Antiperspirant Awareness: It's Mostly No Sweat (cont.)

The aluminum-based compound is always the first ingredient listed on the back of an antiperspirant container. A few common active ingredients are aluminum chloride, aluminum chlorohydrate, and aluminum zirconium. An "inactive" is any ingredient besides the active ingredient. Some of the inactive ingredients in an antiperspirant include talc, fragrance, and butane, used as an aerosol propellant.

With so many choices available, how do people choose a product that's right for them?

"Looking for a favorite scent is a great way for a consumer to narrow down the search," says Michelle Vaeth, a spokeswoman at Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble Co. Product development, she says, is constantly driven by what consumers want, and the consumer products company regularly conducts detailed home interviews, quantitative questionnaires, and surveys to get this information.

Another factor is aesthetics, or how a product feels when applied to the skin. "Maybe a woman enjoys the cooling sensation of a clear gel and loves the fact that there's no residue," Vaeth says. Roll-ons tend to have a wet, cool, refreshing feeling upon application, and Vaeth says that many people like how this product feels on their skin after it dries--"they can tell it's still there and working."

Jonathan Hague and Cindy Dumlao, who both work in product development with Unilever, an Anglo-Dutch consumer products company, agree that people tend to go with products they trust. "They want good, high-performance products," says Hague, "and what our consumers think is important to us."

So important, Dumlao adds, that Unilever keeps a database of 18,000 consumers who come to participate in the effectiveness of antiperspirant formulas at the company's clinical and consumer testing facility.

"Basically," she says, "we put people in a hot room, about 100 degrees Fahrenheit, with a relative humidity of 35 percent, and collect their sweat."

The facility is also where "new formulations and fragrances are discovered," says Hague. In his experience, "stick antiperspirants appear to be the preferred dosage form in North America."

Many factors control how effective an antiperspirant is, such as the type and size of the active ingredient used in the formulation.

"Different actives have different levels of effectiveness at stopping sweating," says Timothy J. Long, Ph.D., a scientist with P&G Beauty. The active ingredient also must be pH balanced--basic enough, Long says, not to cause irritation to the skin, but acidic enough to form the solid plugs in the sweat ducts.

The antiperspirant effectiveness test required by the FDA determines that a product is effective or ineffective in its final formulation. But, says Holman, "we do not have any data that suggest any dosage form is better than another." He also says there's a lot of variability between dosage forms. An antiperspirant in finished form may vary in degree of effectiveness because of minor variations in formulation, or in individual interpretation of the directions for its use.