Once upon a time, it may have sounded pretty hippie of me to suggest switching over to a natural deodorant, but these days we are becoming more aware of the literally thousands of toxins we are exposed to on a daily basis - many of which are known or suspected carcinogens. What is worse is that they aren’t merely in the things we generally consider to be toxic i.e. Insect spray, they are often part of our daily grooming routine and can range from hair care, to beauty products, and of course to deodorant and antiperspirants.
How Do Deodorants and Antiperspirants work?
Most commercially available products do both, a deodorant helps to mask odour by killing the bacteria on your skin when you sweat, whereas antiperspirants are designed to block sweat glands from producing sweat in the first place. All this sounds great from an odour perspective, but essentially is completely unnatural, as you are inhibiting normal detoxification processes that allow the body to rid itself of internal debris, and in fact replacing it with the reverse – the direct absorption of harmful chemicals.
Some of the Common Nasties
Aluminium chlorohydrate is one of the most common compounds used in deodorants, and act also as antiperspirants by dissolving into the pores of the skin at certain pH, creating a barrier and therefore stopping sweat production. However in this way aluminium is actually able to be absorbed through the skin and into the blood stream, and as research consistently points to the questionability of aluminium’s safety, commonly linking it with heavy metal toxicity and carcinogenic activity, this is the last thing you want to be putting into your body.
Used as an antibacterial agent in deodorants to reduce odour, Triclosan has a lot of evidence supporting its role as an endocrine disrupter, and its ubiquitous use has even caused its distribution across the ecosystem resulting in affected aquatic species. Multiple studies have demonstrated significant oestrogenic and androgenic activity, including a role in cancer-cell proliferation, and yet the chemical is still used in personal-care products on the market today.
Phthalates (pronounced thalates) are a group of industrial chemicals heavily used in the beauty and personal-care industry, often to interact with other chemicals and for fragrance purposes. It is an extremely common ingredient in antiperspirants and deodorants, which is pretty scary considering epidemiological reviews consistently indicate phthalate exposure can cause endocrine disruption including having effects on genital development, semen quality, precocious puberty, and thyroid function, as well as having a potentially negative impact on respiratory health.
A very common and well-known addition to many beauty care products from shampoo to deodorants, parabens are intact esters of p-hydroxybenzoic acid used primarily as preservatives but are easily absorbed through the skin. They have indeed been shown to pose potential human health risks due to their oestrogen mimicking abilities, which can have a myriad of repercussions on systemic health.
The problems with the inclusion of fragrances in products are varied, first-of-all there could be hundreds of often synthetic ingredients that can be linked to hormone disruptions, or many formulations which commonly contain allergens. One of the main issues is that they are often trade secret information so no one can really know what their product is made of.
So How do we DITCH the Deodorant?
Understandably it isn’t so practical to stop using deodorants or antiperspirants completely, however we can be more judicious when choosing what products we put on our skin, and inevitably into our bodies. Here are some tips!
- Fragrance Free is important, as fragrance can mean a long list of mysterious ingredients so without transparency it can be near-impossible to know what you are being exposed to.
- Look at the ingredient list – known for containing a tonne of harmful chemicals, its important to look at your regular deodorant’s ingredient list, which may be enough to turn you off purchasing it again.
- Do an Under-Arm Detox - Armpit cleanses can actually help minimise odour by detoxing and thoroughly cleaning pores, neutralising the area so that bacteria has less chance to accumulate and cause odour. All you need is some bentonite clay and raw apple cider vinegar, mix together to form a paste to put under the arm and leave for a few minutes before washing off in the shower.
- Natural Deodorants – Start looking for a deodorant containing natural ingredients that help neutralise odour, more keep coming onto the market and are getting better and better in effectiveness.
- At the very least Ditch the Antiperspirants – as these are going to contain chemicals that block pores and inhibit our natural cooling system, along with the release of toxins which are trying to be excreted out of our bodies through our lymph circulation.
- Try a Home-Made Deodorant! Recipe below:
(courtesy of ecomodernessentials.com.au)
½ cup organic coconut oil
½ cup bicarb soda
½ cup shea butter
1/3 cup corn starch or arrowroot
15-20 drops of essential oils (such as lavender, peppermint, sandalwood, geranium, clary sage… or a blend)
- Add the coconut oil, bicarb soda and corn starch to a bowl.
- Add the essential oil and mix together using a spoon, until the texture turns into a paste.
- Keep the paste in an air-tight glass jar.
- Gee RH et al. Oestrogenic and androgenic activity of triclosan in breast cancer cells. J Appl Toxicol 200/ Jan; 28(1): 78-91
- J Jurewicz, W Hanke. Exposure to phthalates: Reproductive outcome and children health. A review of epidemiological studies. Int J Occup Med and Env Health June 2011, Vol 24 (2) 115-141
- PD Darbre, PW Harvey. Paraben esters: review of recent studies of endocrine toxicity, absorption, esterase and human exposure, and discussion of potential human health risks. J Appl Toxicol 2008 Jul; 28(5): 561-78