It’s no secret that chemicals are everywhere, especially in our personal care and beauty routine. By the end of her daily grooming and make up routine, the average woman will have added a staggering 515 chemicals to her body. 13,000 chemicals are used in cosmetics alone, but only 10% of them have been evaluated for safety. Several of these dangerous chemicals are lurking in your antiperspirant deodorant.
Cosmetic companies–even the “natural” ones–are prone to deceptively represent their products, yet sell them effectively with creative advertising. This means it’s our job to become aware of what we are putting on our bodies, and an easy place to start is with our antiperspirant deodorant.
What’s the Big Deal with Antiperspirant Deodorant?
Antiperspirant deodorants have been heavily examined in the past few decades. Marketing slogans inspire you to believe their promises of confidence, masculinity, and empowerment from buying their product, but there’s a host of disturbing chemicals inside the packaging.
1. Aluminum Compounds
Aluminum compounds are the active ingredient in antiperspirants to prevent sweating and eliminate odor. While aluminum is a naturally-occurring chemical, it can reach high levels of toxicity in humans. The European Food Safety Authority found that many individuals have up to 13 times the tolerable amount of aluminum in their bodies!
Aluminum is a neurotoxin, meaning it is toxic and degenerative to the nervous system. It travels to the brain where it causes disorientation, memory impairments, and plausibly Alzheimer’s Disease. Exposure also contributes to bone disease, renal complications, and anemia.
Additionally, aluminum is linked to breast cancer. One study found that an increasing number of breast cancer discoveries are located in the upper outer quadrant of the breast, which is a local area of deodorant application. Another study links frequency and early use of deodorant with an earlier age of breast cancer diagnosis. The scary correlation? Aluminum from deodorant is absorbed through the skin at a rate of 1-6%.
Parabens (often disguised as methyl, ethyl, propyl, benzyl and butyl) are preservatives in antiperspirants. A recent study delivers these shocking discoveries about parabens:
- They are present in 99% of breast tissue samples
- They possess estrogenic qualities which stimulate the production of cancer cells
- Parabens inhibit the body’s defense against cancer cells
- Long term exposure to parabens increases migration and aggressiveness of cancer cells
3. TEA and DEA
The Material Safety Data Sheet cautions that skin contact with TEA and DEA can be harmful, produce chemical burns, and inflammation. Prolonged exposure can result in kidney, liver, and nervous system damage and tumor formation.
While deodorant companies boldly advertise 24-hour coverage, The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel recommends brief or discontinuous exposure to TEA and DEA followed by thoroughly rinsing and removing it from you skin.
The European Commission has banned TEA and DEA due to it’s toxicity. Their research confirms links to cancer, negative affects to male reproductive health, and kidney and liver toxicity. Links to tremors and memory function are also under evaluation.
4. Propylene Glycol
Propylene Glycol (PG) is a substance that absorbs water. In antiperspirants, it wicks away sweat. Although its generally regarded as safe by the FDA, evidence continues to suggest otherwise. One study found substantial nerve cell death from PG and strongly recommended an alternative substance be found. PG is also a common skin irritant and can result in dermatitis for those with sensitive skin.
Phthalates are one of the most abundant chemicals we interact with daily. It’s in our food, water bottles, PVC pipes, toys, and even in medical equipment like IV bags and tubing. Also hiding under the names “fragrance” and “perfume” in our deodorant, phthalates help dissolve and marry the chemicals in deodorant for that smooth roll-on. It also helps the fragrance literally stick to your underarms.
The evidence is rising against phthalate safety through studies on lab rats. Phthalates interfere with hormonal systems: blocking hormones in females and causing low testosterone, sperm count, and reproductive disorders in males. A recent study classifies phthalates as a reproductive toxicant and hinders fertility by specifically targeting the ovaries. Birth defects, cancer, and diabetes also stem from phthalates.
Phthalates are most dangerous to males because it lowers testosterone levels. This exposure can start earlier than birth, as phthalates cross the placenta. Lowered testosterone levels affects masculine development, the reproductive system, testicular development, and sperm quality. As biology professor Heather Patisaul succinctly puts: “Anything you can think of that’s testosterone-dependent is likely to be affected.”
Save Your Pits–Make the Switch!
While we absorb only small amounts of these chemicals every day, many of us apply antiperspirants every day for decades. This routine often starts in our teen years or younger and continues until we are elderly. Small but constant infiltration of these chemicals eventually build up the same way cholesterol eventually blocks our arteries after years of eating too much bacon.
Are you sweating yet? Are we rolling on disease instead of that refreshing Powder Fresh or Old Spice scent?
Ready to make the switch?
Top Alternative Antiperspirant Deodorants
Reviews.com gives an excellent overview and recommendation list for antiperspirant deodorant alternatives. Their strict guidelines further define “natural” deodorant as:
- no aluminum of any form – some brands still contain potassium alum, a form of aluminum
- fragrance – from phthalates (essential oils were allowed)
- simple alcohols – due to skin irritation
- propylene glycol and propanediol – due to their toxic nature
All their recommendations contain coconut oil, zinc oxide, and baking soda because of their toxic-free, standing-the-test-of-time deodorization qualities. After 14 subjects personally tested the remaining options for scent, ease of application, and residue, Reviews.com recommends these top contenders:
- Sam’s Natural Deodorant – $9.95 for 3 oz; 15 scents that are gender neutral
- Schmidt’s Natural Deodorant – $8.99+ depending on scent for 3 oz; 7 scents
- For Pit’s Sake! All Natural Deodorant – $8.99 for 3.5 oz; 3 scents
- Green Tiding’s All Natural Deodorant – $7.49 for 1 oz, but sold in various sizes; 2 scents
What About the Men?
But wait, don’t men and women need a different deodorant? In short, no.
Research confirms that “men sweat more and begin sweating at a lower body temperature than women.” However, the salt and water content of men’s and women’s sweat are basically the same. So, sweat is sweat.
And… deodorant is also deodorant! The active ingredients in men’s and women’s deodorants are the same. The biggest difference is the scent (not to mention marketing schemes). While your new deodorant may not have that perfumed punch to wake you up in the morning, you’re eliminating tons of daily toxins while still bearing a pleasant scent. Not a bad trade!
Men, have no fear! “Natural” doesn’t equal “feminine” in the scent department. Look into Sam’s Natural Deodorants for lots of favorable scents plus a sports stick for optimal sweat concealer.
The Happy Ending
We are creatures of habit. It takes mental work to let go of our favorite products and make a switch. But after reading the long list of disease-laced ingredients we use every day, the choice can be a bit easier. Let’s stop slowly poisoning ourselves and choose a happier alternative!