When it comes to smelly armpits, we're all probably a little bit self-conscious. No one wants to be responsible for evacuating the elevator. But, has our obsession gone too far? The antiperspirant, deodorant and perfume market is a multi-billion dollar industry. There is a downside. As more research is done, it's suggesting the true impact these products are having on our health. Commercial deodorants are notorious for their long list of potentially harmful ingredients. We'll take a closer look at which ones you should be genuinely concerned about. First, let's look at what causes perspiration and body odor.
What Causes Body Odor?
We all sweat. It's part of the human condition, and it's something we should embrace for the most part. Our body uses sweat as a form of detoxification -- toxins are excreted in our sweat! To what degree depends on your level of physical activity, diet, and genetic disposition. There are certain health conditions that can actually give off an obnoxious odor, and you might want to get checked out by a doctor if this is the case for you.
How Do Deodorants & Antiperspirants Work?
When you perspire, the naturally present microbes on your skin feed off your sweat. So, antiperspirants are designed to block the sweat ducts to reduce the amount you sweat, and thereby, reducing your body odor. On the other hand, deodorants are designed to kill those natural microbes using antimicrobial chemicals or ethanol. Common ingredients used in deodorants and antiperspirants find their way through your epidermis and into your body. Furthermore, depending on the chemical, it may be absorbed into your bloodstream. A mounting body of evidence is revealing just how dangerous some of these chemicals may be in increasing breast cancer risk and other health conditions.
Does Your Deodorant Contain These 4 Toxins?
Your body may store some of these potentially toxic compounds in your fat cells, which contain hormone receptors. We have a generous amount of fat cells in the armpit region. Again, totally normal
. These compounds, however, may react negatively with these hormone receptors. When this chemical compound has a negative effect on the body, we refer to it as endocrine disruptor
. These are the kind of things that can mimic estrogens in your body or cause your hormones to go haywire. Unfortunately, these can also contribute to an increased risk of developing an autoimmune condition, numerous cancers, or thyroid issues to name a few. So does your deodorant contain these 4 toxins? Let's look take a closer look at the ingredients, the evidence, and which compounds warrant caution.
#1 -- Aluminum
Aluminum compounds are commonly used in antiperspirants to block the sweat-ducts. Studies
have revealed that the body will actually store aluminium in breast tissue which can cause "gene instability". One particular study
found in relation to the effects of aluminum “a disproportionately high incidence of breast cancer in the upper outer quadrant of the breast together with reports of genomic instability in outer quadrants of the breast."
From this evidence, it was concluded that locally applied cosmetic chemicals may play a role in the development of breast cancer. These same studies found certain forms of aluminum interfering with estrogen receptors. Hence, aluminum has been named as a potential metalloestrogen
. It has been undisputed
in the science community for some time that the body's management of estrogen heavily influences the risk of developing breast cancer (source
suggest that reducing exposure to aluminum-containing products is an effective prevention tool to reduce your risk of developing breast cysts and cancer. Particular caution should be taken if you shave your armpits and are using an antiperspirant on this broken skin.
#2 -- Parabens
Used as a preserving agent to prevent mold and bacterial growth, parabens are common ingredients in skincare products and cosmetics. Parabens are also occasionally used in deodorants and antiperspirants. According to the FDA, the most common parabens used in cosmetics are methylparaben
, and ethylparaben
. Under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act
), parabens do not need FDA approval before going on the market. Products, however, must still comply with FDA branding and labeling guidelines. There is no conclusive evidence
to support the hypothesis that parabens contribute to breast cancer. However, the fact that these are under-studied chemicals is enough to warrant some serious questions regarding their safety, especially for long-term use.
#3 -- Phthalates & Fragrances
This is the ingredient that makes a fragrance "stick". Preliminary studies
suggest that the use of phthalates and chemical fragrances are cause for concern. Exposure to phthalates and BPA to males in-utero is a huge concern. This exposure has been associated with altered fetal reproductive development in boys. Another study
has brought light to the potential of lower birth weights if there has been significant paternal and maternal exposure. So, this means both mom and dad using cosmetics and skincare items containing phthalates. If you've ever turned your nose up at a particularly overbearing deodorant or perfume scent, then it may be well justified. Some scents are blended using any number of the industry's thousands of stock chemical ingredients -- most of which are largely petrochemical in nature. A Scientific American
article drew attention to this fact stating,
... [I]ngredients not in a product’s 'hidden fragrance mixture' must be listed on the label, so makers disclose some chemicals but 'lump others together in the generic category of fragrance’.
The use of the term fragrance
is a big loophole in the industry. It's nearly impossible to trust that the label discloses every, single ingredient -- because the industry isn't required to!
#4 -- Triclosan
The FDA has labeled Triclosan as a pesticide. It's a common antimicrobial agent used in deodorants. Unfortunately, messing with your skin's microbiome can lead to further skin allergies and irritation. Microbes are fundamental to your body's health and play a key role in maintaining a healthy body odor. Furthermore, Triclosan has been labelled as a suspected endocrine-disrupting chemical (source
). So, if you struggle with thyroid or other hormone imbalances, it's wise to read your deodorant's label and check for this harmful ingredient. And actually? There are no clear, proven benefits to adding Triclosan to your underarm, odor-reducing regime.
What's A Better Alternative?
Did you grab your tube of deodorant and read the label? Don't freak out! This problem is easily solved! You can simply make your own natural deodorant! With 100% pure ingredients, including moisturizing and anti-bacterial coconut oil
, you no longer have to worry that your deodorant is adding to your body's toxic load. The ingredients are all natural -- and don't take a chemistry degree to decipher. When combined, they are effective in neutralizing body odor while preserving your skin's natural microbiome!
Non-Toxic DIY Deodorant
Place all ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix together with a spoon. If it's too liquidy, add more arrowroot. Add more coconut oil if it's too dry. Transfer it to a wide-mouth jar or an empty deodorant tube, if you have one. Notes
- The deodorant will solidify in cool temperatures because of the coconut oil.
- Likewise, it will liquify and split in warmer temperatures. Simply stir it back together with a spoon before using.
Were you aware of the toxins in your deodorant? Will you switch to homemade?