Are Deodorants Safe?
Education, Personal Care, Toxins

Are Antiperspirants Safe?

Ever since I was a little girl my mom always told me that antiperspirants were harmful. Claiming that they caused breast cancer and Alzheimer’s, her alternative was to wear nothing at all. While that “natural” smell worked for her, being a long-lived hippie, I didn’t find that it was the best path for making friends and attracting boys in the school yard. Therefore, I completely ignored her wise advice for a larger part of my younger years in return for a dry, powder smelling under arm. Once I began to get into the health field, the topic of heavy metals, toxins and chemicals became a new obsession of mine. I was determined to get rid of every toxic cosmetic, body, hair and household product that lurked in my home, beginning with the antiperspirant. Are antiperspirants safe?

Have you ever wondered exactly HOW this good smelling stick called antiperspirants literally STOPS you from sweating? I can wrap my head around the making you smell good part, but seriously… no more sweating. Too good to be true. And unfortunately it is, but that is how nature intended it.


How do Antiperspirants Stop you From Sweating?

Well there are two components here that we need to address. There are deodorants and there are antiperspirants. Most products on the market contain both, but there are some products that are just deodorants. Deodorants are used to neutralize the smell of sweat, while antiperspirants are used to stop you from sweating.

Antiperspirants work by closing, blocking or clogging the pores within the sweat duct with aluminum ions. These ions are drawn into the cells causing them to swell and therefore to be squeezed closed. As a result, no sweat can pass through. Aluminum can be labeled as the following on your antiperspirant:

  • Aluminum Chlorohydrate
  • Ammonium Aluminum Sulfate
  • Potassium Aluminum Sulfate
  • Aluminum Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex Glycine
  • Aluminum hydroxybromide


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Why are Antiperspirants Not Safe?

The harm lies in the use of aluminum and other chemicals such as parabens. These ingredients have become a hot topic in the medical world, leading to studies around their effects in the body. Some research suggests that aluminum-based compounds may be absorbed by the skin causing estrogen-like effects. Furthermore, parabens also have been shown to mimic the activity of estrogen in the body’s cells. These two components have led to claims that deodorants and antiperspirants can cause breast cancer since xenoestrogens (foreign estrogen) are known to drive the growth of cancerous cells, especially in breast tissue. Furthermore, this type of estrogenic activity can also drastically affect your hormone balance leading to a host of problems from weight gain, fatigue and hair loss. It may also increase the risk for breast cancer. Oh ya, and for all the men out there I am talking man breasts, handle bar weight and reduced testosterone.

This is from the Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology:

The potential toxicity of Al has been clearly shown and recent works convincingly argue that Al could be involved in cancerogenic processes. Nowadays, for example, Al is suspected of being involved in breast cancer. Recent work in cells in culture has lent credence to the hypothesis that this metal could accumulate in the mammary gland and selectively interfere with the biological properties of breast epithelial cells, thereby promoting a cascade of alterations reminiscent of the early phases of malignant transformation. In addition, several studies suggest that the presence of Al in human breast could influence metastatic process.

The next big guy is Alzheimer’s. There is most definitely conflicting evidence out there concerning the relationship between Alzheimer’s and aluminum from antiperspirants, but why wouldn’t there be? The FDA certainly couldn’t come out and say that they have been approving a substance that links to Alzheimer’s could they? Well one organization that has stood up is the World Health Organization. The WHO does make a definitive claim that higher frequencies of deodorant use corresponds to higher risks of developing Alzheimer’s. It has been shown that abnormal accumulation of aluminum has been found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. I think I will keep my sweaty armpits in turn for my memory thank you.

Alzheimer’s, Breast Cancer… Anything Else I Should Know?

Well… unfortunately, much like all other wonderful body care products on the market, deodorant and antiperspirants also contain a few other chemicals that are harmful. While the FDA claim that the dosages are so low they cannot cause any harm, do they take into account the following?

1. We shave our underarms often creating little abrasions and cuts, and then apply antiperspirant

2. If you live in 100 degrees or workout out, you apply deodorant many times a day. I mean I have friends that literally carry it in their purse!

3. Deodorants and antiperspirants are only 1 of maybe 5 to 20 different body care products that contain chemicals that you use everyday?

