Article by: Guest Author

This is a guest post by Gary Neudahl.

In personal care, there are cosmetics and there are toiletries. What’s the difference? In general, a cosmetic is intended to beautify the body; a toiletry is intended to care for the body. Among toiletries, let’s take a look at Antiperspirant Deodorants (APDOs in industry shorthand) sticks.

APDOs are made with an astringent substance (typically an acidic aluminum-based salt) that, when applied to the underarms, reduces perspiration and concurrently inhibits microbial growth for reduced malodor generation. Sticks, gels, soft solids, roll-ons, pads and sprays are typical product forms. They are usually scented for additional malodor protection.

APDO stick formula

Here’s the typical composition of an APDO stick:

Volatile Carriers 15—45%
Co-Gellants 14—18%
Active Ingredients 10—25%
Non-Volatile Carriers 8—20%
Gelling Agents Gellants 4—8%
Clarifying Agents/Solubilizers 0—5%
Feel Modifiers 0—4%
Fragrance (Parfum) 0—0.5%
“Label-Copy” Ingredients 0—0.5%
Antioxidants 0—0.05%


The most commonly used volatile carrier is Cyclopentasiloxane, a cyclic silicone fluid that evaporates about one-sixth as rapidly as water, with virtually no cooling effect due to its low heat of vaporization.

The typical co-gellant is Stearyl Alcohol, with a specific chainlength distribution (mainly C18) that inhibits stick crystallinity.

A commonly employed active ingredient is Aluminum Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex Gly, which provides good efficacy.

Nonvolatile carriers, which contribute to product skin feel and also reduce or prevent a whitening effect on skin, may include mineral oil, vegetable oils, and/or esters.

The most commonly used gellant is Hydrogenated Castor Oil. It is not fully hydrogenated (to convert unsaturated Ricinoleic Acid moieties to saturated Hydroxystearic Acid moieties), both to control melt point and further inhibit crystallinity. Due to its residual unsaturated content, antioxidants may be added to extend shelf life.

An emulsifier and/or solubilizer may be used to help incorporate the fragrance and to extend shelf life. It also helps with removal of the product from skin during cleansing and from clothing during laundering. PEG-8 Distearate is such an emulsifier that is commonly used in APDO stick formulations.

Feel modifiers include particulates such as corn starches and talc, which are added to improve product aesthetics during and after application.

What about “label copy” ingredients? They are ingredients that are added for marketing- rather than performance- based purposes, to increase the likelihood of consumer trial and satisfaction. They are among the hooks that snare consumer interest, although product performance, and scent, are what determine repurchase intent.

Click here for a complete list of the the Cosmetic Formulating Basics series.


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    Could you please right a followup article on preservative challenge testing? It would be helpful if you could emphasize the necessity for it, the insurance it provides (and does not provide). I would also like your view on what testing needs to be done. Which organisms you should or must select to test with. Does the preservative neutralization step need to be done (when is it applicable or not). Are different challenge tests done on different preservative systems? Do you recognize any formulations that are deemed “hostile” and don’t require preservatives and PCT? What are the implications of doing limited PCT or no test at all?

    I think this is a critical discussion because PCT can be costly to contract out and may be tempting to “hold off on.” When I first started out, I found it challenging when talking to the contract labs because I knew in general what I wanted done, but I didn’t have the specific knowledge to know if what I was asking for was sufficient to cover us.

    I know you have addressed this on the conference calls, but a written article would be helpful.



    1. Avatar
      S. K. Sajadian

      Aluminum Zirconium chlorohydrates containing Antiperspirants are considered as possible cause of Breast Cancer in n women? So, It is better to search for a suitable substitute for these compounds.
      [Ph.D. in Organic Chem.]
      R & D Manager in cosmetics & OTC Drugs

      1. Avatar

        Where is the evidence that this ingredients are causes of breast cancer? According to the National Cancer Institute – “There is no conclusive research linking the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and the subsequent development of breast cancer”

        If people are afraid of antiperspirants, they should just avoid them.

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