Are Deodorants Safe?

Oct 12, 2011 by

Image by clotho98

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.


How do Deodorants Actually 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


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!?

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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?

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 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:

Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease:


  1. Jennifer

    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

      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!

  2. Becky

    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

      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.

      • Becky

        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… :) :)

  3. 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.

  4. Abbie

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

  5. Jenna

    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

      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.

      • Jenna

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

        • michele

          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

            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

  6. Kira

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

  7. Melissa

    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

  8. Hi!
    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
      Lauren aka The Holy Kale

      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!

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