Ever since I was a little girl my mom always told me that deodorants 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 deodorant.
Have you ever wondered exactly HOW this good smelling stick called deodorant 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.
One quick thing before we dive in here guys, I am using the term deodorant in this article to refer to deodorants that also are antiperspirants. It is just easier this way.
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:
Ammonium Aluminum Sulfate
Potassium Aluminum Sulfate
Aluminum Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex Glycine
Why is Sweating Important Anyways?
Sweating is one of the main ways that your body gets rid of accumulated toxins. Just like you have to poop everyday, or burp, or pass gas, sweating is natural and VERY necessary. I know that everyone is so concerned with detoxing and cleansing their body, but sweating is a natural cleansing and detoxing mechanism that SHOULD happen everyday.
When you block your underarms with deodorant/antiperspirant, you lock up a main detox pathway. And you know what happens then? Those toxic particles that could have been easily excreted from your underarm are forced back into the bloodstream to find another way out. Unfortunately, most of us are so toxic, that a lot of times those toxins never DO find a way out. These toxins then back up in your liver, your intestine, your kidneys and even in your fat tissue…hello weight gain and cellulite! But to put our vanity aside, a toxic body indisputably leads to chronic disease and cancer. Yikes!
To make the imagine more clear of how your sweat works, think about the smell of a person the next day after they have “partied” or in other words, consumed too much alcohol…. Yep you guessed it, they smell of alcohol. This is because alcohol is toxic… I know so sad….. and the body needs to get rid of it as soon as possible. Therefore, the body literally pushes it out of the skin through the sweat glands. Hence, you smell like alcohol because you are actually sweating components of alcohol. So, those precious sweat glands are actually saving you from an overburdened, overly toxic system. Ain’t the body so cool!?
Okay, I Get it, I Need to Sweat… Is That the Only Reason Deodorants are Not Safe?
While the need to sweat is an important component, the real 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. Oh ya, and for all the men out there I am talking man breasts, handle bar weight and reduced testosterone.
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 that 1. you shave your underarms, exposing your skin, right before you put it on? or 2. that when you live in 100 degrees or workout out, we all apply deodorant like five times a day? I mean I have friends that literally carry it in their purse! 3. that deodorant 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…
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 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: Deodorant by Root Beauty. This is most certainly the Holy Kale of deodorants. It is 100% homemade, natural and organic. Definitely a must buy!
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/