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What's in Your Antiperspirant?

From the WebMD Archives


Most major brands of antiperspirants are paraben-free these days, though the preservative is still found in some products such as makeup, moisturizers, shaving products, and hair products. If you'd prefer to avoid parabens, check your antiperspirant's ingredients list for words ending in "-paraben," such as methylparaben or propylparaben.

Fragrance. Perfumes are often used in antiperspirants and antiperspirant-deodorant combos to mask body odor. Plus, studies suggest we associate pleasant fragrances with feelings of cleanliness.

"One of the first things people do when shopping for antiperspirants is smell them," notes Pariser. If you have sensitive skin, you may want to choose one without a scent.

Emollient oil. Without some sort of moisturizer like castor, mineral, or sunflower oil mixed into antiperspirant ingredients, the product wouldn't roll or glide on smoothly. These emollients also keep the product from flaking once it dries on your skin.

Alcohol. Aluminum compounds and other active antiperspirant ingredients are often dissolved in alcohol because it dries quickly and feels cool when applied to skin. Alcohol is typically found in roll-ons and aerosols, as well as some gels.

PEG Distearates. Polyethylene glycol (PEG) distearates are emulsifying agents found in many cosmetic products including antiperspirants. This antiperspirant ingredient makes it easier to wash off the product.

Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT). BHT prevents or slows the deterioration of antiperspirant ingredients once they're exposed to oxygen.

Talcum powder. Absorbs moisture and oil, protects the skin by reducing underarm friction and chaffing, and helps skin feel dry.

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on July 05, 2012



International Hyperhydrosis Society web site.

Harris Poll/Certain Dri news release, “Nearly half of all Americans are troubled by perspiration.”

National Cancer Institute web site.

American Cancer Society web site.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration web site.

David Pariser, MD, professor of dermatology, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, Virginia.

David Bank, MD, director, Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic and Laser Surgery, Mount Kisco, New York.

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