Deodorant, antiperspirant, whichever one you use, both are a staple of our everyday lives. It’s a part of our daily routines that no one puts much thought into, and why should you? Deodorant is just a product to keep us from smelling like Pepé Le Pew. There’s not much else to it. Or is there? I’m one to contend that there’s a lot we haven’t been told about the safety of most antiperspirants. With all the buzz being made about aluminum the past few years, it’s clear that I’m not the only one.
Deodorant vs. Antiperspirant
Let’s begin with the deodorant vs. antiperspirant debacle. Much has been claimed about the detriment of antiperspirants, yet many of us don’t even know the difference between the two.
According to dictionary.com, the definitions of deodorant and antiperspirant are as follows:
Deodorant: “ odors” (1).
So, deodorant and antiperspirant are exactly what each word implies. DE–ODOR-ant; to remove odor. ANTI-PERSPIR(E)-ant; against perspiration.
Okay, now that we’ve got that cleared up, you’re probably wondering what the fuss is all about. One removes odor, one reduces sweating, what’s the big deal? Well, it seems that the action of artificially suppressing sweating may not exactly be that great for the body.
Antiperspirant works by plugging up your sweat glands. When antiperspirant is applied, the aluminum reacts to your sweat and creates a thick substance that blocks the sweat glands. Thus, reducing wetness in your underarms (3).
The reason this is harmful is that cooling down the body isn’t the only purpose of sweating; it can also be used to help detoxify the body. This depends on how “clean” your body already is. The liver and kidneys are the detox powerhouses in your body, but if they get overloaded with junk, your skin is picking up that slack.
“‘There’s only so much they [the liver and kidneys] can grab and package. If there’s more coming in, then the body has to manage it. That’s when the body starts trying to sweat things out'” (4).
With all the environmental pollutants, contaminants, pesticides in food, chemical water treatments, etc., it is more important now than ever to keep our systems running smoothly. We are inhaling, eating, drinking, and applying toxins to ourselves every moment of every day without even realizing it. So something as simple as a reduction in sweating can further hinder our bodies from doing what it needs to keep us healthy.
Antiperspirants Actually Make You Smell Worse
If hindering our detoxifying ability wasn’t enough, antiperspirants also alter the bacteria on your skin! That’s right.
In a study done by Real Clear Science, they had six people discontinue use of their antiperspirant or deodorant for 28 days. They also had a control group that does not use antiperspirant/deodorant to commence using either one for the same duration of time (5).
“Those who used antiperspirants saw a definitive increase in Actinobacteria. These bacteria are hugely responsible for that foul-smelling armpit odor. Other bacteria found living in people’s armpits include Firmicutes and Staphylococcus, but the odors they produce are milder, and they’re not produced quite as readily…In some participants, abstaining from antiperspirant caused the population of Actinobacteria to dwindle into virtual nonexistence” (5).
So not only does antiperspirant plug up your sweat glands, it actually makes you smell worse! Completely counterintuitive. This result makes sense because it is the same concept with our guts; if there is not enough beneficial bacteria, then malicious bacteria will overrun the gut and cause disease. Antiperspirant kills the innocuous bacteria that already exists on our skin, thus making room for bad bacteria to take over.
Why is Aluminum so Terrible?
The short answer is, a lot of reasons. But the short answer just isn’t going to cut it here.
First of all, aluminum is not compatible with our bodies. It is not a nutrient that our bodies need to stay healthy like a vitamin or mineral. Even worse, aluminum actually accumulates in our bodies over time with each exposure, and replaces calcium and magnesium. This replacement of calcium and magnesium in the body causes issues with the integrity of our skeletal system (6).
Aluminum is also dangerous for your brain’s health. Reports from Saint Louis University, Jiwaji University in India, The University of California, and The University School of Medicine in Belgrade all agree that there is a huge risk factor regarding aluminum and brain health. All contend that aluminum causes inflammation in the brain which can lead to Alzheimer’s disease (6).
In science speak, the process is described as follows:
“Trace aluminum levels cross the blood-brain barrier and progressively accumulate in large pyramidal neurons of the hippocampus, cortex, and other brain regions vulnerable in Alzheimer’s disease. More aluminum enters the brain than leaves, resulting in a net increase in intraneuronal aluminum with advancing age. Aluminum is responsible for two main types of toxic damage in cells. As a pro-oxidant, aluminum causes oxidative damage both on its own and in synergy with iron. Aluminum also competes with, and substitutes for, essential metals-primarily Mg2+, iron and Ca2+ ions-in or on proteins and their co-factors” (7).
