The Best Antiperspirant

The right type of aluminum and the least residue
The 30-Second Review

In the best antiperspirant, the type of aluminum matters most — aluminum zirconium is the most effective. We also wanted to find the least irritating formulas, so we talked to five dermatologists about ingredients, then pitted 19 sticks against each other to see which felt the best going on, and left our black T-shirts the blackest.

Best Unscented

A good choice for sensitive skin, this unisex antiperspirant uses the antimicrobial C12-15 alkyl benzoate to fight odor — not potentially irritating fragrance. ($8 for two)

Best Men's Scent

Dove Men+Care Antiperspirant Deodorant
The least-polarizing sniff-test of the men's formulas we tested, plus the best application and least residue. ($14 for four)

Best Women's Scent

Our favorite version of "Shower Fresh," though it's far from invisible. We like its price and performance even more than its Clinical Strength version. ($6 for two)

Least Residue

DERMAdoctor Total Nonscents Ultra-Gentle Antiperspirant
Another unscented option, this liquid gets a nod for rolling on clear and staying without a trace. That said, it's over $20.

The Best Antiperspirant

Scent is the biggest differentiator when it comes to antiperspirants. It’s the only thing that makes a “men’s” formula for men, and a “women’s” for women. When you take scent out of the equation, most antiperspirants feature pretty much the same ingredients: Some aluminum to block sweating, various emollients to help it glide on smooth, and a few odor-combatting ingredients too.

Best Unscented

Speed Stick Power Unscented Solid Antiperspirant Deodorant About as unscented as you can get, with odor-fighting ingredients, smooth application, and not too much residue.

If you don’t want to risk irritating the delicate skin in your underarms, go with a fragrance-free formula. Our favorite is Speed Stick Unscented Power Antiperspirant & Deodorant, which employs an antimicrobial emollient called C12-15 alkyl benzoate to help kill the bacteria that makes BO stink, but skips the perfume that works to mask any odor that sneaks through. It’s coupled with aluminum zirconium, the type of aluminum that’s most effective at fighting wetness. Even though it looks like a man’s deodorant — a wide head, sporty blue and gray graphics — this Speed Stick really has zero scent, making it unisex in our book. It’s a well-known drugstore stick that stood out during testing with creamy application and lack of clumping or pilling on hairy or bare pits. Even better, it left the least residue on a black T-shirt after two hours of wear.

That said, fragrance is a big part of most antiperspirants. In our testing, it was the biggest dealbreaker for most people — even though many wanted some scent as an extra layer of defense against odor. That’s why we recommend Dove Men+Care Antiperspirant Deodorant for men and Secret Invisible Solid Antiperspirant & Deodorant for women. Our testers found their fragrances the most pleasant out of the competition, and unlike some, neither scent increased in intensity throughout the day. Both formulas also contain the same bacteria-fighting C12-15 alkyl benzoate and aluminum zirconium as our unscented skin pick — plus they felt great gliding on and left minimal residue behind in our T-shirt test.

Least Residue

DERMAdoctor Total NonScents Ultra-Gentle Antiperspirant A gentle liquid formula designed for sensitive skin and black shirts.

Of the 19 antiperspirants we tested, DERMAdoctor Total NonScents Ultra-Gentle Antiperspirant was the only one that left virtually zero residue in our T-shirt test. It’s also the only product we tested that is antiperspirant-only — not a deodorant too. (The aluminum zirconium theoretically stops sweat from happening at all, meaning odor-causing bacteria have nothing to eat and produce odor from.) It’s definitely a product designed with bare underarms in mind: Its roller ball applicator snagged on our hairy-pitted testers, and its liquid formula took a while to dry. But if keeping clothes pristine is a priority, this antiperspirant was our top performer — and depending on your wardrobe, potentially worth the $20 price tag.

Our Picks for the Best Antiperspirant

Best Unscented

Speed Stick Power Unscented Solid Antiperspirant Deodorant About as unscented as you can get, with odor-fighting ingredients, smooth application, and not too much residue.

Our top pick for anyone with sensitive skin is Speed Stick Power, but it was a pretty close call among five of the eight we tested. Turns out, without scent to differentiate them, a lot of antiperspirants are very similar, and Speed Stick is about as scentless as it gets. If you put your nose really close to the package, you might catch a faint waxy whiff, but even that is a stretch. Its closest runner-up in our testing, the Ban Invisible Solid Antiperspirant Deodorant, is also unscented, but is a bit muskier — it includes some barley and sandalwood extract low on its ingredients list that the Speed Stick lacks.

