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.
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
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?
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: http://www.searo.who.int/en/Section1174/Section1199/Section1567/Section1823_8066.htm
Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease: http://iospress.metapress.com/content/wb0qym7m9212er2t/