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How to shop for the right deodorant, according to a derm — plus, top picks from $5

One tip: Don't believe all the label promises.
Woman putting on deodorant
Kara Birnbaum/ TODAY
/ Source: TODAY

Applying deodorant is one of those “not super 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 are slews of deodorant forms, from gels and creams to sprays and the traditional sticks — not to mention the countless scents to sniff through. So what should you look for? We chatted with a board-certified dermatologist to get the scoop on how to shop for the best deodorants and antiperspirants to keep you dry and fresh, regardless of season. Plus, she helps us get to the bottom of some deodorant fact versus fiction (like, do we really need to avoid aluminum?).

Keep scrolling to get our expert's breakdown 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 | How we chose | Solids & roll-ons | Sprays | Gels & creams | Natural deodorants | Lotions | Wipes | Deodorant FAQs | Meet our expert

What to look for in a deodorant or antiperspirant

Before we did our shopping for the best deodorants, we wanted an expert’s take on what exactly to look for. 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.

  1. 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. (Note: Some products on our list are considered a blend of both antiperspirant and deodorant.)

  2. 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.

  3. 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

After you’ve decided between an antiperspirant or deodorant and picked your favorite type (spray, stick, roll-on, etc.), it’s a good idea to choose a product that works best for your skin type or concerns.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.”

How we chose the best deodorants and antiperspirants

Too many choices can be a chore. We saved you the heavy lifting and sorted through popular searches on Google to find top-rated and bestselling products across a good range of categories (solids, roll-ons, creams, sprays and more). We also took a careful look through customer reviews (legit reviews, that is — no paid commentary, thank you). 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 expert for her 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.

Dr. Quynh-Giao Sartor, Dermatologist, Westlake Dermatology

"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.”

With that in mind, here's our list of the 19 best deodorants and antiperspirants to swipe or spray on this year.

Best solid and roll-on deodorants and antiperspirants

Dove Invisible Solid Sensitive Skin

Dove is a trusted name in skin care, including its deodorants (it graces our list more than once, after all). And Sartor points to this Dove pick as an excellent choice for deodorants/antiperspirants that does contain aluminum. So if you’re looking to minimize sweat and go with a faithful form (solid stick), this is a good choice. You can even get a pack of six for $34 on Amazon, and that should last you quite a while.

Crystal Mineral Deodorant Roll-On (Unscented)

This highly rated natural roll-on (about 19,000 Amazon ratings!) is a surprising find. It’s just around $5, vegan, cruelty-free and free from fragrance — though the brand also offers some tempting scents, if you’re interested. The brand promises that it dries fast and clear, and the majority of its reviewers on Amazon highly recommend it.

Secret Outlast Completely Clean Invisible Solid

This deodorant includes a special surfactant additive that allows the main active ingredient, aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex gly (19 percent), to work harder and faster, keeping you extra-dry. An invisible solid, it's said to provide up to 48 hours of protection.

Secret Aluminum-Free Deodorant - Lavender

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 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 (I need to try them all!). 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.

Dr. Hauschka Sage Mint Deodorant

Deodorizing mint and pure essential oils combat odor, while antimicrobial and astringent sage and witch hazel balance out the skin's pH levels. Synthetic-free dyes, meanwhile, prevent stains on clothing.

Best spray deodorants and antiperspirants

Dove Advanced Care Dry Spray Antiperspirant

You won't need to worry about fanning your underarms with Dove's spray-on deodorant; it's said to go on dry instantly. It will keep you feeling cool and fresh for up to 48 hours — a promise that's backed up by several five-star reviews on Amazon.

Even one user who isn't a huge fan of this product's scents still gave it five stars, and reported, "Smells aside, this stuff is absolutely hands down amazing. It doesn’t leave crusty deodorant stains on my shirts, I don’t stink, and it has controlled my sweat 100 percent better than any deodorant I’ve tried to date!"

Degree Stay Fresh White Flowers & Lychee Dry Spray

Degree's deodorant spray delivers encapsulated bursts of floral fragrance as you move. The microcapsules sit on the surface of your skin, then when you're active, they burst to release fragrance. Simply shake, spray and go.

Best gel and cream antiperspirants and deodorants

Almay Sensitive Skin

Sartor suggests 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. It’s also a budget-friendly pick: You can get a bundle of six on Amazon for around $20.