It came down to the Speed Stick and Ban because they are the only two of eight that included C12-15 alkyl benzoate, the antimicrobial we targeted in our non-sensitive skin antiperspirants that helps combat bacteria-causing odor. Coupled with aluminum zirconium (16 percent in the Speed Stick and 19 percent in the Ban), these two have the best chance of fighting wetness and odor of our unscented finalists. It didn’t hurt that both were top performers in application and residue as well. In fact, that’s where the Speed Stick pulled slightly ahead.

Both have an armpit-conforming domed stick that makes application easy (unlike the uncomfortable flat top of the Arrid), but in testing, the Speed Stick was a little less greasy going on, whereas the Ban seemed to nearly melt into the skin. Both our male and female testers preferred the slightly drier experience of the Speed Stick. They also did well in our black T-shirt test — not too much residue, unlike the Arm & Hammer, and no armpit clumps, like the $18 Clinique — but the Speed Stick rubbed off on fabric a little less than the Ban after two hours.

Not quite sure which one is right for you? No worries. Both are drugstore priced (meaning under $5), so if you’re having a hard time choosing, we suggest giving both a try.

Best Men's Scent

Dove Men+Care Sensitive Shield Antiperspirant Stick A slick, creamy antiperspirant with the least polarizing scent that we tested.

We discovered that when it comes to men’s antiperspirant, scent had the biggest sway over our testers, which made choosing a top pick challenging (remember, we didn’t get every scent from each brand’s line of products).

Instead, we put the most weight behind application and residue, where Dove Men+Care, Axe Signature, and Speed Stick Power all stood out — especially compared to Gillette Endurance and the Old Spice Wild Collection, which after two hours left so much residue behind in our T-shirt test we weren’t sure if any managed to stay on the skin at all.

All three also scored highly in our application testing, gliding on slick and creamy and absorbing quickly without clumping or snagging armpit hair. Like with our unscented pick, the Speed Stick was slightly drier and more powdery than the others, but overall these differences were fairly minimal. In fact, that’s true for these three deodorants overall. Even at the ingredients level, they are hard to tell apart. All three have between 15 and 16 percent aluminum zirconium alongside C12-15 alkyl benzoate; each is supplemented with fatty alcohols and emollient oils. They are also all within 50 cents of each other, and at or under $5.

This is where a sniff-test came into play. While certainly in the same “manly” musk ballpark, the Speed Stick was a bit fruitier, the Dove had almost Ivory soap vibe, and the Axe went more tropical with coconut undertones that faded after a couple of hours of wear. But this particular formula of Axe, called Signature, comes in four flavors (Gold, Night, Forest, and Island) and the Dove has six (Clean Comfort, Fresh Awake, Cool Fresh, Cool Silver, Extra Fresh, and Sensitive Shield). Speed Stick has Irish Spring scent, something called “Restless,” and another called Drycore. It may be worth the stroll down the deodorant aisle next time you’re at a Target to see which one you prefer.

Best Women's Scent

Secret Invisible Solid Shower Fresh Antiperspirant & Deodorant Our favorite version of "Shower Fresh." We also liked wearing it more than the popular Clinical Strength version.

Our selection of women’s formulas sat solidly in the shower/powder-fresh scent category, and like the men’s formulas, it was a big differentiator when picking the best. The Ban, for example, has the same formula as its unscented counterpart, which was a runner-up — but this scented version’s baby-powder fragrance was so strong one tester said she could smell it wafting every time she moved. No thanks.

Our testers’ overwhelming favorites were Secret Invisible Solid and Dove Advanced Care. Secret garnered favor for having less residue in our T-shirt test (although it’s far from “invisible”) and because, unlike Dove, its fragrance didn’t seem to get stronger the longer it was on. But like we discovered in our men’s picks, scent is subjective and both Secret and Dove come in a variety of options. Secret has eight scents to choose from; Dove has a whopping 12.

The thing Dove has going for it is its sleek, matte packaging and no mineral oil, which both Secret formulas we tested include. (Mineral oil in deodorant isn’t too risky — the potential for clogged pores is lower in armpits than it is on your face — but as we pointed out in our review of the best face moisturizer, some consumers prefer to avoid because it’s not a renewable resource.) At around $3.50, the Secret is about $2 cheaper than the Dove.

