contain aluminum, and it has the ability to work for up to 48 hours. However, it's free of alcohol and many customers love the smell.

Tom’s of Maine Aluminum-Free Natural Deodorant

What we like
  • Costumers love the scent
  • Glides on easily
Something to note
  • Some customers reapply often

Formula: Solid stick | Size: 2.25 oz.

Dr. Michele Green, a board-certified dermatologist, recommends this deodorant that’s “made with aloe vera, which contains antibacterial properties to prevent bacterial growth.”

Green goes on to say, “The deodorant comes in many different scents, using natural essential oils such as tea tree oil, lemongrass, and sandalwood. Its formulation is vegan and free of aluminum, dyes, artificial fragrances, baking soda and preservatives, making it excellent for those with sensitive skin.”

Native Deodorant 

What we like
  • Over 70,000 positive reviews
  • Wonderful scent
  • "Smooth" application
Something to note
  • Doesn't last long for some

Formula: Solid stick | Size: 2.65 oz.

Murphy-Rose tells us that her "favorite aluminum-free deodorants are by Native and Each & Every." She goes on to say, "These are aluminum-free and developed for sensitive skin. Both mask odor and reduce moisture sufficiently well for those that can go without an aluminum-containing antiperspirant." This selection, which has a coconut-vanilla scent (there are tons to choose from), is also paraben-free.

Lume Whole Body Deodorant 

What we like
  • Over 35,000 five-star ratings
  • Easy to apply
Something to note
  • Some don't care for the smell

Formula: Cream | Size: 3 oz.

Green also recommends this cream deodorant by Lume, which can help keep you sweat-free for up to 72 hours. She tells us, "This deodorant is aluminum-free and contains mandelic acid to prevent bacterial growth..." Green goes on to say, "Additionally, only natural scents are used in order to decrease any risk of skin irritation."

This highly rated deodorant can be applied all over the body for maximum sweat protection.

Carpe Antiperspirant Underarm Lotion Stick

What we like
  • Better for excess sweat than odor 
  • Reviewers saw best results when applied both at night and morning 
Something to note
  • Reviewers noted sticky consistency
  • Strong scent 

Formula: Lotion | Size: 1.69 oz.

This one can sound a bit confusing. It’s lotion? It’s a stick? It’s actually both. Sartor tells us Carpe is an excellent line of pure antiperspirants that target hyperhidrosis (excessive sweat). She says that the brand’s lotion, in particular, is a solid pick that contains aluminum.

We have quite a number of sweaty editors on our staff, so we were excited to take this for a spin. After using Carpe for several weeks per instructions, we found this quite effective at stopping sweat for several hours, and one staffer reported “fewer embarrassing pit stains” (read: asking her friends for fewer “pit checks”). That said, applying the right amount of product and letting it dry for a minute or two took some getting used to.

Each & Every Aluminum-Free Deodorant (Set of 2)

What we like
  • The smell is subtle
  • "Works all day"
  • Product lasts a long time
Something to note
  • Left stains for some people

Formula: Solid stick | Size: 2.5 oz.

Again, Murphy-Rose calls Each & Every one of her "favorite" aluminum-free deodorants. This pick has a floral, yet citrusy lavender-lemon scent (thanks to the addition of essential oils), and it's free of chemicals.

Murphy-Rose goes on to note, "It is important to be aware that 'natural' does not mean gentle and 'natural' does not mean it will be well tolerated by all. These brands [Native and Each & Every] produce deodorants that seem to be effective for, and well tolerated by, many."

Best deodorants and antiperspirants, according to editors

Secret Invisible Solid Antiperspirant Deodorant

What we like
  • Affordable
  • "Gets the job done"
Something to note
  • None to note at this time

Formula: Solid stick | Size: 2.6 oz.

Sierra Hoeger, an editorial assistant at Shop TODAY, recommends this tried-and-true deodorant by Secret that's pH-balanced. She says, "I’ve been using Secret since I started wearing deodorant, and I like it because it’s no-frills, affordable and lasts all day." The brand promises 24 hours of protection with each wear, which is impressive.

Dove Beauty Advanced Care Antiperspirant & Deodorant

What we like
  • No unwanted residue
Something to note
  • None to note at this time

Formula: Solid stick | Size: 2.6 oz.

Allison Wise, an associate editor at Shop TODAY, has been using this Dove antiperspirant and deodorant "for at least 10 years." She tells us, "I am ultra-sensitive to scents so I’m always looking something more subtle. This cucumber scented deodorant could not be more perfect. Not only do I love the scent, but it lasts all day and doesn’t leave unwanted residue like so many other brands. Highly recommend!"

Secret Aluminum-Free Deodorant

What we like
  • Light application 
  • "Go-to for all-day freshness"
Something to note
  • Scent can be irritating
  • Doesn't always mask odor

Formula: Solid stick | Size: 2.4 oz.

Secret lands on our list multiple times for good reason — scores of reviewers say they rely on the brand to keep them fresh and dry.

