Using deodorants and antiperspirants is extremely common. Media advertisements certainly encourage their use with subliminal messages, promising confidence, success and even a happy love life, if you would change your natural scent and use their product.
Many of us make the assumption that if something is for sale in the marketplace, it is safe. Sadly that isn’t true. In fact some of the ingredients might surprise you. It is common practice for harmful ingredients to be used in personal care products. If you’re interested in living a non-toxic, chemical free life, it’s important to start reading labels.
Why do we smell?
Our body has two types of sweat glands, eccrine and apocrine. Eccrine sweat glands cover most of our body and secrete fluid to help lower body temperature. The apocrine glands are located under your arms and in the groin area, these are the glands that cause body odor. While the fluid they release is odorless, when combined with the bacteria under your arms they create a different compound called thioalcohol, which is a strong scent comparable to sulphur.
Of course there are additional factors that can contribute to body odor such as; refined sugars, spicy foods, eating meat, medications, stress and medical conditions that cause you to sweat more.
What’s the difference between deodorants and antiperspirants?
The purpose of deodorants is to destroy the bacteria that naturally lives on your skin, which in turn removes the body odor. Antiperspirants serve double duty, they kill the bacteria on your skin and the aluminum they contain block your pores, to reduce or stop sweating.
So while putting something on your skin may not seem like a risk to your health, it actually is. When you eat food it’s broken down by your digestive system and your liver. When you put something on your skin, there are chemicals that simply pass through the skin and can enter your blood stream without being metabolized.
Common ingredients in deodorants
While the variety of ingredients in deodorants varies based on the product, here are six common ingredients you may find in your deodorant.
Aluminum-This ingredients prevents the body from sweating by blocking the pores. This ingredient is linked to breast cancer and Alzheimer’s.
Fragrance-Fragrances are often petroleum based and contain phthalates which disrupt hormones. It’s virtually impossible to know what chemicals are used in “fragrance” or “perfume” because scents are protected by trade law. Fragrance can cause skin irritation, respiratory distress and allergic reactions.
Parabens-(methyl, ethyl, propyl, benzyl and butyl) These chemicals are used as preservatives in deodorants. The concern is that parabens can mimic estrogen and interfere with the way the body produces and regulates estrogen and other hormones. This 2012 study found one or more parabens in 99 percent of the tissue samples collected from 40 mastectomies.
Phthalates-This chemical helps products stay on your skin. Studies have linked this chemical to respiratory problems, hormonal imbalances and eczema.
Propylene Glycol-This chemical is used to maintain moisture in deodorants. It is also a petroleum based product and used in anti-freeze. It is linked to allergic reactions, liver and central nervous system damage.
Triclosan-This chemical is added due to its anti-bacterial properties. Triclosan was first registered as a pesticide in 1969. It is so commonplace in products that the CDC found 75% of the U.S. population had detectable levels in their urine. This antibacterial chemical also forms chloroform, when it comes into contact with chlorinated water.
More about fragrance
It seems like everything these days carry a fragrance, from detergents, dryer sheets, household cleaners soaps, shampoos and deodorants. In truth as you prepare for your day you may be layering yourself with half a dozen or more perfumed products. While many people like fragrance, they not realize that most fragrances are synthetically based and loaded with chemicals.
Here’s a scary fact many people are not aware of: any company that produces a scented product is not required to disclose all of the ingredients they are using. They can classify numerous chemicals under one word “fragrance”. Why is that? It’s due to a loophole in the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act, which clearly states that a company doesn’t have to reveal an ingredient or ingredients if it qualifies as a trade secret.
How could a little fragrance hurt you? The list is actually fairly lengthy. Fragrance is linked to asthma attacks, breathing problems, congestion, dizziness, rashes, nausea and seizures. Fragrance has also been proven to block the activity of testosterone, which can lead to problems such as erectile dysfunction and problems with building and maintaining muscle. So while something may smell nice, the question should be, is it worth the risk?
If any of this is concerning to you, become a label reader. Ditch commercial brands that contain fragrance and toxic ingredients. There are numerous organic products to choose from that are safer to use. In addition there are also numerous recipes online to make your own deodorant.
Want to see how your deodorant rates?
Check it out on EWG’s Skin Deep Page.
About the Writer
After sixteen years of struggling with MCS, Elisha McFarland recovered her health through alternative and natural healing methods. It was this experience that encouraged her to pursue an education in natural health. She has received the following designations: Doctor of Naturopathy, Master Herbalist, Diploma in Clinical Homeopathy, Bachelor of Science in Holistic Nutrition, Certified Wholistic Rejuvenist and EFT-ADV. You can visit her website or Facebook.