Health Answers

Is clinical strength deodorant better?

By Courtney Humphries
Globe Correspondent / August 9, 2010

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Q. I keep seeing “clinical strength’’ antiperspirants in the drugstore. Are these really better?

A. For most people, a daily swipe of antiperspirant or deodorant is simply insurance against odor or an occasional sweat stain. But for others, profuse sweating is a source of anxiety and embarrassment. Several manufacturers now offer over-the-counter “clinical strength’’ or “prescription strength’’ antiperspirants, which claim to do a better job stopping sweat.

Dr. Emmy Graber, a dermatologist at Boston Medical Center, says that these products do work slightly better than regular antiperspirants — but there are even more effective options for people concerned about out-of-control sweating.

Most antiperspirants use aluminum salts as the active ingredients; these substances are absorbed into the sweat gland, where they form a plug that slows perspiration escaping from the gland. Over-the-counter products marketed as “clinical strength’’ contain higher percentages of aluminum salts. Even more effective products are available with a doctor’s prescription; these contain a high percentage of aluminum chloride, a particularly effective antiperspirant.

No matter which antiperspirant you choose, you can make the most out of it by using it correctly.

Don’t just put it on after a shower in the morning. In fact, Graber says, “antiperspirants are most effective when applied at night time.’’ Because you’re sweating less at night, the product has a better chance of forming a lasting barrier in the sweat glands and won’t wash away in your morning shower. For extra protection, apply both at night and in the morning. Graber also recommends using a new product for several days to let it achieve maximum effectiveness.

Some people suffer from extreme sweating — called hyperhidrosis — and may need stronger interventions to tame wetness. The International Hyperhidrosis Society has more information on its website,

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