So aluminum causes oxidative damage in the brain, and also competes with and/or replaces essential minerals (magnesium, calcium, and iron) that we need in our bodies. The worst part is that it does not drain out of your system easily; it just stays there. The more aluminum you are exposing yourself to, the more that is bioaccumulated into your system.
This is why it is so important to avoid aluminum exposure as much as possible, and that means deodorant too! In fact, according to an article by Dr. Mercola, “According to the review, about 0.12 percent of the aluminum applied under your arms is absorbed with each application. When you multiply that by one or more times a day for a lifetime, it can up to a massive amount of aluminum—a poison that may be more toxic than mercury!” (5).
Other Products that Contain Aluminum to Avoid
Antiperspirants and deodorants aren’t the only products you have to worry about when trying to reduce your exposure to aluminum. It seems obvious, but there are so many aluminum products we use on a daily basis. It’s so commonplace we don’t even think about it.
There’s aluminum foil, soda cans, cookware (one of the worst!), vaccines, aspirin, antacids; it’s even found in some flours! (6). So take a serious look at the ingredients of these products you purchase. I also strongly recommend getting rid of your aluminum and non-stick cookware in favor of stainless steel, ceramic, and cast iron. The insidious effects of aluminum are worse with heat.
Other Dangerous Ingredients in Antiperspirants/Deodorants
Believe it or not, aluminum is not the only bad ingredient in deodorant. There’s parabens, phthalates, triclosan, and artificial fragrances.
The source article does a much better job explaining the negatives of each ingredient but I will review each one in short.
Parabens are common in all types of personal care products, ranging from sunscreen to makeup. Data has shown that mixing different types of parabens will cause an estrogenic effect on the body (8).
The purpose of phthalates are to stabilize the fragrance in your personal care products and make the aroma last longer. The downside is that this chemical disrupts the function of the hormone androgen in your body. This hormone is used to build and maintain muscle. Phthalates are also toxic to your reproductive glands. Yikes! (8).
“This chemical is so commonly used in products that 75 percent of Americans have detectable triclosan levels in their bloodstream”(8). Triclosan is used to kill bacteria on the skin’s surface, so it is commonly used in soaps, acne treatment products, and antiperspirants.
It has been said to disrupt the bacteria in your gut. This makes sense due to its antibacterial activity. Thus, it can cause serious issues for your gut flora and lead to other health issues. It can also hinder your thyroid function. Since the thyroid is so important for your immune system, this is a very serious detriment (8).
There are no specific studies related to fragrances as each company has their recipes protected by trade law (8).
However, the various chemical concoctions we call “fragrances” are not as innocuous as they seem. We don’t know what is in them, but many people report having averse reactions to them. I know all sorts of people who cannot be in the same room as someone who wears cologne or perfume. Many have allergic reactions to skin care products without knowing why – this could be due to fragrance oil. I personally cannot be in the same room as a yankee candle because the fragrance gives me a splitting headache. There’s no available information on artificial fragrances, but the effects they have on people are clear.
Why I Had to Stop Using Aluminum Antiperspirants
If all the information stacked up against antiperspirants wasn’t enough to convince me to quit using them, the reactions I had to them forced me to stop.
Let’s take a trip back to my early teenage years. I was at the peak of pubescence and that whole awkward string of situations that rally around it. At that point I had been using deodorant for a couple years without a hitch.
I knew the deodorants I was using weren’t that great for me, but I liked the way they made me smell fresh like cucumber and honeydew melon so it was easy to push that out of my mind. But before long, I began getting a reaction. I began to notice that after a full day of wear, my underarms turned a rashy lobster red and itched like crazy. I was able to ignore that for a little while, ‘oh that’s just temporary’ and move on with my life. But then it got to the point where my skin was slightly peeling off and the irritation became more unbearable.
That’s when I knew I had to quit. Goodbye to smelling like a fresh picked honeydew melon, and hello to natural deodorant! I never looked back.
How to Obtain Aluminum Free Deodorant
Nowadays, there’s quite an array of options for aluminum free deodorant. You can probably find one at your local grocery store! The only problem is, I have tried many of them and none have worked for me.
I began to make my own deodorant a few years ago and it works like a charm. It lasts me all day long, even after the gym or a generally active day. The best part is I use only the best ingredients available, and it’s great for your skin! I just don’t recommend it for those with sensitive skin, as the baking soda can be irritating to some people. However, I have only run into this with two people. All my other customers have loved the results 🙂
I am also working on a baking soda free formula that I hope to release at some point this year.
All in all, it’s best to shop around and just find what works best for you. I’m sure there’s a ton of great companies online now that have safe and effective options as well.
If you have been using traditional antiperspirants, I hope you now see how dangerous they really can be! Please consider switching it up and trying some natural varieties. It’s for your health!
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