In case you were wondering: Yes, we also checked out the Secret Clinical Strength Invisible Solid, which is one of Secret’s best-known products. At 20 percent, it has 2 percentage points more aluminum zirconium than our top pick, is half the size, and is over twice as expensive. It also has quite a few badges, including an Allure Best of Beauty and Women’s Health Beauty Award. We’re not totally convinced — mostly because we learned that “clinical strength” just means more aluminum, but not necessarily more dryness. Our advice: Start with the cheaper Invisible Solid formula, and if you’re dissatisfied with the amount of perspiration, level up to the clinical strength option to see if it’s more effective with your body’s chemistry.

Least Residue

DERMAdoctor Total NonScents Ultra-Gentle Antiperspirant A gentle liquid formula designed for sensitive skin and black shirts.

This antiperspirant was unique among our unscented finalists in that it’s a liquid formula with a roller ball applicator — not a stick. That’s why it left the sheerest residue on clothes of any of the 19 products we tested.

We liked this product because it had all the right ingredients and none of the nasty ones. Namely, it included aluminum zirconium at 11.25% to block sweat glands — a lower percentage than any of the others we looked at. We talked to Dr. Kunin, the product’s creator, who told us “10 to 15 percent aluminum zirconium works for most people with medium to mild sweating during regular, daily activities.” The rest of the formula is remarkably simple: Just five ingredients, the main one being water. No fragrance to mask BO, no antimicrobials to fight bacteria, like in our other top picks. “My view is that if the antiperspirant is applied and works correctly, then there should be no wetness or ‘food’ for odor-causing bacteria to feast on,” says Dr. Kunin. In other words, if the aluminum is working properly to stop sweat, then there should be no need for scent.

It’s not a perfect product — and it’s one that seems very targeted to women. (One of our male testers said the roller ball seemed to catch on his pit hair, though “not in a really painful way.”) The liquid formulation also might take some getting used to, especially if you’re used to a stick or cream antiperspirant. One of our female testers said it felt a little sticky even two hours after application.

If the feel of a product is more important than whether it’s invisible, this is probably not the right choice for you. Also keep in mind that, at over $20, this product is by far the priciest of our picks. Then again, saving your favorite black silk blouse might be worth it.

The Best Antiperspirant: Summed Up

Did You Know?

Wearing antiperspirant to bed may be more effective than applying it in the morning.

Some experts, including Dr. Pariser, recommend applying your antiperspirant before bed. Why? During your sleep, you perspire moderately. The theory goes that this activates the aluminum in your antiperspirant and gives it a solid seven or eight hours to form a good plug in your sweat glands. Conversely, when you apply after a shower, your skin is moist and the product might slip off. (If you’re wondering if your morning shower will also wash off the antiperspirant you applied so carefully the night before, most accounts say no.)

Sometimes, over-the-counter antiperspirant isn’t enough.

Ultimately, you’re the best judge for determining if over-the-counter antiperspirants aren’t cutting it. But if you’ve tried a couple different brands, shelled out for “clinical strength” formulas, and you’re experiencing a level of sweating and body odor that interferes with your daily life, it may be time to talk to your doctor about trying something more.

“In severe cases, Botox is an effective treatment for excessive sweating,” says Dr. Kunin. Botox works by blocking your nerve endings from sending signals to your sweat glands to produce sweat. A prescription for topical neurotransmitter inhibitors like dipeptide diaminobutyroyl benzylamide diacetate and gamma aminobutyric acid can produce similar effects.

If you require Botox for your sweating, you might be one of 3 percent of the population that suffers from a condition known as hyperhidrosis. According to Dr. Malcolm V. Brock, medical director of the John Hopkins Center for Sweat Disorders, some of the telltale signs include only wearing black to avoid sweat stains, avoiding people due to embarrassment about how much you sweat, changing your shirt two to three times a day, and experiencing all these symptoms even in the cold. In these cases, a more potent prescription antiperspirant may be recommended. However, the risk of irritation with these is higher, so they’re only recommended for extreme cases. Talk to your doctor.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, we all want an antiperspirant that does what it’s supposed to (curtails sweat) without causing problems (read: irritation). Flip to the back label and look for sweat-blocking aluminum zirconium as well as odor-fighting C12-15 alkyl benzoate. If you have sensitive skin, you’ll also want to skip anything with fragrance/parfum, simple alcohols, and hydrogen peroxide.

Best for Sensitive Skin

Speed Stick Power Unscented Solid Antiperspirant Deodorant Its packaging screams "for men," but this truly unscented antiperspirant is a good fit for anyone. It skips potential irritants like fragrance, simple alcohols, and hydrogen peroxide in favor of odor-fighting C12-15 alkyl benzoate and sweat-stopping aluminum zirconium. It also goes on smooth, and doesn't leave too much residue behind.