Natural deodorants may be worth a second look
Is it time to give up your go-to deodorant? For many people, the "go without" choice isn't an option, but there are alternatives to consider.
Most traditional deodorant products contain aluminum and, right now, we don’t have enough information to confirm that the amount of this ingredient in these products is harmful to your health. However, if you are concerned, there are an increasing number of options with more natural ingredients that could provide more peace of mind.
If you choose to switch, here are a few things to know. First, underarms produce sweat, which is unfortunately unpleasant smelling, as part of the body’s natural ventilation process. One of the most effective chemicals for fighting sweat and odor is aluminum, which inhibits perspiration.
The problem is that the skin under the arms is quite sensitive. Applying heavy chemicals to the area can cause skin irritations such as a rash or itching. Also, because the skin is quite thin, it is possible that the lymphatic system (which also resides under the arms) could be impacted by an allergic reaction to an ingredient in the deodorant. In this case, the immune system could respond and the nearby lymph nodes might swell in response.
While the jury is still out, some studies suggest a tie between aluminum products and an increased risk for cancer, particularly breast cancer. In one study, cancer patients had significantly higher levels of aluminum in their breast tissue, and researchers concluded that the "reasons for the high levels of aluminum in fluid aspirated from the breast remain unknown but it is possible that exposure to aluminum-based antiperspirant salts in the adjacent underarm area could be the cause." (Journal of Applied Toxicology, April 2011). An additional study was not conclusive in showing a link between frequent underarm shaving and antiperspirant use among cancer survivors who reported using the products and shaving at an early age. (European Journal of Cancer, 2003).
But even if aluminum doesn’t cause a problem, you might want to check your deodorant for these ingredients found in some popular products:
- Parabens, which are used to kill bacteria in water-based solutions. However, studies have shown that parabens mimic estrogen, thereby disrupting hormone function and increasing cancer risk.
- Phthalates, which are endocrine disruptors that can interfere with your hormone system and have been linked to hormone imbalance, diabetes, obesity, cancer, developmental disabilities and even infertility.
- Propylene glycol, which is actually an ingredient in antifreeze. This additive is found in many personal care products and is used as a penetration enhancer, meaning that it helps other chemicals go deeper into the skin, carrying the risk of immuno-toxicity and allergies.
- Formaldehyde, which is also a carcinogen, or a substance capable of causing cancer.
Fortunately, there are many new options for natural deodorants. Some contain coconut oil, which helps prevent the growth of unpleasant smelling bacteria and is good for people with sensitive skin. Or, you could make your own, as in the option shown below.
Finding the best option may take time, as people react to natural products differently. Some may find that the more natural products aren’t as effective as their old standbys, so it helps to invest in a few options and experiment with what works best.
Besides minimizing your risk for health concerns, it’s also been found that natural products are better in preventing skin irritation and helping unclog pores.
People with skin issues should also talk to a dermatologist to find the right combination for them. We all sweat, but selecting the right deodorant is obviously a very personal issue. Since using deodorant is a daily routine, it makes sense to find the products that are both effective and help allay your concerns about exposure to potentially problematic ingredients.To find a Swedish dermatologist in your area, visit our provider directory.
Natural Coconut Oil Deodorant
- 6 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) baking soda
- 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) arrowroot or organic cornstarch
- Essential oils (optional)
- Mix baking soda and arrowroot together in a medium sized bowl.
- Mash in coconut oil with a fork until well mixed.
- Add oils if desired.
- Store in small glass jar or old deodorant container for easy use.