The Best Deodorant for Women

Stop sweat and beat body odor

The 30-Second Review

If you’re looking for the best deodorant for women, you’ve got two options: an antiperspirant that stops sweat, or a natural deodorant that neutralizes BO. We researched ingredients, talked to dermatologists, and tested 35 finalists to find products that applied smoothly and left little residue.

The Best Deodorant for Women

The Difference Between Antiperspirants and Deodorants

Did you know your sweat doesn’t actually smell? The real culprits behind body odor are the bacteria living in your armpits, which metabolize particles (think proteins and sugars) in your sweat and emit odor as a byproduct. Antiperspirants and deodorants each handle the bacteria/sweat problem differently.

Antiperspirants prevent sweating.

Aluminum forms a gelatinous plug that stops up your sweat glands, preventing more perspiration from seeping out. Without sweat, bacteria have nothing to dine on — hence, no body odor.

Even over-the-counter antiperspirants are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It its final monograph, the FDA states that products marketed as antiperspirants must reduce sweating by at least 20 percent, in user tests that the FDA has verified (Section IIC, Comment 9).

Deodorants neutralize odor.

A deodorant, in the strictest sense, will not contain aluminum or prevent perspiration. Instead, deodorants mask and neutralize the odors that bacteria emit. The masking part is fairly simple: synthetic fragrances and plant-based essential oils can be used to cover up smell. As for neutralizing, products can rely on everything from the modern-day antimicrobial C12-15 alkyl benzoate to good old baking soda.Many products are labeled antiperspirant and deodorant, in which case they’re relying on a combination of both processes.

Some people fear that regularly applying aluminum to the underarms could cause it to accumulate in the bloodstream, leading to Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. The National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society, and FDA have all examined the issue and concluded that aluminum-based antiperspirants are safe. But many consumers still opt for aluminum-free deodorants — often marketed as “natural” deodorants.

Scent is the only difference between men's and women's products.

Ad campaigns make it easy to believe that the sweat coming out of a man is different than what comes out of woman. But according to a recent study led by Sean Notley, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Ottawa, that’s not the case.

“We found that sex could explain a maximum of about 5% of individual variations in sweating,” Notley told us. “A more active female may need a stronger antiperspirant than a male who sits at a desk all day.”

"In terms of active ingredients, there’s no difference between men’s and women’s products."

Notley’s research had us wondering: do men and women really need different deodorants? Dr. David Pariser, Senior Physician at Pariser Dermatology, told us, “in terms of active ingredients, there’s no difference between men’s and women’s products. The main difference is scent.” Cosmetic chemist Ron Robinson, of BeautyStat.com, seconded the notion. “It’s really about personal preference for scent and application style,” he said.

So consider our top picks for the best women’s antiperspirants and deodorants your starting point. We’ve narrowed a field of hundreds down to a handful of options. If you don’t like one, try another — and don’t rule out the possibility of going for a “men’s” product.

Our Picks for the Best Antiperspirant for Women

Best Antiperspirant

Secret Invisible Solid Antiperspirant Deodorant Blocks sweat without feeling goopy or flaky.

Secret Invisible Solid Antiperspirant Deodorant won our hearts for hitting high marks in our scent, application, and residue tests. Our closest runner up was Dove Advanced Care Original Clean, another triple threat that scored high in all three tests, but didn’t do quite as well.

We tried not to let scent sway our decision-making process too much since most of our finalists are available in several varieties (Secret Invisible Solid has eight scents; Dove has 12). That said, we did weed out anything especially overpowering, like Ban Invisible Solid Antiperspirant and Deodorant in Powder Fresh, which one tester said was so strong that she caught a whiff every time she moved her arm. (Fragrance might be Ban’s fatal flaw; its fragrance-free formula was one of our top picks in the unscented category.) Secret and Dove, by contrast, smelled subtle and clean, the sort of scents our testers said they would be happy to have on all day.

What about application? No complaints for either of our top contenders. Of Secret, one tester commented, “This went on perfectly. It didn’t feel wet or liquidy.” And Dove was lauded as “smooth, not chalky.” Where Secret pulled slightly ahead was our residue test. While it’s not as invisible as its name implies, it still left no clumps in our underarms and only minimal streaks on our T-shirt fabric. Dove, by comparison, seemed to “get flakier throughout the day,” according to one tester. That said, Dove and Secret are both reasonably priced at about $4, so if you want to compare them for yourself it’s not going to break the bank.

Secret Clinical Strength Invisible Solid Antiperspirant & Deodorant is also worth a mention. The FDA, in its final monograph on antiperspirants, makes no ruling on how the term “clinical strength” can be used, which means it’s unclear whether over-the-counter clinical strength antiperspirants actually do anything.

