A Moment of Science

The Roll-on Drug

Do antiperspirants stop all kinds of sweat? How do they work?

a sweaty man working out

Photo: Hairy Jacques (flickr)

Antiperspirants reduce the flow of sweat to the skin by about 20-40%.

Did you know that the average person sweats a pint of fluid per day?

Sweating is a normal process, helping the body regulate temperature and get rid of waste products. Antiperspirants alter this body process by reducing the flow of sweat to the skin. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration classifies antiperspirants as drugs because they alter a body process.

Armpit Treatments

These days, most armpit treatments have both a wetness-reducing antiperspirant and an odor-masking deodorant. Deodorants are simply designed to make sweat stink less, either by masking it with perfume or killing the germs responsible for the bulk of the smell, but how do antiperspirants work?

In most antiperspirants, aluminum salts are the active ingredient. By plugging the sweat ducts, aluminum salts reduce the flow of sweat to the skin by about 20-40%.

In other words, antiperspirants don’t stop sweating completely.

Sweaty Situation

They work mainly on one type of sweat gland, which secretes protein-rich sweat that stinky bacteria love. Antiperspirants can’t do much for the second type of sweat gland.

This second type secretes a more watery sweat to help cool the body when it’s overheated–and also kicks in when you’re nervous or under stress.

  • Stephen Watson

    Just say no to antiperspirants! Hideous in concept and execution.

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from A Moment of Science:

Support for Indiana Public Media Comes From

About A Moment of Science

Search A Moment of Science