Nope, they did not nor do not account for those tinsy, winsy details that lead to the cumulative effect. A chemical might not be harmful in a small dose, but add it to all the other chemicals that we add to our body and then it becomes a problem.

The following are a few other dirty little chemicals to watch out for:

1. Talc:  Talc is classified as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer if it contains asbestiform fibers.

2. Propylene Glycol: originally developed as an anti-freeze, it is a neurotoxin known to cause contact dermatitis, kidney damage, and liver damage.

3. Triclosan: The American Medical Association recommends that triclosan and other “antibacterial” products should not be used, as they may encourage bacterial resistance to antibiotics that can allow resistant strains to flourish. Furthermore, some recent studies show that it may disrupt thyroid and hormone function.

4. TEA & DEA:  These chemicals are already restricted in Europe due to known carcinogenic (cancer-causing) effects.

Okay, okay, No More Toxic Deodorants and Antiperspirants… Am I to be Sweaty and Smelly Forever Then?

Image by Perfume Pharmer

I certainly did think so. After reviewing all of this information, I took my little list of toxins to the market, parked myself in front of the deodorant and antiperspirant section and reviewed each product. After about ten weird looks and 40 minutes of eye-crossing research, I took a “natural, aluminum-free, paraben-free, alcohol-free deodorant” home.

This was my experience: rolled the deodorant on in the morning, noticed the fresh herbal smell, enjoyed the smell, noticed it dried quickly and left no residue. So far so good. 1 hour later, still smelled good, still dry, but haven’t had any reason to sweat so far. 3 hours later… been active, its been getting hotter, and noticing I am not smelling so peachy. 4 hours later.. most definitely sweating, most definitely not smelling fresh and herbal. Thinking, I hope no one notices… I better wipe myself down. Yukk!

That was pretty much my experience on repeat for about.. lets see… 9 different deodorants. This process felt extremely hopeless, helpless and expensive! Here are the ones I have tried:

Hugo Naturals, Lafes, Crystal Stick, Thai Crystal, Burt’s Bees, Tom’s of Maine, Jason, Aubrey, and Miessence

So before you resign yourself to the end of the line, hippie go to- patchouli oil (don’t get me wrong, LOVE the Hippie vibe), I will leave you with my ultimate Holy Kale find: Schmidt’s Natural Deodorant. This is most certainly the Holy Kale of deodorants. It is 100% homemade, natural and organic. It is a safe deodorant that WORKS. I encourage you to give it a try, and make the switch today.




If exposure to aluminium in antiperspirants presents health risks, its content should be reduced Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology, Volume 28, Issue 2, April 2014, Pages 147-150 Alain Pineau, , Bernard Fauconneau, , André-Pascal Sappino, , Roger Deloncle, , Olivier Guillard

World Health Organization:

Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease:

Dangerous Chemicals in Deodorant & Antiperspirant: A Detailed Review of the Chemicals, Research & Avoidance Tips

Dangerous Chemicals in Deodorant & Antiperspirant: A Detailed Review of the Chemicals, Research & Avoidance Tips




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  • Reply Jennifer February 3, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    Just looking at your deoderant recommendation and noticed that TEA was listed on the ingredient list. Is there a type on either the harmful/watchout for ingredients or the deoderant ingredients? Is it okay to have that ingredient in the deoderant if it’s listed as the last one? Many thanks–I’m enjoying your site.

    • lauren
      Reply lauren February 4, 2012 at 6:46 pm

      Hi Jennifer, unfortunately I would not personally use a deodorant that contains TEA, even if it is minimal, only because there are better options out there where you do not have to compromise. While it seems insignificant, if we total up all the toxins from everything we do daily (including things we have no control of- air pollution), it then becomes significant. So we should always strive to do the best we can with what we have control of, but your making the right steps!

  • Reply Becky March 29, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    Hi Lauren! Thanks for the great information on deodorant! I noticed on an Amazon review someone pointed out that this deoderamt contains the ingredient “alcloxa” which they said is an aluminum salt. I don’t know if there are good kinds of aluminum out there but I wanted to check with you. Also, in the comments above they mentioned that there is TEA in this deodorant so you wouldn’t use it…is there another brand you use/recommend now? Thanks in advance for your time!! Really appreciate your wisdom and your posts!

