A reader recently asked, “What’s the difference between deodorant and perfume?”
To give the long answer short, deodorant is a product used to keep your body from smelling bad, while perfume is there to provide you with a scent.
Deodorants and antiperspirants are lower-priced products meant to mask or block the emergence of body odor. Perfumes are higher-priced fragrances with a distinct and captivating scent seen by many as an expression of themselves and a symbol of status.
Even if you run out of deodorant, you can find one on every corner, and, since it’s a commodity product, which one you buy probably won’t matter to you all that much. Deodorant is carried, along with other toiletries like shampoo or toothpaste, by virtually every corner shop or grocery store.
Perfumes, especially the rarer kind, are sold mostly by beauty retailers and department stores like Sephora, Nordstrom, and Bloomingdale’s. Still, some shoppers prefer buying theirs from online retailers like Amazon or hypermarkets like Walmart.
Deodorants retail for $3.50 to $5.00 each and are often sold in “value packs” of two or more. In our opinion, that’s a small price to pay for a day’s worth of protection against body odor.
Perfume cost is harder to give a rule of thumb for and can vary greatly with the perfume house and type of fragrance.
For example, a 3.4 fl oz Eau de Toilette (EDT) bottle of Tommy Hilfiger’s Girl sells for around $36 ($10.29/fl oz), whereas a 1.7 fl oz Eau de Parfum (EDP) bottle of Tom Ford’s Soleil Blanc will set you back $263 ($88.23/fl oz).
Much has been said and written about why perfumes cost so much.
You could say it’s partly because of the concentration. Deodorants tend to contain 1% pure perfume, while fragrances have on average 15% pure perfume in them. That number, of course, can vary by type (Eau Fraîche has 1-3%, Eau de Cologne 3-5%, Eau de Toilette 5-15%, Eau de Parfum 15-20%).
Yet, that would only be partially true.
The truth is that most fragrances are not as expensive to make as they are to buy. It’s just that brands can afford to add tremendous markups, and consumers are willing to pay them.
As for necessity, you could probably skip the perfume, but it would be unwise to go out without deodorant or fragrance-free antiperspirant. No matter the season, weather, and time of day, your body will get sweaty and smelly sooner rather than later. And that’s not something that the people around you will find very appealing!
|What it’s for
|Keep your body from smelling bad by masking or blocking body odor.
|Provide you with a distinct and captivating scent that you and others can sense.
|Where to apply it
|Applied to your underarms (and/or any other areas prone to sweating).
|Applied to the pulse points of your neck, wrists, or inner elbows.
|1% – 3% pure perfume
|3% – 20% pure perfume
|$35-$250 or higher
|Corner shops, convenience stores, supermarkets, pharmacies.
|Department stores, beauty stores, perfume boutiques, online retailers.
Why Do We Need to Use Deodorant?
Body odor is not unique to us humans. A good few members of the animal kingdom have distinct body odors of their own, some more than others. Think of the musk deer, which secretes strong odors from scent glands designed to arouse and attract females.
And, while the sight of slightly sweaty skin can be highly intimate and deeply arousing at the right time and place, in most settings, we associate it with a lack of personal hygiene, so we do all that we can to get rid of it—not keep it.
Contrary to what many of us think, sweat on its own doesn’t really have a smell. Sweat is a colorless and odorless liquid our bodies secret to keep themselves cool. Body odor happens when the bacteria that live on our underarms feed on the fat and acids found in sweat.
When we talk about body odor, it’s important to distinguish between deodorant, antiperspirant, and perfume.
Deodorant won’t stop you from sweating. Instead, it will kill the bacteria that live on the areas of your body where sweat is secreted, and whose activity creates the sensation of body odor.
Antiperspirant is a subset of deodorant that prevents sweat from appearing on your body in the first place by blocking the glands on your skin’s surface that secrete it.
Deodorants and antiperspirant deodorants can come in the form of sticks, roll-ons, or dry sprays, and are typically applied on your underarms (though you could use them on any area that secrets sweat).
Perfume (wet spray) is a fragrant solution you apply on the pulse points of your neck, wrists, or inner elbows to get a distinguished scent that you and others can sense. When you wear perfume, you leave a strong scent trail around you as you go around and about your day.
When to Apply Deodorant and Perfume
If your deodorant doesn’t have antiperspirant in it (deodorants that do are called “antiperspirant deodorants”), apply it to your underarms as part of your morning routine. This is best done soon after you’ve showered and before you start sweating.
Antiperspirant should be applied before going to bed at night, when your body temperature is 1-2 degrees lower than that in the daytime. Your skin will absorb the antiperspirant while you sleep so that you won’t sweat in the areas where you applied it the following day.
The best moment to apply perfume is shortly after a warm shower on the morning of the day that you plan to wear it. That’s when your skin is well hydrated, and your pores are clean and opened up. If you can’t shower, apply body lotion on your skin and wait for 5 minutes before spraying perfume.
Which One Is Right for You?
We recommend using fragrance-free antiperspirants. They protect your body—and your clothes—from odor throughout the day, all while allowing you to wear a fragrance of your choice. The same can’t be said for deodorants or antiperspirant deodorants, which you will need to pair with your perfume.
Though you could use a deodorant and skip the perfume altogether, it’s much better to have a few fragrances in your wardrobe. They will not only make you feel better, but act as a signal of status and taste to others.