Today, we’re making a pit stop. Where, you ask? Your underarms.
There are some things we put on every day, like underwear. Deodorant is another. I mean, how can you leave the house without your pits smelling so fresh and so clean?
What's really in your deodorant?
Deodorant is one of those habitual products that people don’t usually think about. It’s a convenient spray, roll on liquid, or the traditional stick with easy application. Its purpose is to give you the peace of mind that no one will get any unpleasant surprises from your underarms throughout the day. Deodorant is your friend and your defense.
But what’s really in your deodorant? What’s the fresh laundered scent you’re swiping under there? And why aren’t you sweating?
Dangerous ingredients in deodorant
Let’s go over some common ingredients found in conventional deodorants and see if these odor and sweat blocking fragrance sticks are something you want to reevaluate for the sake of your health. After all, if you use something everyday, it’s best to consider the safest, cleanest options.
And remember, just because it makes you smell clean, doesn’t mean it actually is.
Aluminum is the primary ingredient included in antiperspirant deodorants. This metal is used to “block” the sweat glands, decreasing a person’s sweat by an average of 20%. The problem with aluminum is that it can pose serious health risks, like Alzheimer’s Disease and breast cancer.
But doesn’t everything cause cancer? Sure, but we believe your chances are greatly increased when using a product on a daily basis, such as antiperspirant deodorant.
The problem with aluminum
Since aluminum’s main function is to “block” your sweat glands, what happens to all of that sweat? With your underarms being closely knit with your lymph nodes, this accumulation of toxic load from the sweat that isn’t being perspired is potentially causing a mayhem underneath that pit of yours. No build-up is ever good for the body and long-term buildup can lead to cell mutation.
How it affects your health
Of course the link between aluminum and breast cancer has controversial studies, it is still convincing that with most breast cancers developing in the upper outer quadrant of the breast (which is the closest quadrant to the armpit where the lymph nodes are located ), that long-term use of aluminum is factoring into the formation of certain breast cancers.
Underarm shaving is also another factor to consider, because women are more likely to shave under their arms than men, allowing aluminum to pass through the skin more effectively. This may be a reason why breast cancer is more common among women.
Another frequently used ingredient found in deodorants is propylene glycol. What is it?
Propylene glycol is a petroleum based substance that is used to create a soft and sleek consistency. It’s a low cost ingredient with a versatile function, which is why it is so common in self-care products. PG acts as a penetration enhancer, so if paired with harmful chemicals, it can increase their absorption.
Dangers of propylene glycol
In recent studies, propylene glycol is considered to be “non-toxic” to the body when ingested. PG is eliminated from the body within a few hours, so it does not bioaccumulate in the body. However, there have been reports on its potential toxicity, linking it to issues such as:
- reproductive complications
- developmental abnormalities
- endocrine complications
Propylene Glycol has one main concern being that it is a skin sensitizer, resulting in allergic reactions in the skin including: irritant contact dermatitis, allergic contact dermatitis and non-immunologic contact urticaria (hives).
In my personal experience using propylene glycol in deodorants, my underarms are left itching like crazy. Itching profusely under there is not only annoying, but embarrassing! I’d prefer to not look like a monkey in public.
Phthalates, also hiding under the ingredient listed as “fragrance”, are plasticizing chemicals often used in deodorants and other self-care products for their consistency and ability to help dissolve other ingredients.
Are you seeing a pattern here? It seems that the performance and function of a particular ingredient are more important to conventional skin care brands than the quality and safety of that ingredient.
The product glides on smooth, great! But what are the consequences to follow? Is it worth it to have a temporary fix that can possibly cause a greater problem later?
Complications that can arise from phthalates
Phthalates have been linked to several health issues and are considered to be endocrine disrupting. Once phthalates are absorbed by the body, they act as estrogens, which not only conflict with your hormonal function, but cause a variety of complications. These include:
- Decreased sperm count
- Cancers: Breast, Prostate, Ovarian
- Liver, Kidney and Lung Damage
Phthalates are a probable human carcinogen and while the US continues to regulate these chemicals, they are still quite prevalent in many self-care products, including deodorant.
Sometimes we don’t consider the potential harm of a simple step of getting ready in the morning. Little do we know that our deodorants and antiperspirants are just another pitfall in the endless chemical burden of conventional skin care products.
Try this instead
Skip the Dove and Old Spice because neither of those will make you fly or sail with peace of mind. Look for safer alternatives like mineral salts, clays and powders, witch hazel and certain essential oils. Our team’s favorite natural deodorant is Primal Pit Paste.
Use your wits, save your pits!
Catanzaro JM, Smith JG, Jr. Propylene glycol dermatitis. J Am Acad Dermatol 24(1):90–5 (1991 Jan).
Lessmann H, Schnuch A, Geier J, et al. Skin-sensitizing and irritant properties of propylene glycol. Contact Dermatitis 53(5):247–59 (2005 Nov).
Warshaw EM, Botto NC, Maibach HI, et al. Positive patch-test reactions to propylene glycol: a retrospective cross-sectional analysis from the North American Contact Dermatitis Group, 1996 to 2006. Dermatitis 20(1):14–20 (2009 Jan-Feb).
Abby Stoecker is a Licensed Esthetician with 9 years of experience in the beauty industry. Her journey has led her to experience first hand the entire cycle of the esthetics industry—first working as a practitioner, then as an Account Manager/ Brand Evangelist at a skin care product company (ASC), and previously as an Educator at Cinta Aveda Institute where she originally studied for her Esthetics License almost 10 years ago. Currently, she is freelancing with start up skin care brands in the green beauty space. Her objective is simple—spread awareness, educate and make people feel their best when it comes to the decisions they make for their wellness and beauty. Abby finds immense joy in navigating clients through the world of skin, helping each person craft their own at-home rituals to achieve balance, inside and out. You can find her on most mornings with a face mask on, coffee in hand, listening to “The Daily” podcast.