I [Mona] use this aluminum-free pick by the brand regularly. I love the lavender scent, though many other fun scents are also available, like White Peach, Cherry Blossom and Coconut. Though it’s marketed for sensitive skin, keep in mind that it does contain alcohol and fragrance, which can be irritating to some sensitive skin types.

Kosas Chemistry Deodorant

What we like
  • Lasts a long time
  • No deodorant stains
Something to note
  • Barely scented

Formula: Liquid roll-on | Size: 2.4 oz.

If you prefer a roll-on deodorant, this might be the one for you. Lauren Witonsky, an associate editor at Shop TODAY, recommends this pick from Kosas. She says, "I’ve never worn an antiperspirant, but as far as more natural deodorants go this is the best one I’ve tried (and I’ve tried a lot)."

Witonsky continues, "It lasts forever, has barely any scent (which I prefer), leaves no white residue on clothing and most importantly I don’t smell — even after a hot yoga class. Not to mention, the brand says it soothes skin, visibly brightens, and helps with ingrown hairs."

Be Well Company The Best Deodorant

What we like
  • Light and refreshing
  • Organic
Something to note
  • Fragile glass container

Formula: Liquid spray | Size: 2 oz.

Anita Chomenko, a social media video producer at Shop TODAY, says, "This has been the only deodorant I have used for the last two+ years." In fact, she buys two per order so she always has a backup. Chomenko continues, "It’s anti-bacterial and pH balancing; the spray feels refreshing and has a light scent." She also explains how it "feels nice and doesn’t leave my pits feeling sticky."

"I refuse to buy any other deodorant."

Underarm deodorant wipes

Pacifica Underarm Deodorant Wipes with Coconut Milk & Essential Oils

What we like
  • "Make you feel fresher when you can't shower" 
Something to note
  • Prone to drying out if package isn't sealed properly
  • Has a "potent artificial smell." 

Quantity: 30

A wipe does wonders if you’re in a hurry after a gym session or simply sweaty from patio season. These vegan underarm wipes work like deodorant but add a boost of freshness you can’t get from swiping a stick over slick armpits.

I [Mona] love stocking up on these during hot summer months. They’re also travel-ready so that you can toss them in your beach bag or carry-on. Plus, if you’d rather avoid aluminum, these don’t have it, and that’s one less thing to sweat about (pun intended).

Lume Acidified Deodorant Wipes

What we like
  • Fine for freshening up throughout the day 
Something to note
  • Wipes rip easily 

Quantity: 45

These versatile wipes were developed by a gynecologist and are powered by gentle exfoliator mandelic acid, an AHA that the brand says helps keep the pH on your skin low to help keep odors neutralized for longer. This also means that you can use them anywhere you sweat, from your armpits to your chest area to your undercarriage. Plus, all ingredients are skin-safe and the formulation is aluminum- and baking soda-free.

Dermadoctor Med E Tate Antiperspirant Wipes

What we like
  • Helps to "sweat less"
  • "No smell and dries smooth" 
Something to note
  • Not ideal for sensitive skin
  • Little product for price

Quantity: 30

The cruelty-free pads stop sweat with a single swipe, and they can be applied not just to your underarms, but also to your face, around the chest area and more. Each wipe contains high levels of aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex glycine complex (19%), the main active ingredient that blocks perspiration, while extracts of tomato, ginseng root and purslane leaf (a plant packed with vitamins and minerals) soothe the skin.

If you’re skeptical that this does indeed block perspiration, the Q&A section on its product page offers proof: Several users say this lasts anywhere from several hours (in high-stress situations) to up to five days.

How we chose the best deodorants and antiperspirants

Too many choices can be a chore. We saved you the heavy lifting and included dermatologist-recommended products, along with Shop TODAY editor picks throughout various categories (solids, roll-ons, creams, sprays and more). We did our research with different skin types and price points in mind, making sure we included options for every body and budget. Plus, we made sure to ask our experts for their unbiased choices.

Deodorant label promises

During our shopping, we noticed some products with pretty bold claims. For example, some claim to block hair growth, while others say they work for up to an entire week. We asked Sartor for her thoughts on these seemingly overachieving deodorants.

“Deodorants are intended to help eliminate bacterial overgrowth and skin odor and have not been found to affect hair growth; I would approach any product with this claim cautiously,” she says. And as for those super long-lasting claims? “This is not widely accepted,” she says, adding, “I would again approach any product with this claim cautiously.”

Meet the experts

  • Dr. Quynh-Giao Sartor, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist at Westlake Dermatology in Houston. She specializes in medical dermatology and in-office cosmetic and surgical procedures. Born into a first generation Vietnamese-American family in Houston, Sartor takes a special interest in treating ethnic skin.
  • Dr. Michele Green, MD of New York, New York is a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist who works in Manhattan.
  • Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose, MD, FAAD is a board-certified dermatologist (cosmetic, medical and surgical) who works in New York, New York as well as The Hamptons.