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What Causes White Marks From Deodorants

Posted Jun 15 2009 5:42pm

Kitten divine from the forums says… I’m having a little trouble finding a deodorant that I like. The problem is that they all leave white marks in my t-shirts. I’ve tried different brands and I always pick the one that claims to leave no white marks, so I really don’t get it. So what I wanted to ask is what causes the white marks? Does it make a difference whether you use a spray, a roll-on or a stick formula? Are they’re certain ingredients you have to avoid to prevent them? And is they’re a difference between regular deodorants and antiperspirants when it comes to white marks?

Left Brain’s residual retort
The solution to this problem is simple…wear white t-shirts. Of course, this pitstains will severely restrict your fashion options and totally ruin any Goth look you might be going for so let’s see what else you might try.

First, see this link for a quick primer on the differences between antiperspirants and deodorants.  Essentially, AP stops you from sweating, Deodorants stop you from smelling.

What causes the white marks?

There is a variety of things that can be causing the white marks. Let’s start with antiperspirants. The primary ingredients that make antiperspirants work are aluminum salts including aluminum chlorohydrates, aluminum zirconium chlorohydrates, and aluminum chloride. In the United States, these have been deemed by the FDA as “generally recognized as safe and effective” and are the only ones allowed for use in stopping perspiration.

The exact mechanism by how they work has not been definitively determined, but the leading theory is that the aluminum salts form a layer that blocks and closes the sweat gland. Unfortunately, these aluminum salts can also form the white, chalky marks when they dry out.

To reduce these white marks, AP/DO makers use hydrating solvents in their formulas. However, they can’t completely eliminate the residue because the more solvent they use the less effective and aesthetically appealing the products become. No one wants to put a product under their arms that feels “wet”.

While deodorants don’t have aluminum salts, they do have other ingredients that can cause residues. These are the white, waxy materials used to deliver the active ingredients such as sodium stearate, stearyl alcohol or glyceryl stearate.

Does the type of product matter?

All AP/DO have the potential to produce a residue, but some are more likely than others. In general, dry sticks and powders will be the most likely to exhibit the problem. (They’re also the most effective at stopping wetness). Creams can also be problematic but less so than sticks. After that, roll-ons, aerosols and lotions all have about the same whitening potential.

What ingredients should you avoid?

It’s not a simple matter to just avoid specific ingredients. Whether a product causes whiteness or not depends also on the way it is manufactured and the way your body is designed. However, the following guidelines can help.

Use a deodorant

If wetness is not your problem, avoiding antiperspirants and using a deodorant is a good option.  Look for a stick like Adidas Absorbent Deo Deodorant.

Look for clear formulas

But if you can’t get away without using an antiperspirant, then try a clear formula like Mitchum Anti-Perspirant & Deodorant. This should work for most people. Ultimately, you’ll have to experiment with different brands to find what works best.

Keep your shirts clean

And if you feel like your typical washing habits aren’t removing the underarm build-up, you can try a product like Clarsskin which is supposed to do a better job of removing residue.

Beauty Brains bottom line

White residue is a natural property of antiperspirants and deodorants. It is something that cosmetic chemists continue to try and improve and things have gotten much better. Whether you get a white residue depends both on the ingredients, the way it’s manufactured, and your own person body design. To avoid the whiteness, your best bet is to keep trying different products until you find one that works.

Do you have a problem with white stains from your underarm deodorant / antiperspirant? What product have you found to stop the problem? And how do you remove the stains from your shirts?  Leave your comment below.

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