    • lauren
      Reply lauren March 29, 2012 at 10:10 pm

      I know! They changed up the formula but this is what I have found: Alcloxa has shown to be of low to medium concern, but it is mostly recognized in Japan and Canada as being somewhat toxic, but it does not have a bioaccumulative nature. There are only a couple studies on it, but it is not the same as aluminum as I understand it. So I don’t think there is much to worry about there. TEA – the cancer causing effects actually came from a mouse study where in some of the groups it caused tumor growth, in others it did not. The other toxic reactions where in the form of allergies to the substance. There are not many research studies that I have been able to find, so we are going to want erring on the side of caution. With that in mind, I have been trying to find a new brand, but in the mean time do my best to use it sparingly, as it is the best of the worse that I have found thus far.

      • Reply Becky March 30, 2012 at 2:12 pm

        Thanks so much for the reply 🙂 I think I will buy some as a substitute for the regular “Secret” brand that I am using right now…although it may not be perfect, it’s undoubtably better than what I’m using! Let us know what you find… 🙂 🙂

  • Reply Mary @ Fit and Fed August 30, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    I’m one that uses a natural deodorant even though I haven’t found one that works as well as the regular commercial brands. Now that I’m older what I’m using (Tom’s Unscented) seems to be good enough. But this topic reminds me that at one point we used a salt rock crystal for deodorant, and that seemed to work pretty well. I should try that again. There are a couple of brands that you can get on Amazon.

  • Reply Abbie March 30, 2013 at 12:08 am

    Unfortunately, I’ve found that even Tom’s of Maine unscented has propylene glycol in it… am without a deodorant now! 🙁

  • Reply Jenna May 7, 2013 at 11:32 pm

    Tom’s of Maine is everywhere, but the it really isn’t that good. Lavilin is a bit harder to find on store shelves, but you can easily find it online. Really great deodorant that is all-natural and safe. There is plenty of good press about Lavilin as well, so that helps for peace of mind.

    • lauren
      Reply lauren May 9, 2013 at 5:46 pm

      I agree, Toms of Maine does not work well at all, plus they were bought by Colgate, so who knows what the quality is like anymore. Yes, have heard good things about Lavilin but havent tried it myself.

      • Reply Jenna May 15, 2013 at 6:51 pm

        Lauren – give it a try, I think you’ll really like it!

        • Reply michele May 6, 2015 at 5:43 pm

          I have talked to several owners of long time natural stores and they have all said that lavallin (sp?) is not very ‘clean’ or natural compared to the others. I made mine for a long time with arrowroot, essential oil, baking soda, and coconut oil but was not cutting it in our hot humid springs and summers. I have been doing research also and thus far have not found anything that indicates toxic load or bioaccumulation of aluminum with the use of Alvera which contains Alcloxa. It also has worked quite well.

          • Lauren aka The Holy Kale
            Lauren aka The Holy Kale May 7, 2015 at 6:22 pm

            It’s great you make your own. The one brand I have been loving lately is Schmidt’s Deodorant. It comes in many scents, but I have the Lavender and love it! Here are the ingredients: Butyrospermum parkii (shea butter), Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), Maranta arundinacea (arrowroot) powder, Theobroma cacao (cocoa) seed butter, Salvia sclarea (clary sage) essential oil, Lavandula (lavender) essential oil, Tocopherol (vitamin E), and Humulus lupulus (hop) extract

  • Reply Kira July 19, 2013 at 10:26 am

    Agreed with Jenna!! Go for Lavilin – thee best natural deodorant out there!!!

  • Reply Melissa August 23, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    Believe it or not I’ve been using fresh squeezed lime for months now, works like a charm! I was never one to have body odor, even if I forgot to use deodorant that day… just prior to becoming pregnant I started clearing out all of the toxic substances from my life, including deodorant. Then learned I was pregnant and then the odor began! I started smelling like a man my body odor was so strong!! I read somewhere that lime (and I’ve used lemons too) is a natural substitue for deodorant, so I tried it. It’s been about 4 months now, I live in SC and even all summer so far I smell great! I make sure to wash really well in the shower of course, and then apply the lime. It dries quickly and I don’t feel sticky once it dries, and you don’t smell the lime once dried either. I slice a lime in quarters and use 1 quarter for a week, freeze the rest until I need a new quarter. At first I’d just rub the actual lime on my under arm as if it were deodorant, but now and then I’d have irritation on my under arm (sensitive skin) so I’ve started to squeeze a little juice on my fingers and apply it that way, no irritation at all since I’ve started that.