But Secret could be an exception. The National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus (the ad industry’s self-regulatory body), has confirmed several claims made by Secret Clinical Strength. Namely, that it provides “clinical strength wetness protection” and stops “wetness better than the leading invisible solid.” We still didn’t love the product, mostly because it left it a lot of flaky residue on our skin and clothes. It also contains just one percentage point more of aluminum zirconium compared to our top pick (20 percent, versus Secret Invisible Solid’s 19 percent) — and cost us an extra four dollars.

Our advice: start with our “regular-strength” picks and give clinical strength a shot only if the standard fare isn’t cutting it.

Best Unscented

Speed Stick Power Unscented Solid Antiperspirant Deodorant Goes on smooth and leaves no scent and no BO.

Whether you have sensitive skin or just don’t want to smell your antiperspirant all day, Speed Stick Power Unscented Solid Antiperspirant Deodorant is an excellent option.

Based solely on the packaging, you might assume it’s for men. But — as we learned — the main difference between men’s and women’s antiperspirants is scent. When you’re looking at unscented products, that difference becomes moot: We just wanted something that would work.

Without scent, however, we had an admittedly hard time differentiating among products. Of the seven unscented options we tried, we liked five. But ultimately Speed Stick and Ban Invisible Solid Antiperspirant Deodorant Unscented stood out. They were the only two products that contained C12-15 alkyl benzoate, an antimicrobial that can help curb odor should any wetness sneak past the aluminum zirconium (which is listed at 16 percent in Speed Stick and 19 percent in Ban). One tester said she caught a faint hint of musk in the Ban (could it be the sandalwood listed low on the ingredients list?), but that was hardly a deal-breaker.

Both products also applied similarly: each has a slim, domed top that molds nicely to the underarms. However, Speed Stick earned a slight edge here. Ban felt a little too wet, like it was melting into our skin, while testers described SpeedStick as “just moist enough for a smooth glide.” And while Ban has the word “invisible” in its name, it left about the same amount of residue as Speed Stick. At the end of the day, either product would make a good fixture in your medicine cabinet or gym bag, and they’re priced affordably at about $3.

We’re also giving an honorable mention to DERMAdoctor Total Nonscents Ultra-Gentle Antiperspirant. It lacked C12-15 alkyl benzoate but caught our eye for two reasons. The first was its application style: it was the only roller ball among our top picks. Some of our testers didn’t like this, reporting that the product felt drippy and took a while to dry. (And one hairy-pitted tester pointed out that armpit hair gets caught in the roller ball.) So why are we bringing it up? It left practically nothing behind on fabric swatches, especially when compared to stick products. Even though it’s over $20, if you have a high-end wardrobe, it could be a good product to have on hand.

Our Picks for the Best Natural Deodorant for Women

Best Natural Deodorant

Sam’s Natural Deodorant Uses baking soda and coconut oil to prevent body odor.

Not only does DERMAdoctor Total Nonscents Ultra-Gentle Antiperspirant contain coconut oil and baking soda, two proven odor fighters, it has the added benefit of shea butter and tea tree oil. Shea butter provides moisturizing benefits, and tea tree oil might have antimicrobial and antifungal qualities although the evidence isn’t rock solid.

Of its 15 available scents, Sam’s offers one marketed specifically for women, with lavender and clary sage essential oils. (The type of oil was the only difference between the men’s and women’s formulas.) Our testers loved the faintly herbal, faintly citrusy aroma and were pleased to find it lingered even after two hours of wear.

As for application, we liked Sam’s circular stick. After trying an assortment of natural deodorants — some circular sticks, some ovals, and some creams — we tended to prefer the rounder ones. They fit more snugly into our pits than ovals, and as a result left less gooey excess on our skin and on the rim of the stick (an especially important consideration for natural deodorants, which can have a creamier, softer texture than traditional antiperspirants). And compared to the creams — which required dipping your fingers into a jar, rubbing the product into your skin, and then washing your hands — sticks were much less messy and time-consuming.

Some people do prefer creams because they want to control exactly how much product is going on; if this sounds like a draw, we’d recommend Fatco Stank Stop. It’s made with coconut oil, baking soda, and zinc oxide (all three of our wishlist odor fighters) and comes in a pleasant lavender-sage scent that’s similar to Sam’s.

All that said, Sam’s lived up to our application expectations. It maneuvered nicely inside underarms and glided on with a smooth, satin-y finish. It also left zero clumps in our armpits and only a modest amount of residue on t-shirt fabric. At $10 for three ounces, it’s a relatively affordable option (our natural deodorant finalists ranged from $6 to $24), which is impressive given that it’s handcrafted in New Hampshire.