Vanicream Aluminum-Free Gel Deodorant

Like we mentioned, Vanicream is a trusted skin care name famous for being kind to sensitive skin. This gel formula uses only five ingredients, and aluminum isn’t one of them. It’s also free from fragrance, dyes, parabens, alcohol and more. So if you’re a sensitive skin type looking for a nice gel without any scent, you can finish shopping now.

Lume Lavender Sage Cream Deodorant Stick

If you’re not one to shy away from fragrance, this lavender sage-scented stick by Lume may pique your interest. It’s a water-based cream formula that, while it does contain fragrance, it doesn’t contain aluminum, baking soda or parabens. It’s also vegan and cruelty-free.

Women's Deodorant by Mitchum

If you’d like to get serious about sweat, you may want to glide this gel on for size. It’s both an antiperspirant and deodorant with an alcohol-free formula created to be long-lasting. The brand also promises to apply invisibly without any worry about white marks. With just under 18,000 Amazon ratings, many swooning reviewers are backing it up.

Best natural deodorants for women

Native Coconut & Vanilla Deodorant

Native's deodorant is free of aluminum, parabens, dyes, sulfates, artificial colors, preservatives and phthalates. Coconut oil and shea butter combine to provide moisture and hydration for dry underarm skin.

FULL REVIEW: Find out why Native's deodorant stands out from many other natural options, according to one Shop TODAY writer, who's used several brands over the years.

Lavanila The Healthy Deodorant Sport Luxe

If you can imagine a natural deodorant formulated for those who exercise, this would be it. Sugar from oats and barley break down sweat molecules to prevent odor, essential oils like lemon peel oil and aloe soothe underarm skin, and a natural vanilla fragrance gives off a clean scent.

Milk + Honey Deodorant No. 9

Organic oils like coconut, lavender and tea tree leaf combine with arrowroot powder and baking soda in this natural deodorant, so it can help you feel and smell fresh all day long.

Kopari Coconut Beach Deodorant

Coconut oil is the hero ingredient in this product, acting as a powerful antibacterial, anti-fungal and antiseptic agent. Plant-based actives like sage oil provide odor protection and allow for a smooth application, while hydrators like electrolytes, vitamins and minerals prevent irritation.

Lovefresh All-Natural Super-Strength Deodorant

This deodorant controls odor with extra baking soda and soothes sensitive underarm skin with shea butter. It is cruelty-free and lightly scented with cedar and saffron.

Best antiperspirant lotion for women

Carpe Antiperspirant Underarm Lotion Stick

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 an excellent pick that contains aluminum.

It’s available in a slew of scents and comes with a moneyback guarantee. If you’re impressed with what the brand can do for underarm sweat, you may want to explore the rest of its available products. There are also options for managing sweat all over the body (face, feet, hands and more).

Best deodorant and antiperspirant wipes for women

Pacifica Underarm Deodorant Wipes with Coconut Milk & Essential Oils

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 fresh feelings you can’t get from swiping a stick over slick armpits.

I 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).

Dermadoctor Med E Tate Antiperspirant Wipes

The pads stop sweat with a single swipe. Each wipe contains high levels of aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex glycine complex (19 percent), 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.

Questions about deodorants, answered by experts

What is the difference between an antiperspirant and a deodorant?

As Sartor explains, an antiperspirant will help lower sweating or perspiration on the skin, while a deodorant helps neutralize any odor that comes from bacteria breakdown of sweat on the skin.

Is it better to use a deodorant at night or in the morning?

Since deodorants neutralize body odor, Sartor says they are best applied in the morning. On the other hand, antiperspirants are best used at night to dry surfaces. Sartor adds that skin treated with antiperspirant can be washed in the morning to minimize irritation.

What happens when you stop using deodorant or transition to a natural deodorant?

The answer here, according to Sartor, is pretty simple: Any existing odors can come back! Some also believe that since you may sweat more going rogue, you may notice a more pungent aroma than when you used deodorant.

Are deodorants better with or without aluminum?

Sartor reminds us that deodorants do not affect sweating, so they do not need to contain aluminum. You may want to consider an antiperspirant if you're an excessive sweater. These commonly contain aluminum salts, which helps manage sweat.

Meet our expert

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.