Photo from ACP: www.acpharm.com

Ric Williams.

Antiperspirants are topically applied products that are primarily intended to reduce underarm wetness. In the United States, underarm antiperspirants are regulated as drugs–specifically OTC drugs. This means that they can be purchased without a prescription. The reason they are consider drugs is that they affect the structure and function of the body by inhibiting perspiration that is secreted by the eccrine glands. Antiperspirants are considered as cosmetics in the European Union and Brazil, and as “quasi-drugs” in Japan.

In contrast, deodorants are topically applied products designed to reduce or suppress underarm odor. Underarm deodorants are regulated as cosmetics in the United States because their effect is considered non-therapeutic and a function of the body is not altered. The action of masking or reducing body odor by fragrance and/or the action of antimicrobial agents is intended to “beautify” or “promote attractiveness.” These are not considered drug actions.

Antiperspirants are also acknowledged as deodorants because of their activity against Gram positive bacteria, which are implicated in the cause of underarm odor. Most antiperspirants marketed also make cosmetic deodorancy claims, along with sweat reduction drug claims.