Japanese Deodorant: What's in it, What's the Best, and What You Think

Japanese deodorant

Does Japanese deodorant work? Can it even compare with western deodorant? If you're moving to Japan, do you need to pack a two year supply just to survive?

Before I came to Japan, I was instructed, along with all the other newbies, to bring deodorant because all Japanese deodorant was ineffective. Their reasoning? The smell of B.O. when out in public.

I honestly didn't really know what to think about that, considering B.O. is rather prevalent in the US as well (if you've ever worked with teenagers in any capacity, or participated in sports, or even worked out at a gym, etc., you know what I mean).

I've used my fair share of American deodorants and antiperspirants and let's be honest, many of them really aren't that effective. Some brands and types work for some people, while different types work for others. That aside, once you've sweat through your clothes enough times the bacteria will build up, so unless you hang dry them in the sun, bleach them or soak them in vinegar water, the smell is most likely coming from your clothes rather than your body.

In any case, if you're reading this and you're about to move to Japan, rest assured it is possible to find western brand deodorant in Japan. See HOW TO: Find (good) deodorant in Japan for more on that. (That post also contains some common terms when looking for deodorant).

In this post I want to specifically look at Japanese deodorant. I haven't personally used most Japanese brands (nor do I order western brands anymore - I brought a 4 pack of antiperspirant when I moved to Japan, and then switched to a crystal stone). I also haven't yet discovered any proof that Japanese deodorant is "weaker" or less effective than western brands, so I've included a poll at the end of this post to see how many expats living in Japan have actually used Japanese deodorant.

My guess is of those who have tried it, some people don't like it and others find it works just fine, as is normal in any western country, but I want to know for sure - has anyone used it? How did this whole myth about inferior Japanese deodorant start in the first place? Perhaps your responses will provide some answers...

Common ingredients in Japanese deodorant and antiperspirant

One important thing to note is that most western antiperspirants are aluminum-based, and if you look at the ingredients list on Japanese brand deodorant/antiperspirant, you'll find many of them also contain an aluminum-based active ingredient. I've also found many to contain zinc as well, either in addition to an aluminum-based ingredient or alone, which supposedly also acts an antiperspirant ingredient. (You'll have to look that up on your own for more info).

The two most common Aluminum-derived ingredients in Japanese deodorant and antiperspirant I found are (though they aren't in all types):

クロルヒドロキシアルミニウム  - Aluminum chlorohydrate
乾燥硫酸アルミニウムカリウム  - Aluminum potassium sulfate (naturally derived mineral)

In the US (not sure about other countries, feel free to add what you know in the comments), aluminum chlorohydrate and aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex are often used in antiperspirants, though this varies depending on the brand and type.

Other ingredients:

イソプロピルメチルフェノール  - isopropyl methylphenol (antiseptic)
塩化ベンザルコニウム or ベンザルコニウム塩化物  - benzalkonium chloride (antiseptic)

酸化亜鉛  - zinc oxide or  亜鉛  - zinc (fights odor)
銀  - silver (fights odor)

Some types contained triclosan (トリクロサン), an antibacterial/antifungal agent. One deodorant I looked at had lysozyme chloride (塩化リゾチーム), an antibacterial agent derived from egg whites, which, as far as I know, is not marketed in the US. Some types, men's and women's, use green tea extract (緑茶乾留エキス) as it has antioxidant properties.

The DeoNatulle stones you'll see below are typically just Ammonium Alum and do not have antiperspirant abilities, though they work well to fight odor.

Japanese deodorant rankings

For women, cosme.net ranks all types of cosmetics and personal products. Though the site lists some men's deodorants, I couldn't easily separate the two in ranking results, so I've just listed the top 10 deodorants on cosme.net for this week (the list is updated every week), which are all women's deodorants (though really, that doesn't mean men can't use them).

Consumers rank each item based on a number of stars (more stars the better), and also write reviews for many of the products, if you feel so inclined to browse through those.

Note: I did not include deodorant for feet and "cleansing sheets" on this list as they don't really apply to this particular topic.

