Anti-perspirant and deodorant dangers, and healthy alternatives
Raise your hands if you put deodorant or antiperspirant on today. Put your hands down if you know the difference between the two. Finally, lower your hands if you know the dangerous ingredients of conventional deodorants and antiperspirants.
Are your hands still up? If so, take a whiff. There’s a very good chance that your deodorant or antiperspirant isn’t working nearly as good as it claims.
About 95% of Americans use deodorant or antiperspirant and we spend about $18 billion a year on them. It’s etched in the stone of your daily routine – sandwiched between showering and getting dressed. Yet, many people don’t fully understand what’s in them, how they work, and the potentially harmful side effects of them. It’s time to shed a more light on what’s going on in one of the darkest areas of your body – your armpits.
But first, it’s important to acknowledge that…
All of Us Sweat and Sweat is a Good Thing
The act of sweating – especially via exercise – washes out toxins from your body. Without sweat, all that gunk would be festering under your skin. Just imagine how much worse you would smell!
Deodorants and antiperspirants get in the way of this natural detoxification processes. The aisle at your local pharmacy has dozens of products. Some are just deodorants. Some are just antiperspirants. Some are both. Yet there are big differences between deodorants and antiperspirants.
Deodorants don’t stop you from sweating but instead try to neutralize the odor of your sweat. Apply it to where you sweat and that sweat will come out smelling cleaner because it’s passing through the deodorant – like blowing air through a dryer sheet.
Antiperspirants try to prevent you from sweating by blocking your pores. Well, it tries to. The FDA requires that an antiperspirant only has to reduce sweat by 20% in order to claim that it provides “all day protection.” To claim the mantle of “extra strength,” it has to reduce sweat by 30%.
Yes, nearly everything is advertised with exaggerated claims. But it’s really hard to understand how “all day protection” and “20% effective” can represent the same product. Would you buy a new roof that was only 20% to 30% effective at keeping water out?
Of course, 20% to 30% is not really effective. And it’s not worth the risk you are taking when you consider the cocktail of chemicals that are in most commercial antiperspirants and deodorants.
Toxins in Your Deodorants and Antiperspirants
As with so many conventional health care products, antiperspirants and deodorants are loaded with chemicals that are unnatural and toxic. Though you’ve likely been using antiperspirants and deodorants since puberty, research is only now starting to shed light on the harmful effects of these substances.
First is triclosan. If it sounds familiar it’s because the FDA issued a ruling in 2016 that over-the-counter products containing antibacterial ingredients such as triclosan can no longer by marketed to consumers. The ruling follows research that shows that triclosan:
- Alters hormone regulation in animals
- Might harm our immune systems
- Might cause us to develop antibiotic-resistant germs
Other research links triclosan with weight gain, thyroid dysfunction and allergies. There are also concerns that it interferes with fetal development in pregnant women.
Another no-no are parabens. They can prevent the growth of yeast, mold and bacteria but research shows that they also disrupt your endocrine system. A skewed endocrine system means skewed regulation of your hormones, resulting in side effects to your developmental, reproductive, neurological and immune systems. Check the labels. If you see an ingredient with “-paraben” at the end (i.e. butylparaben), put it back on the shelf.
Carcinogens such as aluminum compounds are also used to block sweat ducts. Though research into it is still in infancy, one alarming study linked a significantly lower age of breast cancer diagnosis to women who used antiperspirant and frequently shaved their armpits.
And that leads to perhaps the biggest concern about these carcinogens. When applied to your skin, these chemicals are directly entering your body without filtration. This is especially the case for women who shave their armpits and then apply antiperspirants or deodorants soon after. All of those tiny skin abrasions from the razor are entry points for those carcinogens.
So, how are you supposed to tamper down your potentially offensive body odors? It’s simple, read on…
K.O. Your B.O. With a Healthy Diet
What you eat can affect how much you sweat. Caffeine, alcohol, processed foods, and spicy foods cause your body to perspire more. Limit these if you feel that you sweat too much or are struggling with body odor.
Speaking of which, what you eat also affects the scent of your sweat. Here are some foods that have been linked to stronger body odor:
- Red meat
- Pungent spices such as curry and cumin
- Spicy food
On the other hand, some foods have strong anti-odor properties. Green vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, seaweed, peas, bell peppers and green olives contain a chemical called chlorophyllin, which is a natural odor neutralizer. This helps explain the results of a 2006 study showing that a group of vegetarians released a “more pleasant and less intense odor” that their meat-eating counterparts.
Also, consider adding more Vitamins B and C to your diet. They are water soluble vitamins, which means that they encourage toxins to be eliminated through your urine instead of your skin.
Finally, drink more water to thin out toxins throughout your body. This can also cut the odor and force more toxins to pass through your urine.
Natural Alternatives to Name-Brand Deodorants and Antiperspirants
Let’s ditch the idea that antiperspirants have any positive benefits to your health. Bottom line, when you use antiperspirants, you are slathering on a slew of unnatural chemicals and toxins for the purpose of preventing the release of the toxins inside your body. It’s counterproductive to your health.
But what should you do about your sweat – especially if you sweat a lot or have a strong body odor? Deodorants aren’t bad for you if you use the right kind.
PiperWai makes a deodorant that is free of parabens, aluminum and synthetic fragrances. Schmidt’s natural deodorant fights odors with a coconut-pineapple smell. Plus, it’s designed for sensitive skin.
Finally, it’s easier than you think to make your own deodorant using commonly found items, some which may already be in your house – such as coconut oil, baking soda, corn starch, apple cider vinegar, pink Himalayan salt, and more.
A quick Google search for “natural DIY deodorants” will turn up a number of simple, easy-to-follow recipes.
It’s Possible to Detoxify AND Deodorize
Emerging research on conventional antiperspirants and deodorants – like so many health care products – shows that they are doing more harm than good to your body. What we know already is bad enough. What we find out tomorrow could be worse!
But there are dozens of ways to stop the stink without interfering with your body’s natural and necessary detoxification process or adding more toxins to your body.
- Havlicek, J. & Lenochova, P. “The Effect of Meat Consumption on Body Odor Attractiveness.” Chemical Senses. Published Octobor 2006.
- McGrath, KG. “An earlier age of breast cancer diagnosis related to more frequent use of antiperspirants/deodorants and underarm shaving.” European Journal of Cancer Prevention. Published December 2003.
- Leonard, J. “11 Scary Reasons to Stop Using Store Bought Deodorant & What To Use Instead.” Natural Living Ideas. Published Jan. 11, 2016.
- Steckelberg M.D., J. “Should I avoid products that contain triclosan?” Mayo Clinic. Published March 9, 2016.
- Borreli, L. “You Are What You Eat: 6 Smelly Foods That Are Actually Giving You Bad Body Odor.” Medical Daily. Published Aug. 16, 2014.
Last Updated: September 2, 2020
Originally Published: September 1, 2014