    Some days, by the end of the day, I don’t have body odor, but I do notice a bit of earthy-ness which I dislike. If this happends I just wash and reapply and I’m fine. But honestly, I think that’s due to the pregnancy hormones, and I’m having twins, so even MORE hormones to deal with. I truly think that when I’m not pregnant, 1 lime application in the morning will be plenty for all day, as it’s already plenty on some days.

    Good luck to you all! Melissa

    • lauren
      Reply lauren August 28, 2013 at 6:32 pm

      Really?! What an interesting suggestion! I am going to try that 🙂

    • Reply Sandra Hopson October 9, 2015 at 3:39 pm

      am ready to try your products

      • Lauren The Holy Kale
        Reply Lauren The Holy Kale October 12, 2015 at 4:13 pm

        Great Sandra, feel free to email me directly at if you need help.

  • Reply Heidi April 16, 2015 at 6:33 pm

    Great article on deodorants! I am 51 years old, and I have been using commercial deodorants for a great number of those years. I sweat…a LOT. After learning of the potential dangers of the chemicals lurking in my personal care products, I have been trying to go natural for the past several years. Deodorant is the final frontier. I’ve tried many of the commercial “natural” deodorants out there, and frankly I have not had great results. Finally, I purchased some handmade deodorant from the Crunchy Betty shop (on etsy) and had some decent results with no odor! Now, I just make my own, using organic oils, arrowroot powder, baking soda, and essential oils. I wish I had done this years ago. The ironic thing is….I seem to sweat a LOT LESS than when I was struggling to find the perfect commercial deodorant!

    • Lauren aka The Holy Kale
      Reply Lauren aka The Holy Kale April 21, 2015 at 1:14 pm

      Awesome testimony Heidi! Thank you so much for sharing… and yes, it can be difficult to find a natural product that works for your body type, but it is so satisfying when you do!

  • Reply Emma November 3, 2016 at 6:45 pm

    Hi Lauren,
    I’ve also used Schmidt’s before and at first I loved it. After a few months I started developing rashes (kind of like chaffing) under my arms when I used it. I was so bummed and stopped using it. I’ve since found a wonderful deodorant alternative!: Kaia Naturals. It’s been wonderful since I’ve started using it. Take a look at the ingredients and let me know what you think!

  • Reply Rebecca February 7, 2017 at 2:07 am

    I really, really wish I knew what to do about deodorant. I love the deodorant Alvera, especially the Aloe and Almonds one, and have used it for many years. Today I finally got around to looking up two ingredients I wondered about, and was dismayed! It includes Alcloxa (containing allantoin) and TEA. Alcloxa is an aluminum containing compound — but you said it doesn’t seem very hazardous. Can you elaborate?

    I’m not sure which deodorant above people are saying contains TEA. At one point, it sounded like you were referring to the Schmidt as containing TEA, after a change in ingredients. What IS the score?

    I guess I need to give up the Alvera — even if the Alcloxa is not a concern — because of the TEA. I’m considering Schmidt’s, but many people have an adverse reaction, and one person (on Amazon) said their red splotch didn’t clear up for a long time after they quit. Another had happily used it for a year before having problems.

    Ah, what to do, what to do!

    • Lauren The Holy Kale
      Reply Lauren The Holy Kale February 8, 2017 at 2:25 pm

      Hi Rebecca, so sorry to hear your dilemma. Finding the right deodorant can be a challenge, but I do think you should give Schmidt a try. Although some people might have a reaction, most do not. I use it daily as well as my clients, friends and family and it seems to agree with us. You should try it out to see your reaction by using just a small amount.

      It is always best to use the cleanest of products, and when this article was first written, the Alvera was one of the only natural(ish) products that worked. Now we have more options like Schmidt which are far cleaner and effective. Best to go with that. Good luck!

  • Reply Rebecca February 8, 2017 at 8:06 pm

    Thanks, Lauren — but can you say more about why Alcloxa wouldn’t be a problem? It IS an aluminum-containing compound, is it not?

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