Top 10 Japanese Deodorants and Antiperspirants for Women
According to cosme.net for the week of June 10.

1. Soft Stone by DeoNatulle
    デオナチュレ ソフトストーンW
2. Clinique Antiperspirant/Deodorant Roll On
    クリニーク アンティ パースパイラント デオドラント ロールオン
3. 8x4 Powder Spray (unscented)
     8x4 パウダースプレー(無香料)
4. Johnson Baby powder
    ジョンソンベビー ベビーパウダー
5. Pigeon Medicinal Use Baby Powder
    ピジョン 薬用固形パウダー
6. Crystal Stone by DeoNatulle
    デオナチュレ クリスタルストーン
7. Ag Powder Spray (unscented)
    エージープラス パウダースプレーDa (無香料)
8. Secret deodorant (though there's no image or info on cosme.net about it)
9. Nippo Yakuhin Odoremin
    日邦薬品 オドレミン
10. Rifurea Medicinal Deodorant Cream
    リフレア 薬用デオドラントクリーム

If you browse the entire list on cosme.net, you'll notice some western brands included (Clinique is in the top ten above). Some foreign brands are available at department stores, which is also typical in the US (I'm not sure about other countries), and include both men's and women's brands. Though of course, these are far more expensive than what you'd find at your local drugstore.

As for men:

Top 10 Japanese Deodorants and Antiperspirants for Men
According to the bestselling items on Amazon Japan as of June 10, 2011

1. 8x4 Men Roll On (unscented)
    8×4メンロールオン (無香料)
2. Gatsby Biocore Deodorant Cream (unscented)
   ギャツビー バイオコア デオドラントクリーム (無香性)
3. Proudmen Grooming Balm Citrus Musk
4. 8x4 Men Roll On Ice Mist
5. Dr. Deodorant Myoban Spray Extra
   ドクターデオドラント ミョウバンスプレー EXTRA アンダーアームスプレーEX
6. Ban Men's Roll On
   バン 男性用 ロールオン
7. Deodorant Underarm Cream for men by Lavolin
   デオドラントクリーム ラヴィリン フォーメン アンダーアーム
8. Bespa Medicinal Deodorant Gel
   べスパ 薬用 デオドラントジェル
9. Oxy Deodorant Liquid Spray
    OXY(オキシー) デオドラントリキッドスプレー
10. DeoNatulle Men's Soft Stone
     デオナチュレ 男ソフトストーンW

And according to the bestselling list on Kenko.com as of June 10, 2011:

1. DeoNatulle Crystal Stone
   デオナチュレ 薬用 男クリスタルストーン
2. 8x4 Men Roll On (unscented)
3. Gatsby Biocore Deodorant Cream (unscented)
4. 8x4 Men Deodorant Spray (unscented)
    8x4(エイトフォー) メンデオドラントスプレー (無香料)
5. Gatsby Biocore Deodorant Spray Clear Citrus
   ギャツビー バイオコア デオドラントスプレー クリアシトラス
6. 8x4 Men Deodorant Spray Smart Citrus
    8x4(エイトフォー) メンデオドラントスプレー スマートシトラス
7. 8x4 Men Roll On Smart Citrus
    8x4(エイトフォー) メンロールオン スマートシトラス
8. Gatsby Biocore Deodorant Roll On (unscented)
   ギャツビー バイオコア デオドラントロールオン (無香性)
9. Protec Style Deodorant Mist Flower Dulce
    PRO TEC STYLE(プロテクスタイル) デオドラントミスト フラワードルチェ
10. Men's Biore Deodorant Lotion (unscented)
     メンズビオレ 発泡デオドラントローション (無香性)

I also found a list of more expensive men's deodorants (the kind you typically find in department stores).

*And again, as this point seems to have disappeared above. You can find western brand deodorant/antiperspirant in Japan or easily online without hauling over packs from your home country. Check out HOW TO: Find good deodorant in Japan for more.

Japanese Deodorant/Antiperspirant Poll

If you answer yes, please tell us in the comments what brand you tried (or currently use) and your opinion of it.

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