Looking solely at scent, some of our testers were swayed by the rose and sandalwood of Agent Nateur No. 4, which felt on par with a fine fragrance (though some found it too “powder-y”). Agent Nateur was also a residue test winner, leaving practically nothing behind on our t-shirts. But it didn’t glide on as easily as Sam’s, and its $24 price tag could be a deterrent for everyday wear. Like DERMAdoctor Total Nonscents Ultra-Gentle Antiperspirant, it might make a good “special occasion” deodorant when you’re trying to protect delicate fabric.

Best Organic Natural Deodorant

Green Tidings All-Natural Deodorant Baking soda, coconut oil, and all certified-organic ingredients.

On the hunt for an organic deodorant? Look no further than Green Tidings. The rigors of sourcing organic ingredients (as well as manufacturing the product in a solar-powered facility) probably contribute to its higher price point (about $8 for a one-ounce tube). But if buying organic is important to you, it’s our top choice.

We had a few other organic deodorants in the running during our testing, but Green Tidings emerged as the frontrunner based on scent, application, and residue. The gentle lavender fragrance appealed to testers’ noses, especially when compared to AC Nature, which some of our testers likened to Play-Doh — and reported wore off entirely after two hours, revealing body odor.

As for application, Green Tidings’ round stick felt perfectly sized for our underarms. Unlike products from North Coast Organics and Bubble and Bee, excess gooey product didn’t accumulate in our armpits or smear onto the edge of the tube’s rim. Green Tidings felt a little bit gritty going on, but our testers said this was added reassurance that they were getting a good coating. And the grit didn’t translate to clumps or heavy residue during our t-shirt test. (Here again, Green Tidings outperformed both North Coast and Bubble and Bee.)

The Best Deodorant for Women: Summed Up

Deodorant for WomenBest For...
Secret Invisible Solid Antiperspirant Deodorant
Antiperspirant
Speed Stick Power Unscented Solid Antiperspirant Deodorant
Unscented Antiperspirant
Sam's Natural Deodorant
Natural Deodorant
Green Tidings All-Natural Deodorant
Organic Natural Deodorant

Did You Know?

Your body doesn’t just cool off through sweating

Ever wonder why you often get red in the face during exercise? That’s because your body also transfers blood to the skin to regulate temperature. “Once you start exercising, your body shifts blood to the working muscles because that’s the higher priority where oxygen is needed. It also shifts it to the skin to release heat,” explains Jeremy Ross, exercise physiologist and strength and conditioning coach at Heroes Movement.

Body type is the biggest factor in how much you sweat.

After controlling for body type, Sean Notley’s research team found less than a 5 percent difference between how much men and women sweat.

If you’re trying to understand what body type could possibly have to do with sweat, think of a cup of coffee. “If a coffee is half full, it will cool much faster than a full cup. We thought that those principles might apply to sweat,” said Notley. And sure enough, in his research, Notley found that larger individuals, whose bodies have a lower surface-area-to-volume ratio, tend to sweat more in order to release heat.

Of course, the biggest factor in how much you sweat is going to be how hard you’re working. “The greater our exertion, the greater the increase in body temperature and the greater the sweat rate,” said Notley.

Male and female scents are based on traditional norms, but that’s changing.

If you walk through the personal care aisles of any pharmacy, you’ll notice that floral and fruity scents are targeted to women, while woods and musks are reserved for men. Why? “It’s not necessarily based on research, but more of how we are raised and socialized,” says Ron Robinson.

“There’s a lot of backlash against traditional masculinity and femininity. Things have been shifting over the last 10 years. The idea of woods in women’s fragrances isn’t even a new trend anymore.”

“Especially in the U.S. market, sweetness, fruitiness, and color are used to attract a female consumer,” notes Dana Steinfeld, who has worked in fine fragrance development for 17 years.

But this might be changing. In the world of fine fragrance (which usually influences other body products, like deodorant), “there’s a lot of backlash against traditional masculinity and femininity. Things have been shifting over the last 10 years. The idea of woods in women’s fragrances isn’t even a new trend anymore,” Steinfeld told us. She added that she’s also starting to see men wear more florals and “unisex” options — which typically rely on fresh, citrus-y scents that feel pretty universal.

Indeed, Schmidt’s Naturals, one of the natural deodorants we tested, told us, “we believe that scent should not be limited to traditional constraints of male or female, so have designed our formulas to be effective and appropriate for both genders. Traditionally ‘feminine’ scents like our Rose + Vanilla are beloved by men and women alike.”

The Bottom Line

Best Antiperspirant

Secret Invisible Solid Antiperspirant Deodorant Glides on and stops sweat with a fresh, pleasant scent.

If you’re shopping around for a women’s antiperspirant, we recommend formulas that include aluminum zirconium and C12-15 alkyl benzoate but avoid harsh irritants. As for natural deodorants, you’ll want a product that includes some combination of coconut oil, baking soda, and zinc oxide, but avoids aluminum and harmful synthetics. Beyond that, a lot can depend on personal preference — you might even find that you favor a “men’s” product.